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The Washington Quarterly 27.4 (2004) 111-114

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Editor's Note

What did September 11 change? Immediately after the Al Qaeda attacks leveled the World Trade Center's twin towers, smashed a hole in the Pentagon, and killed more than 3,000 global citizens (including the courageous passengers who reclaimed a fourth plane and crashed it in the fields of Pennsylvania), the answer seemed obvious: everything had changed. The day after the U.S. homeland was struck for the first time since the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the infamous Le Monde headline "Nous Sommes Tous Americains" ("We Are All Americans") appeared to synthesize global shock, sympathy, and support for the wounded and suddenly vulnerable United States in four simple words. Three years later, the omnipotent effect of the attacks seems a bit less certain and the immediate disbelief has worn off. What has endured?

Was September 11 a turning point that redefined the international order and gave shape to the amorphous post-Cold War world? Or did September 11 change only the United States, or at least change it much more significantly than any other part of the world? Or, ultimately, have the effects of 9/11 on the United States, and Washington's reaction to them in turn, subsequently changed the global order? This section of The Washington Quarterly seeks a midterm assessment, three years after the attacks, to begin to answer these questions.

Subscribers and avid readers of The Washington Quarterly know that I believe the authors' analyses should stand on their own without the additional filter of my interpretation. Sometimes, however, one section is a bit more unconventional than others, and an explanation of its origins can help clarify its significance. A brief editor's note, therefore, seemed necessary for this collection of essays, particularly because they also evolved in ways that I had not anticipated when we started. [End Page 111]

About six months ago, we initially solicited authors from around the world, asking each prospective author three simple questions:

  • How did September 11 change [your country]?
  • How did September 11 change the United States from your perspective?
  • How did September 11 change the international system?

In deciding which authors to invite, Europe and the Middle East were intentionally deemphasized. In the United States and Washington, at least, the focus has remained transfixed on the Middle East because of the military initiatives in Iraq and the broader diplomatic efforts toward political reform in the region, as well as on Europe because of NATO's immediate support after the attacks and the transatlantic diplomatic strife surrounding the Iraq war. We also did not want to repeat the exceptional work, led by Simon Serfaty and Christina V. Balis, in gauging European perspectives on the United States after September 11 in Visions of America and Europe: September 11, Iraq, and Transatlantic Relations.1

What about the rest of the world? We sought to examine more closely how it had changed. Recent articles elsewhere have begun to shift some attention to the overlooked importance of Africa2 in the campaign against terrorism as well as back to Asia3 in general. This section seeks to further explore 9/11's effect on the rest of the world by gathering the individual perspectives of leading intellectuals from think tanks in China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Africa. Readers should not take the opinions of these authors as necessarily representative of those governments. Rather, they provide diverse, individual perspectives, informed by their experiences in those countries, on how September 11 has changed different parts of the world.

I am deeply indebted to the thoughtful and dedicated work of all of the authors we solicited. The initial draft of each paper faithfully followed the challenge we presented. What we found, however, was that the perceived effect on the United States (the second question posed) did not vary among the authors. Clear to all, the U.S. sense of invulnerability had been punctured, transnational threats have emerged more plainly, and the Bush administration has elevated preemptive and preventive options in U.S. foreign and...


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pp. 111-114
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