On the ninth anniversary of September 11th 2001, the one comment I kept hearing from my friends and family was how this one seemed more stressful than in past years, and next year (the big one zero) was probably going to be worse. Maybe it was because it was the first time in eight years I was back in New York City, but I think the real reason was because the event still weighed on everyone like it was just yesterday. But on Sunday night we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Finding and killing Osama Bin Laden was the first visible victory American’s have seen since the War on Terror began ten years ago.
Yes there was the elections that that took place in Afghanistan and Iraq. While it was a step in the right direction, those were more victories for the people of those countries to choose their future. But those governments still have not made much progress. Al Qaeda still has a major presence in Afghanistan where they are threatening those who work with the government, or what is left of the allied forces that invaded the country. Iraq has been lucky to have strong leadership by President Maliki, but they still have not figured out a way to fairly distribute the oil revenues between the rival Sunni and Shia sects. There is still a lot of work to do there and neither parliaments have been able to come together and initiate policies to help people get their people jobs or keep their children healthy.
Having spent billions of dollars on the two wars and not seeing much progress, American’s were understandably ambivalent. Gallup came out with a poll this past February showing 69 percent of American’s had an unfavorable view of Iraq, and a 64 percent had an unfavorable view of Afghanistan. At the same time, there were large majorities who believed what happens in these countries will have a large affect on America’s future. When asked “how important do you think what happens in each of the following countries is to the United States today” 52 percent said Iraq was vitally important and 51 percent said the same for Afghanistan. Only 5 percent of American’s said these countries were not important at all. America was stuck in a situation it never should have gotten into in the first place (Iraq), there were no signs it was getting better, and there weren’t any new ideas on how to get out of it.
A lot of the pundits were making fun of the college students who went outside the White House cheering “U.S.A!!” because most of them were not even old enough to remember the attacks. But the fact those students felt that relieved Osama was killed shows just how stressful these past ten years have been.
The Arab Spring taking place in the Middle East has showed the world that Al Qaeda’s ideology is not what people living in the region want. The young people in Egypt took to the streets for democracy and better economic opportunities for them and their children’s future. Then in Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia, protests broke out on main streets and main squares demanding freedom and the ability to improve their lives. Al Qaeda had nothing to do with this. It was a mass organization by the true majority in these countries that had not been listened to before. In the west, it showed us we are more alike to our eastern counterparts than we may have realized ten years ago. It was a foreign land that most American’s have never visited while only seeing the attacks in Israel, or sometimes the oppression of women on the news. But those incidences were far away, Oklahoma City was done by someone who was described as a lunatic, and the WTC bombing in 1993 was so rare no one thought it would happen again.
The death of Osama Bin Laden has lifted a tremendous amount of stress off America’s backs. With the economy is still struggling to recover, politicians arguing over pointless and minute details only so they can disagree with each other, or pundits bringing up issues that no one cares about, it is no wonder why a large number of American’s thought we were on the wrong track. No one was sure anyone in their government knew what they were doing. While Bin Laden’s death is not going to make the economy better, or end the War on Terrorism, it is the first real sign, in a long time, American’s can see that something is going right.
Unfortunately, there are so many issues that need to be dealt with right now this victory won’t last long. President Obama’s approval rating will go up (my guess: 65%), and then fall as bad economic news comes in, or as the debate to raise the debt ceiling heats up. But it is a sign we are headed in the right direction. Obama has a time table in place to remove American troops from Iraq, and this past week we saw some of the first images of the new World Trade Center being built. Dealing with so many issues at once is never a good thing, and needless to say Osama was a big issue. No one who lived that day will be able to fully move on from it, but now that the main figurehead of past decade is gone, it will be easier to enact policies that we could not before. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11 we will be able to not just remember those we have lost, but be able to take a step forward. It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, but we can finally start seeing through the trees.