September 11th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Reflections on 9/11

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Those of us who live in New York have our own special memories of 9/11/2001. I was driving down the Long Island Expressway, about to begin a month-long leave from my job at Newsweek, to work on a book. Around 9 am, I switched from the CD player to the radio to listen to the news. The reports were chaotic but the outlines of what had happened were clear. I turned around and headed back to New York to get to my wife and one-year old boy. As I approached the Triborough Bridge I saw huge barricades and dozens of police cars. All bridges and tunnels were closed. Manhattan had been sealed off.

I got back 12 hours later, put my book project on hold and spent all my spare hours reading and thinking about what had caused the attack - what explained this monstrous evil? That's how 9/11 was discussed and analyzed at the time - mostly with a focus on them. Who are they? Why are they so enraged? What do they want? What will stop them from hating us?

But if 9/11 was focused at the time on them, ten years later the discussion is mostly about us. What is America's position in the world today? Are we safer? Are we stronger? Was it worth it? Some of these questions are swirling around because the United States is mired in tough economic times and at such moments, the mood is introspective not outward looking. Some of it is because of the success in the war against al Qaeda. The threat from Islamic terrorism still seems real but more manageable and contained.

But history will probably record this period not as one characterized by al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. That will get a few paragraphs or a chapter. The main story will be on the fate of the the United States of America. 50 years from now, we might even look at 9/11 as simply the beginning of the decline of America as the world's unrivaled hegemon.On the day before 9/11 the U.S. was at peace, had a large budget surplus, and oil was $28 a barrel. Today the U.S. is engaged in military operations across the globe, has a deficit of 1.5 trillion dollars and oil is $115 a barrel.

Few people today remember what the Boer war was about. But what they do know is that, around that time, Great Britain spend a great many of its resources and - more important - its attention, policing the world and neglected to focus on maintaining its industrial competitiveness, strength, and energy. America is not fated to follow that path. But it's time we focus on the big challenges that we face - staying competitive in a new global era - and make the hard changes and adjustments we need to at home. The danger comes not from them but from us.


soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Neocon_Hater

    Fared you failed to point out to Rumsfeld that during Eisenhower era we were spending 10% on military BUT we also had a 90% top tax rate.

    September 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  2. FRED ALDRICH

    Especially enjoyed the bit about the gift of 12 cows to the American people from a Kenyan tribe.Where can I get more info? Reading all those comments above confirms that there a lot of angry and confused people out there, but I expect you can live with that. As for me I would like to say that I really look forward to your program whether or not I agree with the variety of viewpoints on many subjects.

    September 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • Larry Bourgeois

      Choose a side Fred. Losing means no more posts like the one you just made. Think about it.

      September 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  3. citizen of the world

    What he is explaining is what people are calling "Death by a thousand cuts. "
    We are still in an age of jingoism and unfortunately most Americans are too full of chauvinism to read, discuss, and take heed to important articles such as yours. . Thank you Fareed for seeing the forest through the trees and realizing that we cannot take our collective American understanding and use that same lens to examine figurative forest fires across the globe.

    Chauvinism: an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory – from Wikipedia

    September 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  4. chucks

    Thank you CNN for removing this from a prominent spot on your main page. Much appreciated.

    September 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  5. Iron Horse

    I agree with Fareed. I am not offended. I served in the US Air Force. I'm glad that the folks who disagree took the time to read the article. It is unfortunate when people choose only to consume news/viewpoints that they agree with, so I applaud you.
    I want this country to be great for all persons and turning a blind eye to the negatives is not productive in my opinion. America is great but not perfect.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:58 am | Reply
  6. Theist

    Yes, Fareed, you told us the revolution in Egypt was made up of Doctors, Lawers, IT Proffesionals, and Business men. These thugs are now storming Isreal's embassy. Why should we believe a word you say? You live in a world of fantasy, my friend.

    September 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  7. romka 155

    Our democratic system and its too soft laws about human right laws are jest killing Us ! They know it very well , and ; laughing to Us the play the game . Are they strong enough to play with China ? China don't play this kind of stupid games.

    September 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  8. Reid Karr

    Only thing I dont understand is where the figure for the cost of oil comes from. Its not $115 a barrel, but around $89. Maybe I am missing something?

    September 15, 2011 at 7:30 am | Reply
  9. Coprolito

    The root of the problem is Islam and second comes Muslim clerics. It only takes to turn on to any Middle East TV station and listen to any Muslim cleric to verify what I am saying. Islamic clerics control all aspects of any Muslim society: they are judges, witnesses, police, elected and non-elected officers, non-fallible priests/pastors and executioners. No one escapes from their "Big Brother" surveillance, no wonder there are no freedoms and human rights in Muslim countries.

    December 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
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