Conference Report

Ten Years After 9/11 – Lessons Learned?

Panel on the conference. Image by Stephan Röhl under CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

Stefan Schaaf
The theme of this year’s annual foreign policy conference suggested itself, explained Heinrich Böll Foundation Co-President Ralf Fücks in his welcome. The attacks in New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2001, almost exactly ten years ago, represented a historic turning point of a scope comparable to that of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. While the latter was a sign of hope and new beginnings, 9/11 meant uncertainty and recrimination: “The world has not become a better or safer place since then,” Fücks noted.

Two protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost hundreds of thousands of lives while failing in their goal of stabilizing and pacifying those states. “We have experienced an immense display of U.S. military power, a worldwide decline in American political and moral authority, and a self-endangerment of U.S. democracy in the name of fighting terror.” Civil rights were eroded, doubts were cast over the values of openness and religious tolerance, and confidence in the global appeal of liberal democracy waned, said Fücks.

A few weeks before the meeting, an elite American military unit tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, the head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, in a commando raid in Pakistan. Yet Al Qaeda hardly played a role in the one and a half days of discussion. Instead, the conference focused much more on the Arab Spring – the peaceful and successful revolt of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples against their autocratic rulers, followed by uprisings in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, and demonstrations in Morocco and Jordan. The goals of the protestors were lives of dignity, freedom and democracy, not an Islamic empire. Against this background, bin Laden’s death is a mere footnote in post-9/11 history.

Click here to read the conference report Ten Years After 9/11 – Lessons Learned?

This report is also available in German

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