The worst mistake America made after 9/11
The Worst Mistake America Made After 9/11
How focusing too much on the war on terror undermined our economy and global power.
By Anne ApplebaumUpdated
Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011, at 7:13 AM ET
On Sept. 11, 2001, the post-Cold War era that began so euphorically on Nov. 9, 1989, abruptly ended. The long decade that stretched from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the World Trade Center was marked by military spending cuts, domestic political scandals, and a general sense that American foreign policy was adrift. President George H.W. Bush had talked of the “New World Order” but had no policy to fit the clever phrase. President Bill Clinton had a clutch of policies but never found a neat way to describe them.
In the wake of al-Qaida’s attack on New York and Washington, an organizing principle suddenly presented itself. Like the Cold War, the new “war on terror,” as it instantly became known, clearly defined America’s friends, enemies, and priorities. Like the Cold War, the war on terror appealed both to American idealism and to American realism. We were fighting genuine bad guys, but the destruction of al-Qaida also lay clearly within the sphere of our national interests. The speed with which we all adopted this new paradigm was impressive, if somewhat alarming. At the time, I marveled at the neatness and cleanliness of this New New World Order and observed “how like an academic article everything suddenly appears to be.”