As people acknowledge the 15th anniversary of the most significant terror attack on US soil, it is worth reflecting not only on the events that happened that day and in the immediate aftermath, but also on how those events impacted our society. Daniel Byman makes a strong case that we are far safer at home than we were 15 years ago with respect to large-scale terror attacks. Certainly we have been successful at impacting key terrorist leaders through military action, and have become more adept at thwarting would-be terrorists at home though law enforcement, all facilitated by improved information collection and sharing. But, how are we faring ideologically?
Arguably, our military actions abroad at least allowed, if they did not directly cause or contribute to, increased destabilization of the Middle-East. The instability has allowed new threats to spring up, and though many do not pose direct existential threats to the US they certainly threaten partners, impact us through increased humanitarian crises, and in some cases work to strain relations with partners and allies. At home we have seen increases in religious division, up to the demonization of the entire Muslim community and even acts of violence against members of that community (or people that uninformed Americans think look like members of the Muslim community). We are trending toward becoming more insular and isolationist, and less accepting of diversity.
Anniversaries provide an opportunity to look back and remember not just the horror and shock we felt, but also to recognize the heroism and unity that sprung up in the immediate aftermath. It is not too late to return to an attitude on inclusion, and to return to opening our country to those in need abroad. This is at the root of who we are as a people. We have not, historically, always been on the right side of inclusion and civil rights, but we have steadily moved toward openness and acceptance throughout our history (even if too slowly at times). After all of the work we have put in improving who we are, let us not let fear drive us backward.