While somberly recalling the victims and celebrating the heroes of 9/11 let’s not neglect what that assault was all about. Or its impact.
“Terrorism” is about tactics. What we encountered was resurgent tyranny.
9/11 was a political act designed to unite the Islamic world into a new superpower. A new, if you will, Empire.
That plan has failed, thus far, to achieve its goal: an Islamic imperium, a goal that runs against the secular anti-imperial tide.
Also, the internal rivalries of the Islamic World, particularly between Iran and the Arab states, make its achievement highly dubious. And yet ...
9/11 succeeded in putting America on a back foot in its role as the world’s preeminent champion of liberty. Now, in our own political culture and perforce around the world, we witness the tide of liberty receding.
America, since its earliest years, was the world’s predominant force in promoting liberty. President Jefferson envisioned America as creating an “Empire of Liberty.”
It took America slightly more than a hundred years from Jefferson (a mere moment in the millennia of world imperial governance) and a few wrong turns (the progressive presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson for instance) to have the power to meaningfully liberalize the world’s political culture.
Then, it did.
Since the early 20th century America went about making the world safe for representative democracy. We engaged in a long and noble series of actions against imperialism and against tyrannies.
From 1911 to 1923 we saw (and helped precipitate) the overthrow of China’s Qing Dynasty, Russia’s Romanov dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The British Empire, the least autocratic, began its slow but inexorable dissolution. We definitively and intentionally dismantled it after WWII.
America’s DNA is anti-imperial. It’s so obvious as to be taken for granted.
As I have elsewhere written, “The sudden collapse of the imperial world order is so big as to be nearly invisible. It was the Big Bang that set the stage for the current world geopolitical order.”
The fall of empires was astoundingly rapid by historical standards. That said, the rise of the Empire of Liberty was not immediate.
Appallingly brutal tyrants replaced the emperors. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Tojo and Mao.
It took a second world war to replace the Axis powers with a republican form of government. It took World War III, the “Cold War,” to rescue the captive nations from oppressive Soviet domination, dissolve the USSR, and move the People’s Republic of China from totalitarianism to authoritarianism.
The latter was an incomplete victory yet a great leap forward. Now, as America abdicates its role as paladin of liberty, China’s leadership seems confident in restoring totalitarianism.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda’s goal, and that of Daesh (grandiosely styling itself the Islamic State, fooling exactly nobody in the principled Muslim world) was to restore something like the Caliphate.
Prof. Juan Cole nailed the political reality perfectly in 2004 at the George Mason History News Network:
"In order to evaluate the aftermath of September 11, we first must understand that event. What did al-Qaeda intend to achieve? Only if we understand that can we gauge their success or failure. … For al-Qaeda to succeed, it must overthrow the individual nation-states in the Middle East, most of them colonial creations, and unite them into a single, pan-Islamic state. … Al-Zawahiri then hit upon the idea of attacking the ‘far enemy’ first. That is, since the United States was propping up the governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc., all of which al-Qaeda wanted to overthrow so as to meld them into a single, Islamic super-state, then it would hit the United States first. … If the Muslim world can find a way to combine the sophisticated intellectuals and engineers of Damascus and Cairo with the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, it could well emerge as a 21st century superpower.”
Creating an Islamic superpower failed. Yet weakening America as a confident advocate of liberty throughout the world just might pave the way for the return of tyrannies.
America is not and never will be perfect.
Still, Churchill’s observation about (representative) democracy applies in full: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. …”
Until 9/11 weakened our confidence in the righteousness of liberty, America was the main force for liberal republicanism around the world.
Today let us rediscover our identity, as set forth right in the Declaration of Independence, as champions of liberty and embrace our mission and destiny as the shining example of, and premier advocate for, liberty around the world.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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