Remarks: 9/11 and 9/12 + 10 = The United States, Al-Qaeda, and the World

Author:Richard Falk
Pages:9-29
9/11 & 9/12 +10 = The United States, al Qaeda, and the
World
Richard Falk
I. SETTING THE STAGE FOR 9/11 ............................................................ 9
II. WHY 9/11 WAS A REVOLUTIONARY EVENT ....................................... 13
III. WHY AL QAEDA FAILED .................................................................... 23
IV. THE FLAWED LOGIC OF 9/12 ............................................................. 25
V. DRAWING CONCLUSIONS IN 2011 ..................................................... 28
I. SETTING THE STAGE FOR 9/11
Over the last twenty years, the U nited Statesglo bal role has been
transformed by four major ruptures of political exp ectations. Each saw the
U.S. government’s global role come under intense scrutiny and each caught
the U.S. government unprepared and ill-equipped to fashion effective
responses. First, there was the abrupt ending of the Cold War followed by the
collapse of the Soviet Union. Then the 9/11 atta cks came leading to the
United States’ init iation of a global war on terror, more prudently called ‘the
long war’ by Pentagon strategic planners. Next, and without sufficient
acknowledgement, came the realization th at climate change was posing
unprecedented challenges to the global environment, which if not met with a
sense of urgency and commitment could lead to a series of catastrophic
developments with both local and global grave reperc ussions. Finally, the
financial meltdown giving way to a prolonged, deep recession that is raising
doubts over the viability and desir ability of neoliberal globalization and
generating a crisis of global capitalism that is, in turn, producing a series of
formidable and specific challenges for re gional and national governing bodies
and private sector actors. These ruptures are interrelated and overlap, and
each can be expected to exert persisting influences although of varying
degrees of salience. Of them, 9/11 and the U.S. response, viewed from the
perspective of ten years after the attacks, is what I propose to concentrate
upon.1
The end of the Cold War was an almost universally unexpected
development until the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989. The im plosion of
the Soviet Union a few years later heralded a new phase of international
1 Other crucial global developments during this period were less obviously linked to 9/11 and the
American response, and will not be addressed in this article. These include the rise of China,
Brazil, and Turkey as geopolitical players, the radiating effect for better and worse of the Arab
Spring, and catastrophic humanitarian emergency that exists in its most extreme form in
Somalia, but is bringing violence and suffering to many African countries.
TRANSNATIONAL LAW & CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 21:9
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relations associated with the ascent of the United States as global actor and
as the uncontested source of ideological orthodoxy, and the disappearance of
the Soviet Union, and its successor, Russia, as a global f orce. Triumphalist
American voices arrogantly announced “the end of history”2 and “the unipolar
moment,”3 trumpeting the claim that not only had the Soviet Union fallen,
discrediting MarxistLeninist alternative s to capitalism, but that the
American star was shining more brightly than ever, lighting up the
geopolitical skies with its ideo logy of market-oriented constitutionalismor
capitalist-constitutional de mocracy. Various pundits insisted that the 21st
Century was likely to become even more an American centurythan was the
20th, given U.S. military dominance, control of the world economy,
technological innovativeness, and globa l diplomatic leadership. 4 In the early
1990s, there seemed to be no signific ant obstacles to this Americaniz ation of
the world. Strategic goals of government policy makers focused on prospects
for an Americanized hegemony of global scale. Despite its grandiosity this
vision of the future seeme d realistic and reasonable from the perspective of
Washington.
As we approach the anniversary of 9/11 ye t again, we should keep two
seemingly opposed features of the preceding decade or so in view. First, as we
have seen, the most transforming developments of the past twenty years
were not anticipated, nor did they follow from projecting trends into the
future. This should make us modest about the human capacity to project
current political realities into the future. Secondly, U.S. vulnerabilities that
have emerged in the decade following 9/11 have shaken the perception of the
1990s that the United States wa s the unassailable model of success and
influence in the world. However, just as past projections failed to predict even
the most influential events, these vulnerabilities should also not be presumed
to provide reliable insight into future course of American develo pments at
home and globally.
Even during the 1990s, not all commentary coming from the United
States expressed as positive a view of the future as would have been expected
given the mainstream celebrations of the end of the Cold War widely
interpreted to signify the triumph of democracy and neoliberal versions of
capitalism. There were signs of nervousness about whether the future would
turn out to be as supportive of America’ s hopes and goals as the mainstream
preached. Samuel Huntington’s inflammatory formulation of an emergent
“clash of civilizations” was by far the most inf luential insistence that there
were dark clouds gathering on the h orizon. For some, his analysis was a
prefiguring of 9/11 with its emphasis on ‘the West against the rest,’ which he
2 See generally FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN (1992).
3 See generally Charles Krauthammer, The Unipolar Moment, 70 FOREIGN AFF. 23 (1990).
4 Id. at 24.

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