On a clear, crisp September morning in 2001 the world as we knew changed. At least that is what the news media told us happened. Shocking images of commercial airliners slamming into New York Cityâ€™s World Trade Centerâ€™s two towers and the horrific aftermath marked by the towers collapse stunned all Americans. Then subsequent pictures of a jetliner careening into the Pentagon only paralyzed us even further.
The initial national hysteria reflected the scope of the actsâ€™ brutality and an outrage that innocents were targets. But once the dust had settled, the realization that our aura of invincibility had been savagely breached resonated louder than any other emotion. Like the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor, we unified as a people and vowed to never forget. Because we knew, 9-11 was a defining moment in our history and our world would change forever.
So now that we look back on the fifth anniversary of the events of 9-11, has our world really changed? Are we safer now than we were on September 10, 2001? Is the world well on its way to destroying the cancer of what some have called theatrical terrorism?
Unfortunately the stark reality is, unless you were among the surviving families devastated by the attacks or suffered direct financial loss, the world has kept rotating. Business expansion continues both at home and abroad. The world economy is vibrant and the short-lived empathy for America has ended as world opinion of our country is as low as ever..
The events making headlines before September 11, 2001 are eerily the same. Newspapers and television news personalities remain entrenched with conflicts involving Israel and its Arab neighbors. Political posturing between Republican and Democrats on everything from the national economy to stem cell research; from nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea to Hillary Clintonâ€™s potential presidential bid remain front of mind.
Considering the world has remained on axis, certainly circumstances would dictate a unified effort to ensure security on the home front. Yet, five years later we are still unable to set national immigration policy or implement rational command and control procedures to protect US borders. Five years later the United States taxpayer continues to shoulder the burden of another top-heavy government bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security. An agency created in haste and so all encompassing that leadership has been muddled and allocation of focused security funding fuzzy at best.
The US war on terror began as a noble endeavor but has been sidetracked. The mission has lost direction and has been reinforced more by rhetoric than boots on the ground. With every war there has to be clear objectives, a targeted course of action and a defined endgame. Five years later the battle has degenerated into pithy slogans and partisan politics while brave troops perish playing the role of policemen, not warriors.
The bottom line is that if this is truly a â€œwar on terrorâ€, it is destined to last for decades. Eventually it figures to involve more players than just those in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is danger of internal power struggles between rival sects of Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs that could sink the move towards peace and democracy.
As we prepare for the next 9-11, there must be a collective diligence to the potential threats and steadfastness in our resolve to make security a priority. The present climate of political correctness and mixed political messages may ultimately be more sinister than any plot posed by al Qaeda.
The essence of our world has remained intact, leaving change more a matter of perception than reality. Letâ€™s not press our luck by underestimating the enemy or forgetting our consequences.