Today marks the fourteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. 9/11 has joined Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the ranks of defining generational tragedies. It’s the day that changed America forever.
America responded to the attack by throwing itself into the “War on Terror,” a new type of open-ended war of attrition against spectral abstractions. Fourteen years later, no end is in sight. Unfortunately, the war effort has largely failed. It’s time to face up to it, and adjust to the new reality we have created in the post-9/11 world.
Here at home, domestic surveillance continues to grow in scope and invasiveness, despite having done little to root out terrorism. The main casualty on this front has been American civil liberties and constitutional rights. The USA FREEDOM Act, and a few other measures, have reinforced some of the liberties undermined by the War on Terror. Mostly, however, the thriving and largely unchecked surveillance state has managed to fend off or ignore reforms.
Abroad, America has sent its soldiers to battle phantoms in the shadows with no end goal, or clear definition of victory. Innocents routinely perish as collateral damage of America’s Sisyphean quest to kill al Qaeda’s latest “second in command.” Our foreign adventurism has weakened Iraq, decimated al Qaeda, and sent the Taliban fleeing; but in their wake, new terrorist organizations like ISIS have sprung to fill the void. We have traded one enemy for another.
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