The September 11 attacks were one of the turning points in the history of international relations. The legacy of the attacks has dominated the international system for almost two decades and has triggered events and transformations that may have longer-term ramifications.

The decade following the end of the Cold War was an era of optimism and liberal utopianism. Liberal triumphalism was clouded by certain ethnic conflicts, genocides and small wars of the 1990s in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo), Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, etc. However, these conflicts that took place in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East did not have a transformative impact on the great world powers. There was still hope of globalizing a liberal international order led by the United States and reaching all corners of the world. The discourse of the globalization of everything has also been instrumentalized for the dissemination of liberal ideals in the social, economic, cultural and political fields.

NATO and the transatlantic alliance still enjoyed victory and nurtured the hope of a globalized order based on the capitalist world economy and liberal internationalism. There were, however, critiques of liberal internationalism, particularly interventionism and resistance against the American-dominated world order. Even European actors were against American unilateralism, as were China, Russia, India and other middle powers. Nevertheless, almost all actors benefited from the economics of a more integrated global economy.

Resistance and overall system

September 11 was a clear warning to shake this unfounded optimism. Elements of the resistance and some of the marginal opponents of the existing Western-dominated world system have also managed to organize themselves into global terrorist networks. There were pockets of local resistance and widespread anti-globalist opposition, but these actors were not seen as a significant challenge to the general trend of expanding liberal internationalism. There have been terrorist attacks in many parts of the world by extremist and millennial groups in peripheral regions, but targeting the center of the world economy and the world superpower was an unexpected development.

Rather than seeing 9/11 as one of the problematic outcomes of the existing world order and addressing the underlying sources of the problem with an inclusive framework, Washington decided to launch a new campaign that it had no idea of. chance to win from the start. US President George W. Bush and his neo-conservative advisers have decided to use this disturbing attack which left nearly 3,000 civilians dead. The declaration of “whether you are with us or against us” and the discourse of the “global war on terrorism” dominated the agenda of the Transatlantic Alliance and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) regions for two decades.

Policymakers and bureaucrats in Washington expected local populations and grassroots people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to welcome their interventions and regime change initiatives. This misperception was a consequence of overconfidence and pride. The neo-conservatives’ error in judgment due to pride ended up leaving a destructive and very costly legacy. Unfortunately, subsequent presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have also maintained the main political lines of the “global war on terror” strategy. Joe Biden was more courageous and chose to close the parenthesis of the previous agenda.

Slow decline of power

Mismanaged responses to September 11 will be mentioned as the moment that triggered the decline of American power. This slow decline in American power could continue over the next decades. The United States will continue to be a superpower, but the status of inalienable power will eventually disappear. The pride that responded to the September 11 attacks, instead of the attacks themselves, is the main reason for this slow decline. Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups did not defeat American power, but they diverted the United States from other more inclusive and constructive goals. The main challenge for the United States was not al-Qaida or other terrorist groups, but rather the imperial pride that distracted Washington from its long-term goals.

The neo-conservative agenda of reorganizing and re-shaping and re-ordering the Muslim-majority countries of the MENA region has ended in complete disaster. The United States and its allies paid billions of dollars for operations that would never be won. US and NATO troops have failed to pacify the insurgencies in these asymmetric and hybrid wars. The Americans have above all shown that they were not prepared militarily, culturally and economically to manage asymmetric conflicts.

The price paid for “terror”

The price the United States and its allies paid for the “global war on terror” campaign is nothing compared to that paid by the countries that were invaded, bombarded, marginalized and disenfranchised during the campaign. against “terrorism”. Like many countries that were directly and indirectly affected by the aftermath of 9/11 and the American-led mobilization that continued for nearly two decades, Turkey was also a victim.

Large-scale destabilizations in Turkey’s neighborhood pose significant and long-term risks for Turkey. Turkey’s security has been significantly affected due to the weak and fragile states in its neighborhood. The PKK and terrorism have returned to Turkey’s agenda as a priority issue. Economically, Turkey’s resources have been directed to combating terrorist threats. The geopolitical voids that emerged after the US invasions were the main reasons for Turkey’s challenges. Security-oriented policies have also overshadowed Turkey’s EU integration agenda. Turkey’s financial resources and human capital have been allocated to its security infrastructure due to the instability in its neighborhood.

Not the first, not the last

The September 11 attacks generated an interim period in which the world’s ultimate superpower and its allies focused their attention on a new global agenda that prioritized security over more constructive economic and political agendas. The recent withdrawal from Afghanistan is the clearest signal for the abandonment of the September 11 results. Afghanistan will not be the last defeat and shameful withdrawal the United States will experience.

The strategy for dealing with the post 9/11 era was wrong, and the United States missed its opportunity to show successful leadership during this interim period. The United States instrumentalised September 11 to invade and intervene in many countries and has disproportionately extended its military might. The United States will eventually adapt its military presence to suit its financial capabilities and long-term interests. Countries and regions devastated by unwarranted interventions will continue to suffer the consequences of such a legacy. One of the most important legacies of September 11 is the fall of American power and the credibility of the world order led by the United States.

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Mark Lewis

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