September 13, 2021 | Mosaic

September 11 from 1981 to 2031

America has been learning and forgetting the lessons of 2001 for decades. Its now in the midst of forgetting them again. Will the same result follow?
September 13, 2021 | Mosaic

September 11 from 1981 to 2031

America has been learning and forgetting the lessons of 2001 for decades. Its now in the midst of forgetting them again. Will the same result follow?

Excerpt

“Where were you on 9/11?”

The question, asked for years in the wake of the terrorist attacks, is rarely posed any more. In fact, except for a few moments in the days leading up to the 20th anniversary this past weekend, I can’t recall the last time someone asked me that, or the last time I put it to someone else.

September 2001 now lies an astonishing twenty years in the past. We know what happened on the day; everybody agrees on that. But what happened in the intervening decades has become a matter of dispute.

Many now say it seems as if we’re right back where we started, twenty years wasted, trillions of dollars poorer, the Taliban again in control of Afghanistan, Islamist threats again buoyed by our national ambivalence, plus now, on top of it all, an aggressive China looking to exploit our self-made geopolitical mess. There’s some truth to this, though not because of the mistakes of the last twenty years but rather the mistakes of the last twenty months.

Critics of America’s war in Afghanistan tend to have forgotten, or perhaps have never known, why we were there in the first place. They undervalue what America achieved, and don’t adequately account for the threats that American forces did in fact neutralize. Most importantly, they suggest the formation of a conventional wisdom that will not be capable of transmitting to a rising generation the strategic and historical lessons of the past.

The U.S. is now out of Afghanistan. Will those who brought war to America twenty years ago pursue us again, so that ten years from now, a still bloodier postscript to these words will need to be written?

Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow him on Twitter @rich_goldberg. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Afghanistan Al Qaeda Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Jihadism Military and Political Power The Long War U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy