How America Has Changed Since 9-11

Radley Balko, a senior editor for Reason magazine, makes a persuasive case that Osama bin Laden met his goals: in other words, he “won.”

In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.

Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama’s first term, we’ll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion. [emphasis added]

Balko then lists a dozen ways we have changed, how we have accepted government intrusion into our private lives in the name of safety. Can you imagine that 10 years ago we would have accepted TSA, warrantless wiretaps, Presidential authority to secretly execute citizens? Don’t you think there would have been an outcry about jailing men and throwing away the key without their having experienced any sort of due process?

That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.

What do you think? How has America changed in the 9.5 years since 9-11?

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  • Joseph

    Balko makes good points. I believe the US will ultimately prevail, but Bin Laden succeeded in deeply wounding the US, not just in terms of blood, treasure, freedom and privacy, but also by setting a trap our own politicians walked right into, namely setting the stage for the pitting of Americans against Americans, all driven down party lines. It’s hard to estimate the real lossed incurred by terrorism under the guidance of Bin Laden, but they have been substantial. There have been lessons however, and it remains to be seen if they will be learned or not. One of the lessons has to do with dangers of setting the fires of division in our own country and fanning the flames.

  • dduck

    Balko is 100% right.

  • http://uspolitics.about.com/ KATHY GILL

    @gcotharn — You’ve provided no evidence for your claims that we are “stronger.” The evidence is quite clear that financially the picture is not stronger but weaker, much weaker.

    @Joseph, @dduck – thanks