Reflecting On 9/11: Are We Safer Today Than We Were Yesterday?

14 years painfully counted have elapsed before us since the barbaric terrorist attacks on American soil on 9/11, during which nearly 3,000 innocent people were savagely killed.

Soon after the attacks, the U.S. resolutely rendered a retaliatory response engaging in what it called the war on terror, vowing to hunt down and kill the mastermind, and to dismantle every terrorist network wherever it might be detected across the world.

Of course, to the satisfaction of many in the U.S., Osama Bin Laden and a number of terrorist leaders have been killed. But the war is still far from over. It is even fair to say that the amount of people killed and maimed from both sides since the war started, not to mention the deplorable level of infrastructural destruction, calls into question the essence of human civilization.

As it has always been the case on this memorable day, during which every citizen reflects on and pays tribute to those who have lost their lives as well as the enormous sacrifice being made by our men and women in uniform, the question that we all need to cautiously answer is: are we safer today than we were after the terrorists attacks?

From a political or military perspective, the answer has always been “yes” because, some argue, no terrorist attack of 9/11 magnitude has succeeded to take place in U.S. territory.

However, appreciating people’s security from that perspective overlooks important variables that constitute what security really is about in the mind and feelings of one another.

Imagine that you and your family live in a well-protected home surrounded by well-armed guards. Nevertheless, persistent threatening messages directed at you indicate that an unidentified stranger is out there, and is trying hard to kill you and your children.

Although you have never been attacked or killed, and continue to enjoy good protection, ongoing failed attempts to break into your backyard and threatening authorless letters scattered in the neighborhood against you make you believe that you are being hunted down.

The question becomes: will the high level of security you enjoy build a sense of peace and security inside you under the assurance and feeling that you are being hunted by a well-determined stranger who wants to kill you?

In most cases, we look at security or national security, which in reality is people’s security from a political or military standpoint. Of course, our troops and intelligence agencies have done an exceptional job of preventing terrorist attacks from entering U.S. territory.

On the other hand, we all know how many times terrorists have desperately attempted to hurt us. We have been successful at averting terrorist attacks from taking place in our territory but none of us can assert that we have eliminated the desire of terrorists to attack us.

Realistically, it is a perceived potential danger in a near or far future that makes people feel insecure. Security or safety is defined as the state or condition of mind of being or feeling free from danger. It is the feeling that nothing or nobody is about or attempting to hurt us. No matter how well an individual is told to be protected, as long as he or she is convinced that a stranger is hot on his/her heels trying to kill him or her, he/she will not feel safe.

No one can feel safe knowing that out there is someone who is trying to kill him or her unless such danger is eliminated.    

On November 26th, 2007 as he was addressing students at the Kansas University State regarding the war on terror, the former Pentagon Chief Robert Gates, said “these conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature and require the application of all elements of natural power. Success will be less a matter of imposing one’s own will and more a function of shaping behavior of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between.”

No one will dispute the fact that armed confrontations cannot shape people’s behaviors, nor can they build friendship.

As the application of military logic ought to go on to contain those who prefer the language of Kalashnikov over talks, the U.S. should also put an emphasis on investing in human relation building, diplomacy, and the rapprochement of nations and people across the globe as it is enshrined in the letter and spirit of the United Nations charter.

Negotiation with enemies is not and cannot be viewed as a weakness, but instead, as a consequential resort for ending differences. Negotiation or talks are made for those who have different views, philosophies, political orientations, competing interest, and opposing beliefs.

With the elimination of terrorism through diplomacy and reconciliation, Americans can feel safe in and out of their borders as they will be convinced of being free of any terrorist attack. This will enable them to travel everywhere abroad without fear of carrying an American passport or claiming their national identity.


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