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The World After 9/11 – Part I

Bruce Riedel

The Al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, what Al Qaeda calls the Manhattan raid, changed the course of global history in a morning. The decade that followed would see America engage in two costly wars abroad, change its national security structures profoundly, and pursue Al Qaeda around the world. The decade ahead also promises to be dangerous. Although wounded by the killing of founder Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda is still an active global terror group with an ideology that has attracted a small but committed band of murderers. It aspires to change global history again by provoking more conflict and war to set the stage for its new caliphate. The strategy is insane, but Al Qaeda is determined to pursue it.

The 9/11 attack cost Al Qaeda about a half million dollars to organize and execute, according to the US 9/11 Commission report. The property damage in New York and Washington alone cost about $100 billion. The cumulative economic cost to the global economy has been estimated as high as $2 trillion. The attack led directly to the war in Afghanistan and indirectly to the war in Iraq. Brown University recently estimated the cost of those two wars at $4 trillion. So 9/11 was not only traumatic, it was a cheap investment that cost America dearly in lives and treasure.

It also transformed the national security infrastructure of the United States more profoundly than any event since the start of the Cold War at the end of the 1940s. Whole new bureaucracies have been created in its wake including the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center. The entire intelligence community was reorganized and a new position, director of national intelligence, created because the 9/11 attack revealed serious lack of coordination among the agencies. It also encouraged America to use torture and secret prisons to fight back. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are 9/11’s legacy and will forever tarnish America.

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