Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 16, 2006

NY magazine asks: what if 9/11 hadn’t happened?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on August 16, 2006

New York magazine has an interesting feature story in its latest issue, one that asks a number of notable public figures the question: what if 9/11 had not happened? Where would be today as a nation and in the broader world.

Many of the responses are shallow or flippant. But there are exceptions, such as Andrew Sullivan’s counterfactual blog posts, and Leon Wieseltier’s remarks, reprinted below, which are fairly close to how I would answer this question:

America would have enjoyed the luxury of some more time in the post–Cold War, inward-looking, money-mad bliss. History had ended, remember? But the bliss would have, in any event, been short-lived. Because if 9/11 had not happened, then 9/12 would have happened, or 9/13 or 9/14. The turbulence in the Islamic world; the fear of modernity and its great representative, the United States; the hatred of Israel—these were all waiting to explode. (So was the North Korean nuclear gambit and the Iranian nuclear gambit: The world was, even then, a much more perilous place than many Americans, and many American policymakers, had wanted to know.) I imagine that it must have been excruciating to be the president of the United States on 9/11, and I understand his subsequent virulence toward the enemies of the United States, but Bush became another victim, the most distinguished and powerful victim, of the instability of thought that 9/11 unleashed in this country. Since 9/11, the discussion of urgent national questions has been dangerously volatile: In Washington, there is almost no point in beginning a political conversation anymore, since you immediately discover that you are speaking either to a Shark or a Jet. The sad truth, however, is that it doesn’t matter anymore what America would have been like if 9/11 had never happened. It was one of the cataclysmic days in our history, one of the great American experiences of the irreversibility of history. And the sadder truth is that most Americans live as if 9/11 did not happen—basically, we’re all still shopping as before. And even the president wants us to stay the same. Once again, this blessed country is weirdly detached from its own historical situation.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 16, 2006 @ 11:52 am

What “ifs” always make interesting history analysis!
Real question is what difference did 9/11 really make in the lives of 95% of United States citizens and immigrants living here. There still is not a complete effort to determine whether the American people have the slightest notion that their time in history is rapidly passing. Completely self-centered and ignorant on international affairs, and because of secrecy attuned to letting those in the National Security apparatus make the key decisions, the people have completely again deferred to the elites to determine their fate. Actually, the US did not win the Cold War, Russia lost. That event has still not been honestly analyzed by the historians and academics. Because we are led to believe we won the Cold War somehow people in the US believe the elites when they argue they can win the GWOT. Perhaps if we had mobilized to train 50-100K personnel in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, etc. and study really deeply the culture and society of the mid-east and south asia that might be a tipoff that we get it. An important book “The Children of Aristotle” published in the last several years diagrams the fact that faith and reason are historically conflicted in both the West (note not Christianity) and ISLAM. It is going to be a long war and we need to gear up for that long war. The outcome is very uncertain when the key determinant of success-OIL & GAS-funds the conflict. This is as the chinese curse states “An Interesting Time.” How does a secular west mobilize to fight a religiously driven opponent. Time will tell if that is even possible.

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