This should not have been the view that the nation held especially in light of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Towers, the attacks on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. Each of the attacks had not only killed Americans but should have signaled to the country the woeful lack of ability the nation possessed with respect to identifying potential threats and protecting against them. But the U.S. had not taken the warnings that had been so violently given them by the '93 World Trade Tower bombings, Khobar and Cole incidents but had failed to understand that the enemy that it was fighting wanted to kill as many civilians as possible and would use any means possible. The United States simply could not see that to this new enemy, it was not enough to simply hurt the United States, the enemy sought to devastate the country in every way possible.
In the aftermath of the destruction, the United States came to realize that it had prepared for the wrong war. The Americans had anticipated another conventional war in which enemies with uniforms from specific nations would square off against U.S. military personnel in armed combat. Knowing that they could not compete against the United States in such an effort, the hijackers attacked America's most vulnerable and least protected target. Shockwaves from the planes smashing into the buildings shook the American giant and alerted it that its preparations for war had not only been misplaced but had been completely in vain.
Image Altering Changes
In the months and years that followed the attacks, the Americans went through a number of self-flagellating efforts ostensibly designed to get to the truth behind the intelligence failures and to help prevent such attacks from happening in the future. However, many in the world saw these efforts as ways to affix blame, to salvage an image and to attempt to explain away the events. The U.S. also took steps to implement new methods for monitoring actions, for coordinating intelligence and for working to protect the population more effectively. All of these efforts had a collective negative impact on the self-image of the injured country which was not necessarily harmful but was helpful in that it enabled the country to see past its own bravado.
In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration proposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in order to better coordinate and implement counterterrorist strategy and policy in the United States."
With the creation of such a department the United States was forced to recognize that it had been inadequate with its preparations for security prior to September attacks. This was a difficult paradigm shift that was greeted by initial resistance from the Bush Administration and would have likely been resisted by almost any American administration regardless of party. It should be understood that the creation of such a department, especially one with a cabinet level position was in of itself a humiliation and would naturally result in hesitancy to adopt the measure. However, in the end, no amount of resistance could prevent the White House from complying with public will demanding such action that demonstrated such a grasping, desperate need to feel that the government was taking measures to better protect its citizenry.
Another of the considerable processes that began after the destruction on 9/11 was the formation of the 9/11 Commission. The formation of the commission itself was an admission by the country that mistakes had been made. Whether or not actual important recommendations would or did come out of the commission was of secondary importance and beyond the scope of this analysis. What is important is that the U.S. was forced to acknowledge its own weaknesses and admit to its own failures in a highly public manner. Infallibility and imperviousness that had previously been hallmarks of the U.S. self-image, had been dashed to pieces with the attacks and the formation of the 9/11 Commission simply punctuated the event.
The 9/11 Commission proceedings and the subsequent report issued by the commission was used by both conservatives and liberals in attempts to provide cover for the death and destruction caused by the hijackers. However, the underlying truth revealed that intelligence the which had been assumed to be of such impressive quality had been vastly misinterpreted and security efforts that were esteemed to be of such sterling excellence had failed at almost every point with the possible exception of the capture of Zaccarias Moussaoui (the alleged 20th hijacker) who was arrested prior to boarding the plane. However, the actual arrest had nothing to do with national security per se as Moussaoui was arrested "for visa violations." Both conservatives and liberals pointed to the successes that their groups had made attempting to take credit for events that were often mere chance or simply the work of an individual that was not being guided by any grand plan. But the reality of how the image of America had changed and how the country had been forced to reassess its own self-image was unmistakable.
From the 9/11 Commission the position of National Intelligence Director (NID) was created. The NID "would have greater authority over the national intelligence budget and programs, and over hiring and firing people to head the national intelligence agencies..."
Again, the implication was that America's pride in its own might and security had been misplaced. Another person would be needed to assure that the same incompetence or lack of organization would not permit another event like 9/11 to take place. The politics of such an appointment only increased the level at which the stumbling giant that was America was scrutinized and ridiculed for its failures.
As the world looked at the United States and questioned how the attack was possible, the United States was forced to look back and ask for help. No longer could the Americans assume that any intelligence worthy of acquisition would come from U.S. sources alone. America would have to learn to better cooperate with the world community not just in sharing information but in sharing decision making power. The sentiment and understanding that flooded the U.S. directly following the attacks were spent quickly in the American war in Afghanistan. The United States used massive and crushing power along with the joint forces of more than 40 countries to destroy the Taliban and scatter the forces of al-Qaeda.
However, the next venture of the United States illustrated how the world viewed the new U.S. standing and what the world would demand as the price for the failure on September 11. As the Americans discovered, fighting a war with Iraq without the international support that the nation had enjoyed against Afghanistan would prove significantly more difficult. Further, the manner in which the world reacted to the U.S. insistence on war with Iraq was indicative of the new view of itself that America would have to become accustomed to. No longer would the world be willing to turn a blind eye to the actions of America or provide unthinking allegiance to the actions of the U.S. The tables had turned and the Americans would have to reevaluate the manner in which they conducted foreign-affairs.
Part of the new self-image of the United States is one of continual fear. Obviously, the characteristic is not couched with such an unflattering term but fear is the proper verbiage. Americans call this new self-image vigilant or watchful but the net result is that the country has become a group of citizens waiting for the next attack to occur and the next series of horrific events to befall them. The subsequent scares that have plagued the country since the events of 9/11 have illustrated the various manner in which terrorists strike this fear into the hearts of Americans. From the anthrax scares that impacted the Senate to the small pox fears that initiated a build up of anti-virus, the Americans have discovered that the terrorists are busily inventing new and innovative ways to attack. This has in turn morphed the American people into a watchful and vigilant nation that has always in the back of its mind the fear of what is coming.
One result of the fearful condition that has gripped the nation is that Americans have initiated a debate within the country that centers on what exactly it means to be an American. The pre 9/11 definitions have been questioned by many causing a bitter disagreement within the populace. This has caused significant polarization within the country and led to a state of affairs that in some cases is very near hostility and even violence. To many on the conservative side of the issue, "Those who reject American values are un-American." In the minds and presumed intent therefore of those people is seen a malice of sorts that is in some ways equivalent to the terrorists themselves. From the liberal side of the equation…