U.S. strategic defeat in Iraq, a discredited market model, China’s rise and Latin American freedom offer hope for the world.
Eight years on, we’re still caught in the shadow of the twin towers. As a rule, terrorism in its proper sense isn’t just morally indefensible — it also doesn’t work. In contrast to mass national resistance campaigns or guerrilla movements, the record of socially disconnected terror groups, from the Russian anarchists onwards, has been one of unmitigated failure. But the wildly miscalculated response of the United States government succeeded in turning the 9/11 atrocities into what may rank as the most successful terror attack in history.
It also triggered the first of four decisive changes which have ensured that the 21st century’s first decade has transformed the world — in some significant ways for the better. Osama Bin Laden’s initial demand was the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, which was carried out in short order. But it was George Bush’s war on terror that paradoxically delivered the greatest blow to U.S. authority and the world’s first truly global empire, in ways Al Qaeda could scarcely have dreamed of.
Not only did the lawless savagery of the U.S. campaign of killings, torture, kidnappings and incarceration without trial spawn terrorists across the Muslim world and beyond, while comprehensively disposing of western pretensions to be the global guardians of human rights. But the U.S.-British invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, in the latter case on a flagrantly false pretext, starkly exposed the limits of U.S. military power to impose its will on recalcitrant peoples prepared to fight back.