“September 11” 20 years later, the United States needs to reflect
The Beijing News reporter interviewed the famous American international political scientist Joseph Nye
20 years after “9.11”, the United States needs reflection
Famous international political scientist, representative of neoliberalism, and proponent of “soft power”, previously served in the Carter government Assistant Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration. He also served as the Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is currently a Professor of Outstanding Contributions at Harvard University.
On September 11 this year, the United States will usher in the 20th anniversary of the “September 11” terrorist attack. The attack that shocked the world was the worst terrorist attack on the United States so far, and it was also considered an important turning point in American history.
After the “9.11” terrorist attack, the United States launched the Afghanistan War on October 7, 2001, marking the beginning of the United States’ “Global War on Terrorism”. The United States quickly overthrew the Taliban in power within a few months, but has since been trapped in the quagmire of war for 20 years.
20 years later, the Afghan Taliban returned to Kabul on August 15 and once again controlled Afghanistan. The United States, which has not been able to establish a “democracy” in Afghanistan for 20 years, completely withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30, leaving behind a devastated and panicked Afghanistan.
Twenty years later, how should we view the terrorist attack that shocked the world and the war on terrorism initiated by the United States? Twenty years later, how should we deal with the resurgence of terrorism? The Beijing News talks to the American political scholar Joseph Nye Jr. (Joseph Nye Jr.).
The impact of “September 11” and the Pearl Harbor incident is similar.
The Beijing News: Looking back 20 years later, what does “September 11” mean to the United States?
Joseph Nye: The “September 11” terrorist attack was a terrible psychological shock for us. Up to now, the scene of the victims jumping from the twin towers is still indelible.
But some skeptics began to question the claim that “September 11” was a turning point in American history. Their argument is that the direct impact of this terrorist attack is far from fatal to the United States-it is estimated that the GDP growth of the United States in 2001 fell by 0.5%, and the final total insurance claims exceeded US$40 billion, but only at that time A small part of the 10 trillion economy; this attack caused nearly 3,000 deaths, but compared to the number of traffic accident deaths in the United States that year, it also accounted for a very small part.
But I think that future historians will compare the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 with the Pearl Harbor incident of December 7, 1941. The Japanese government’s sudden attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II killed approximately 2,400 American troops and destroyed or damaged 19 naval vessels, including 8 warships.
In fact, the most important thing about these two incidents is the psychological impact of the American public. During World War II, the then President of the United States Roosevelt tried to emphasize the threat of the Axis powers (the alliance of fascist nations in World War II), but still could not overcome the prevalence of isolationism. It was not until the Pearl Harbor incident that the United States formally joined World War II immediately.
In the 2000 presidential election, Bush Jr. advocated a humble foreign policy and warned against the temptation to “build a nation.” But after the “September 11” terrorist attacks, he immediately launched the “Global War on Terrorism” and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq successively.
The cost of war is even higher than that of “9.11”
The Beijing News: How do you view the global war on terrorism initiated by the United States after “9.11”?
Joseph Nye: The “September 11” terrorist attack illustrates one point, that is, the core of terrorism lies in psychological impact, not destruction.
Terrorism is like drama. In the eyes of terrorists, the “shock and awe” generated by an incident is more from the dramatic effect than the death toll. For example, poison can kill more people, but an explosion can bring a strong visual impact. Up to now, the scene of the falling twin towers, which is still being played on televisions and computers all over the world, is a “coup” of Bin Laden.
Terrorism can also be compared with Jiu-Jitsu-in Jiu-Jitsu, a weak person can counteract the powerful force of his opponent. “September 11” killed thousands of Americans, but the endless war launched by the United States was more costly. Compared with the damage the United States caused to itself, the damage caused by al-Qaeda was hardly worth mentioning.
It is estimated that the economic cost of the American war after 9/11 exceeded 6 trillion U.S. dollars, and nearly 15,000 American soldiers and American contractors were killed. Add in the civilians who died in wars and refugees from wars in other countries, and the cost is incalculable.
Its opportunity cost is also great. When former US President Barack Obama tried to shift his strategic focus to Asia, the fastest-growing region in the world, the United States was deeply mired in the Middle East because of the legacy of the global war on terrorism.
The Beijing News: Has the United States won the 20-year global war on terrorism?
Joseph Nye: Some people believe that the United States’ global war on terrorism is a victory. There has never been a large-scale terrorist attack similar to that of “9.11” in the United States. Al-Qaeda’s bin Laden and many of his senior deputies were shot dead, and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed (although his connection with “9.11” has been questioned).
But some people will think that bin Laden was “victorious”, especially those who regarded his death as a religion and martyrdom for their faith. At present, the global “jihad” movement is fragmented, but it is undeniable that it has spread to more countries. In Afghanistan, where the United States has been in the United States for 20 years, the Taliban have returned to power-ironically, President Biden originally set the US military withdrawal date on September 11.
The United States needs to formulate a counter-terrorism strategy not to repeat the same mistakes
The Beijing News: 20 years later, what lessons should the United States learn from “9.11”?
Joseph Nye: What must be paid attention to is that the problem of terrorism still exists, and even terrorists may be stimulated by “9.11” and take similar actions again.
Therefore, the United States needs to formulate an effective counter-terrorism strategy, and the core of it is not to repeat the same mistakes and once again fall into the trap of causing great harm to itself.
Imagine that after the “September 11” terrorist attacks in 2001, if President Bush did not initiate a global war on terrorism, he would respond with a combination of sophisticated military strikes, good intelligence, and diplomacy. , What will the world be like? If the United States leaves after entering Afghanistan six months later-even if it means negotiating with the Taliban in power at the time, will the situation in Afghanistan and the world be different now? We should all learn from the past 20 years and at the same time formulate more reasonable response strategies.
The Beijing News: 20 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan, it has finally withdrawn from Afghanistan recently. How to evaluate Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan?
Joseph Nye: It may be too early to assess the long-term impact of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, but judging from the chaotic situation at Kabul Airport and the terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS, the short-term impact is already obvious.
In the long run, Biden may finally give up his efforts to “build a democratic country” in a country divided by mountains and tribes and united mainly by rebelling against foreigners. It may be right.
After giving up Afghanistan, he was able to focus more on his core strategy-balancing the influence of China, which is rising in Asia, the most dynamic region. Although the chaos of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan hurts its soft power, Asia also has its own long-term balance of power. Countries such as Japan and India welcome the U.S. presence to contain China’s influence. Therefore, Biden’s overall strategy makes sense.
Future historians will compare the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 with the Pearl Harbor incident of December 7, 1941.
The United States needs to formulate an effective counter-terrorism strategy, and the core of it is not to repeat the same mistakes and once again fall into the trap of causing great harm to itself.