Flickr, Dimitra Tzanos
Today is the tenth anniversary of the day after 9/11.
We’ve seen a torrent of amazing, compelling and painful stories of the terrorist attack over the past week or so. The narrative of that tragic event has become a touchstone for many of us, a way of explaining our sense of ourselves and of why we do what we do — here and overseas.
I’m interested in what has happened since.
Specifically, I wondered what has happened to our sense of ourselves as global citizens and how Sept. 11, 2001, may have altered matters of global health, foreign aid, development — basically, the global humanitarian agenda.
The short answer: It’s a mixed bag of good and bad, some clear signs of what many see as progress but also some disturbing lessons not learned.
Nearly 3,000 Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001. The world, for a while, rallied around us — including, it should be emphasized, many groups like the Muslim Brotherhood we nevertheless continue to eye with suspicion — as nearly everyone condemned this stunning crime against humanity.
We went to war, in Afghanistan and then Iraq (which turned out to have little to do with the attack or al-Qaeda).
U.S. Army in Afghanistan
As the New York Times noted in its extensive special anniversary report The Reckoning, the largely military and national security response to this act of terrorism has so far cost us $3.3 trillion — not to mention the cost of lives of some 6,000 American soldiers and at least 100,000 Iraqi citizens.
It’s hard to imagine not retaliating to such an assault, but as The Economist noted, “America has precious little to show for this sacrifice apart from the disruption of al-Qaeda.” The editors add that Osama bin Laden, were he alive, “would have cause to feel satisfied” at the toll the attack has taken on the U.S. … and then suggests, unhelpfully perhaps, that we still need to keep our guard up.
So where are we with the global humanitarian agenda? Continue reading