Ten years after the September 11th 2001 attacks, the world is sitting in a fragile state. International media are awash with stories of a possible ‘car bomb’ attack on American soil, with sources citing intelligence of three possible terrorists entering the country. It’s very hard to know how much hype is in these reports, and it usually pays to watch American media with a wary eye. Yet it seems that this threat is credible enough to alert the public to it.
There are some significant issues on the international relations horizon as well, the most significant being the impending Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. Israel has begun preparing for the consequences of such action, including giving arms and training to Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Turkey has expelled the Israeli ambassador and has said it will cut military ties with Israel after a report into the deadly flotilla raid last year. The U.N. report said Israel’s use of force was “excessive and unreasonable”. It seems likely that the only way this issue will be solved will come at the price of an Israeli apology, something very unlikely.
Within Israel itself there have been protests over the economy, where at least 250,000 people took to the streets to demand the Government address the increasing cost of living, among other things. There must be a lot of pressure on the Israeli Government at the moment, and with the first Iranian nuclear power plant going online there will no doubt be growing concerns over their supposed weapons program. The latest U.N. report into the Iranian nuclear program appears to suggest that Tehran is attempting to blur reality to outsiders when it comes to weapons development, playing a sometimes dangerous game.
Tensions are rising on many issues around the world, not merely the ones mentioned above. It is hard to know where all these events will lead and it would be unwise to speculate as to possible consequences. Yet one thing we should remember is that even in our corner of the world, we can be affected. We should make sure we’re informed of what’s going on, as voting citizens in a democratic country we have that right.
It’s amazing to reflect on how much has changed in the past ten years, and in the opposite direction from what we might have expected. In 2001, the US was the ‘hyperpower’ – unchallenged on the world stage. The wars in Afghanistan and, more, Iraq, were the first real exercises of that hyperpower. The world waited to see how much its military power had advanced since its last major outing in 1991, in which it had shown the ability to literally decimate one of the world’s largest armed forces and barely break a sweat.
Those of us who opposed the invasion of Iraq didn’t believe Saddam had a right to power but feared the human cost. I doubt many of us, however, foresaw that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would still be ongoing ten years after 9/11, that they would have cost $4 trillion (a third of the US’s debt) and anything from 250,000 to a million lives. It looked like the hyperpower might embark on a series of wars sweeping aside the dictatorships in Syria, Iran, possibly even Saudi Arabia and attempting to replace them with democracies in its own image.
Instead, it became bogged-down and bankrupted itself. The world’s greatest military had the power to defeat any other conventional military in the field but has been fought to a draw by rag-tag insurgent forces. American power is now a joke, fodder for its own late-night comedians (hell, even that Ke$ha video has an inverted US flag in the background).
The disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan have broken America’s ability and will to project its power via military means, and left it so indebted that it can’t use money instead. Meanwhile, China’s soft power rises unchecked in the Pacific, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. China has increased its economic output by 150% since 2001, the US by 7%.
Once the hyperpower, now financially broken, fiscally downgraded, militarily strained, its self-belief shattered, politically divided at home, and unfeared and unloved abroad. And the outlook only worse.
Who would have thought 19 men and some box-cutters could lead us here?