Thursday, 12 September 2013

September 11 twelve years on: is the USA still a superpower?

September 11, 2013

Twelve years later, a thought.

We all consider Austria-Hungary started the First World War in 1914 (or at least I do) because she was unjustified in invading Serbia to punish the murder of the heir to the throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand. Yet almost everyone thinks that the US was right to invade Afghanistan in 2001 because of 3,000 murders. I wonder how to distinguish those two.

At first, after September 11, like many conservative journalists in England, I thought invading Afghanistan was not justified, but like many people I came round to it - I suspect even the Pope did privately, judging by the wording of his call for peace. Obviously, it should have been a quick punitive strike along Victorian lines aimed at Al Qaeda. In and out. Even then it was doomed to failure, as all invasions of Afghanistan are, but it would have been a small failure, not a tragic one (except for the poor people who died or whose lives were ruined). Had the Americans captured Bin Laden (whether or not he was responsible for the September 11 attacks would not have mattered) it would have been considered a great success.

And yet if such a strike were justified why was Austria-Hungary's invasion not? And if Austria-Hungary were justified, would the UK be justified in invading and annexing the Irish Republic were the Prince of Wales to be murdered by the IRA? 

Because Al Qaeda in Afghanistan were capable of further attacks on America? But I suppose the Black Hand were capable of further attacks on Austrian targets. And removing Al Qaeda from Afghanistan did not make them notably less dangerous.

What is certain is that it is not the September 11 attack that weakened the USA but her reaction to it. It may even be that the way Mr Obama has handled Mr Putin's initiative this week to get Syria to give up her chemical weapons is the moment when the USA ceases to be a superpower. If so this process started not with September 11 but with the decision of Mr Bush to declare war on terror and to occupy Afghanistan.

On the day it happened, although I am a news-junkie, I completely failed to see the importance of September 11. I watched the news for twenty minutes and then switched it off. Terrorist outrages happened all too often around the world. I put the attacks into a mental pigeon-hole marked 'crime stories', and I do not follow crime stories. But though I got it very badly wrong so, I see now, did America which over-reacted on a monumental scale and gave immeasurable help to Al Qaeda in achieving its objectives. But I suppose we all know this now.


  1. I thinks US is still a super-power but BHO is not the most powerfull man in the world. After the blunder with Syria, he is very low, imho...

    1. Yes, agreed. But I discern a downward path in American prestige and influence - in economy and diplomacy.

  2. Paul, you must be the only person I know who turned off the telly when one tower of the world trade center was turned into the world's largest chimney. The scale, visibility and symbolism of the event riveted the attention of people around the world.

    1. Marc, actually everything had happened when I switched on the TV, after Lia Trandafir told me 'The twins! The twins! They've taken out the twins' and I assumed Mr Bush's daughters had been kidnapped. I watched for twenty minutes and then assumed that there would be no more attacks. I did not realise how many people had died, which was very dense of me. By contrast I had been almost unable to work during the Florida election story, glued to CNN.

    2. An Englishman called Martin Dixon told me that he switched on the TV only to see with annoyance that the football match was not being broadcast and then switched oFf. Just for the historical record.

  3. Is U.S. on the decline? Is the truth about 9/11 the account
    given by the then neo-con government? Did the Sauds' threaten Tony Blair with another 7/7 if the UK does not change Oil Policy in relation to Russia. Did the Sauds' threaten Putin with possible troubles at the Winter Olympics if
    he doesn't change policy concerning Assad? Finally questions are being asked in the public sphere. Finally Super-Power status is being looked at for what it is.

  4. And now some people who have had creditable reputations are speaking the name of the enemy whose name "we dare not speak".
    And censorship has begun.

  5. 'We all consider Austria-Hungary started the First World War in 1914 (or at least I do)'

    This must be one of the most schizophrenic statements ever.