15 September 2018

Policy Roundtable: 17 Years After September 11

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To understand what has gone both right and wrong since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we have convened a roundtable of some of this country’s foremost experts on terrorism, insurgency, and strategy. 

1. Introduction: A Most Infamous Day: Marking the 17th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

By Ryan Evans

The 9/11 attacks and Pearl Harbor have often been compared. Not long after the towers fell, then-Sen. Chuck Hagel, a future secretary of defense, said, “This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don’t think that I overstate it.”1 A senior E.U. official said that same day, “It is the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. This is one of those few days in life that one can say will actually change everything.” Around the world and especially in the United States, these comparisons are being repeated today.

But marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is fundamentally unlike observing that of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.” Less than four years after Japanese imperialist forces struck at America’s Pacific Fleet as it sat in Pearl Harbor, Japan surrendered unconditionally, submitting itself to a military occupation by its adversary. Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks, however, the kindest thing that can be said of the American record against the jihadist movement is that it is mixed. While the United States has succeeded in preventing another mass casualty attack on its soil, its terrorist enemies continue to wreak havoc in Africa, the Middle East, as well as South and Southeast Asia, and have repeatedly attacked Europe.

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