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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The U.S. vs. al Qaeda

The War on Terror in Retrospect

Anatomy of an Overreaction

Courtesy Reuters

In the late 1990s, American national security experts were concerned. The prospect of great power war had diminished, but terrorism seemed a real and growing danger. Nuclear proliferation loomed in the Persian Gulf and South Asia, Israelis and Palestinians were squabbling, global trade talks were stalled. The United States’ ability to manage its own problems was doubtful, as a weakened Democratic president clashed with hostile Republicans in Congress.

A dozen years later, much remains the same. Great power war is still remote, but the threat of terrorism persists. Nuclear concerns in the Gulf and South Asia, Israeli-Palestinian squabbling, sluggish global trade negotiations, and U.S. political dysfunction all continue. But now the world appears a much darker place than it did before, and the country is mired in fear, anger, and depression. Many think America’s best days, not to mention its global hegemony, are behind it.

What changed? The 9/11

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