11 September 2020

September 11, 2001 - a threshold for world’s development

Sergiu Medar

Nineteen years ago, in a sunny September morning, the world’s history changed. Most of world’s population was not familiar, back then, with Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Caliphate etc. The attack of the Islamic terrorist cells in the US over the four targets: World Trade Center 1 and 2, the Pentagon, to which we add the commercial plane taken down in Pennsylvania after the brave fight of the passengers with the terrorists, surprised the entire world. When finding the news, the world’s reaction was different from country to country, however embracing a common denominator: it was a crime against humanity. Thus, the official reaction of the states was to act against the new phenomenon, manifested in the strongest state in the world.

Image source: Profimedia

It was for the first time when the US was being attacked on national soil by a foreign entity. It was an unprecedented attack in the history of terrorism, both as violence and impact. The fact that the country to have the strongest security and defence systems was attacked represented also the element that worried the governments and the entire population.  

The US called on Article 5 from the NATO founding North Atlantic Treaty immediately, also known as the expression of the collective defence concept based on the principle “one for all and all for one”. It was for the first time when this article was being called on and implemented in the entire history of the North Atlantic Alliance. Thus, terrorism was turning into the main threat against the global security, being underlined in the national security strategies of the states. This phenomenon became the target of the NATO member states and the other countries. The threat of a terrorist nuclear or bacteriological attack turned into the permanent concern of the intelligence services in the entire world.

The violence of the 9/11 2001 acts terrified the entire world on the possible consequences of another similar attack, in any part of the world. It made the citizens in other countries, and mainly the US, to call on the authorities to find solutions. The White House response was an unprecedented mobilization of the army, the public order forces and the National Intelligence Community. In the US, it was founded the Homeland Security Department, to coordinate all authorities’ actions to defend the Americans against a possible attack on the national territory.

A war against terror was starting, as George W. Bush was saying at that time, the president of the United States, a country which became the one to carry this fight. The military and security structures of the states and world’s population joined it through the way they accepted the security restrictions imposed by the authorities. The US Patriot Act, approved by the US Congress, a few weeks after the attack, by which they were imposing restrictions on the verge of the human’s democratic liberties, can be an example on how the Americans agreed, in a moment of maximum tension, to accept this type of involvement and control, wherein each citizens was practically contributing to the fight against terrorism. The US examples were followed also by other states, which, depending on the threat level against their own security, they chose the measures needed internally.

The US foreign policy, but also of other states, suffered a dramatic change. The main mission of their diplomacy became the mobilization of states for the global fight against terrorism.  As the terrorist organization Al Qaida was the main guilty for the criminal attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush stated that “the war against terror starts with Al Qaida, but it does not end there”.

So, it became clear for everyone that it was the moment when NATO had to convince all the states inside and outside the Alliance, the partners and the enemies that the main principle of the organization, the collective defence, works. To this new war, wherein the enemy in omnidirectional, and has an asymmetrical manifestation, have committed, with more or less enthusiasm, all the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty and the partner states.

It was obvious that terrorism must be defeated at its home. Starting from the fact that Al Qaida had training centers in Afghanistan, in less than a month after 9/11, the US have attacked the Al Qaida units and forces of the Taliban regime that was protecting them, in this country, starting the longest military campaign in its history and that lasts for almost 20 years. Other NATO states and forces have also joined this campaign, taking their political exam for Alliance’s membership and the military fight training test.

 The US acted as a global leader, basically leading the participating forces in this war. At the same time, it was for the first time when, within the multinational structures which acted in Afghanistan, the American subunits were controlled by other units of other NATO member states, like Romania, for example.

After another two years, in March 2003, the US invaded Iraq, overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime and him too. Without being an actual typical fight against terrorism, this war was reasoned with the fact that there was a suspicion that this country would produce nuclear weapons.

The US lost, in the war against terror, thousands of military and other thousands were physically or psychically traumatized. This tribute was one of the reasons wherefore the current White House officials withdrew most of their troops from the areas the terrorism threat decreased.

The war against terror changed the way of action in military operation with other states’ participation. There were many situations when the military in states with different cultures and political regimes worked as respected war fellows. These manifestations overcame the level of political relations between states. The soldiers gave, more than once, lessons to politicians on what comradeship and friendship mean.

It was a convincing solidarity example of all states in tough times. Unfortunately, after almost 20 years, this solidarity became nothing in the fight against another enemy of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the criminal 9/11 act, the citizens’ life changed. Considering the way the attack developed, most of the changes took place in terms of the control of entries and exits of each country’s border.

Passenger and luggage’s’ control of people using air, land or naval gates has become a habit that was preserved even after 20 years from the fateful date of 9/11. The state borders were equipped with modern control equipment. Staff at these borders have been trained and equipped to recognize the specific behavior of terrorists and to eliminate them from this stage.

Since the 9/11 attackers were Muslims, the attitude of the American and European population towards any Muslim, and especially towards the Arabs, has changed. According to FBI reports, in the US, in 2001, 93 were killed, and in 2016, 127 Muslims. At the same time, the anti-American current in the Middle East has increased. Even states with governments that support US policy have a hostile attitude towards Americans.

After Donald Trump took over the White House administration, the principles of US foreign policy have changed. The new president, who is now campaigning for a second term, won the election with the slogan "America First", which means that any international action or intervention must be for the benefit of the United States, for the benefit of the American people and its close allies.

Trump said the United States no longer wants to be considered a "global gendarme" and will only intervene when security or national interests are threatened. The states, says the White House leader, must ensure their own security or pay for it when the US is providing it. The concept led to moments of confusion in the foreign policy of all partner or adversary states, which were used, according to the antecedents, for the United States to take the lead and responsibility in resolving any threat to the world community. The way the United States has addressed the SARS CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic proves that global solidarity, grouped around the US leadership during the fight against terrorism, has been affected.

In 2016, when Donald Trump took over the US administration, on the list of threats to the US, terrorism at that time, in the first place, was replaced by great powers’ competition. Following this decision, the United States withdraws its forces from Syria and partly from Afghanistan and Germany. They are partially withdrawn in the US and some are relocated. For the second decision, the partial redistribution of the German armed forces in the Eastern European states supports the concept of great powers competition, referring in this case to Russia as a great power.

The terrorist threat decreased, but it continues to be a threat against the citizen. That’s why life did not come back to normal, but the new normal is no longer the same it was before 9/11. People got used to follow the anti-terrorist measures and are basically living with the terrorist threat.

The same thing will probably happen with the COVID-19 pandemic threats as we.. Most likely, the world will get used to the virus and will live under the same threat, just like it happens with terrorism.

Translated by Andreea Soare