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Posts tagged ‘9/11’

The United States vs Al Qaeda: Who’s winning?

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Stephen M. Walt

Stephen M. Walt

By Stephen Walt

Who won the war between the United States and Al Qaeda?  Which side is better off today?

My answer would be: neither.  In fact, both sides are worse off than they were before that fateful day.   Although the United States is certain to outlast Al Qaeda and its various affiliates, the response to 9/11 combined both intelligent reactions and some self-inflicted wounds.  Fortunately for us, Al Qaeda made many mistakes of its own and is a declining force in world affairs. Read more

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Ten years after 9/11: the return of US diplomacy

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Nicholas Burns

Nicholas Burns

By Nicholas Burns

America’s 9/11 commemoration reminds us what an unusual decade it has been for the United States on the world stage.

During these last 10 years, the US has fought two major land wars simultaneously. It has conducted an aggressive, controversial, and dangerous military campaign against terrorist groups from Iraq to the Afghan/Pakistan border to Somalia and Yemen. And America has transformed the way it defends itself  from the terrorist threat at home and overseas. Read more

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9/11: Not just About Us

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Graham Allison

Graham Allison

By Graham Allison

Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, innocents from more than 90 countries, is an appropriate occasion to reflect on an unhappy truth:  Al Qaeda has been, and remains, at war with civilized peoples everywhere in the world.  As Americans reflect on that fateful day, we should be clear that 9/11 is “not just about us.”

By any metric, 9/11 was the most catastrophic attack in Al Qaeda’s two-decades history.  It was not its first, however, nor its last.  Since 1992—when Al Qaeda targeted American troops in Aden, Yemen in a hotel bombing that ended up killing 2 Australians—Al Qaeda has killed 5,000 people worldwide.  A chart published by the Economist in May provides a summary of Al Qaeda attacks and casualties that span four continents. Read more

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Counting the costs of the response to 9/11

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

David E. Sanger

David E. Sanger

By David E. Sanger

Chief Washington Correspondent, The New York Times; Senior Fellow, National Security and the Press, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

This summer, in preparation for the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times set out to assess the costs of America’s response – a daunting task, as many who have tried to tally up elements of the total can attest. The number was astounding: $3.3 trillion.

We drew on the work of many scholars, including some here at Harvard. We weighed which studies seemed based on good data and reasonable assumptions, and set aside some about which we had doubts. And we knew, of course, that when you are dealing with numbers and problems this big, quantification is always open to argument. Read more

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“Wretched Excesses” among responses to 9/11: Richard Clarke

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Richard A. Clarke

Richard A. Clarke

Richard A. Clarke, who was the White House counter-terrorism adviser on Sept. 11, 2001, offers a withering critique of the American response to 9/11 in the decade that followed.

In an essay published on The Daily Beast website, Clarke writes: “Our nation was stunned and wanted to unify in response. That desire for unity kept too many voices silent when they should have been contributing to a public debate about how to react. Wretched excesses were proposed and barely opposed.”

Those included the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, Clarke says, leading to more American deaths in Iraq than on 9/11 itself. “Constitutional protections that generations of Americans had struggled to achieve for our own people were eroded in the name of the new cause.” Read more

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Are we safer 10 years on? Yes, but let’s look forward

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Juliette Kayyem

Juliette Kayyem

By Juliette Kayyem

Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; former assistant secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Are we safer? Those three words, so difficult to answer, permeate the atmosphere on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Why?

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes, if you just look at the threat we faced on the anniversary. In terms of the threat, al Qaeda is essentially a shell of what it once was, though its ideology isn’t completely dead yet. Lone-wolf actors exists, as they surely always will, but likely do not have the capacity to wreck such monumental violence. Our defenses — what we call generically homeland security — are better, more organized, and sweeping. They too are not perfect, but they are working. Read more

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With terrorism, too, politics is local

The Power Problem: Third in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Monica Duffy Toft

Monica Duffy Toft

By Monica Duffy Toft

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from September 11, 2001 is that even with international terrorism, local politics matter.  And the domestic politics of other states can have profound implications for what happens in the United States. For instance, the Al Qaeda of the 1990s was not engaged in a global jihad. Its main focus was Saudi Arabia and the ousting of foreign and western influences from that country. Only after repeated failures did Al Qaeda broaden its sights, targeting not the near enemy at home but the far enemy abroad,  and in the process transforming the movement into a global network of committed comrades. The point is that although the resources Al Qaeda mobilized were global, the issues over which they and allied groups struggled were fundamentally local. Read more

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The Economic Fallout from 9/11

The Power Problem: Second in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.

Linda J. Bilmes

Linda J. Bilmes

By Linda J. Bilmes

The US response to 9/11 has been a major contributor to America’s current economic malaise.

The most economically costly decision post 9/11 was not whether to attack Iraq and Afghanistan, but how to pay for the ensuing conflicts and the related increases in defense and homeland security. War costs always linger well after the last shot has been fired.  But this is especially true of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts.  The $1.6 trillion or so already spent has been financed wholly through borrowing.  Add to this a further $800 billion in defense increases that are not directly war-related and hundreds of billions in new homeland security measures. The resulting debt accounts for well over one-quarter of the increase in US national debt since 2001. Read more

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Lessons learned since 9/11: Narratives matter

The Power Problem: First in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. Comments from readers are welcome.

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

By Joseph S. Nye

Was 9/11 a turning point in world history?  It is too soon to be tell. After all, the lessons of World War I  looked very different in 1939 than they did a mere decade after 1918.

As I argue in The Future of Power, one of the great powers shifts of this century is the increased empowerment of non-state actors, and 9/11 was a dramatic illustration of this long term trend. In 2001 an attack by non-state actors killed more Americans than a  government attack did at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But this “privatization of war”  was occurring before 9/11 and some American government reports in the 1990s even warned it was coming. Read more

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