Saturday, September 10, 2011

How 9/11 Triggered America's Decline

The smoke was still rising from the rubble of the World Trade Center when Richard Armitage, at the time the US deputy secretary of state, spoke in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. "History begins today," he said.

In the coming decade, Armitage would turn out to be right -- except the politician could not have foreseen how tragic the history would be following the epochal event.

It is the history of the decline of the USA as a superpower.

Immediately before the attacks, this country was in full bloom -- like Rome at its peak, as TV host Joe Scarborough recalls today.

The Republican President George W. Bush had inherited a fat budget surplus from the Democrat Bill Clinton. In Kosovo, the US, which Madeleine Albright dubbed "the indispensable nation," had just shown the Europeans how it could resolve conflicts, even in their own backyard. Bill Gates and Microsoft were still cool.

Then came the planes, piloted by the followers of Osama bin Laden -- and for a brief moment, the superpower seemed even more powerful than ever. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had himself photographed donating blood for the victims. Even the French all suddenly wanted to be Americans. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised "unlimited solidarity."

What followed was an unlimited mistake. Bin Laden had hoped to entangle the Americans in bloody wars. How well he would succeed in doing this, he probably could not have imagined himself. more