Editorial of the “World”. When, on September 11, 2001, two airliners crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the United States was at the height of its unipolar moment. Haloed by its victory in the Cold War, its economic prosperity and its technological supremacy after launching the digital revolution, the American power seemed solidly installed at the top of the world.
The near-simultaneous attacks that morning by Al-Qaida terrorists in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, as a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania , have changed the United States. The way they reacted changed the world.
Hubris and ignorance
Shaken by this unprecedented aggression on their soil since Pearl Harbor, united in immense patriotic fervor, the Americans have relied, almost blindly, on their leaders. The dissonant voices were inaudible. President George W. Bush, under the influence of neoconservative ideologues with messianic convictions, launched a “Global war on terror” which was to take his country, militarily and politically, much further than the simple destruction of the organization responsible for the attacks.
Two objectives were achieved: Al-Qaida never again committed attacks on American soil and its leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in Pakistan by American commandos after a ten-year hunt. The rest is an accumulation of errors of judgment, of state lies, of badly planned operations in which hubris and ignorance have sometimes combined. Brief successful military offensives, such as the strikes against the Taliban in 2001 or the march on Baghdad in March 2003, have succeeded occupations that have turned into a fiasco and killed tens of thousands.
That of Afghanistan has just ended pitifully with the return of the Taliban. That of Iraq, decided under the false pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, plunged the Middle East into chaos; the world is still suffering the consequences. George W. Bush and his team bear a heavy responsibility in these decisions; however, they were re-elected in 2004.
A groggy boxer
Equally serious is the denial of the values of the rule of law considered to be the foundations of American democracy. The establishment of an extrajudicial system to fight terrorism, the use of lawless areas such as the secret CIA prisons and the Guantanamo camp – where forty detainees are still locked up – the normalization of torture renamed “enhanced interrogation” will remain a black mark on the image of the United States. Inside, this democracy which gave birth to Donald Trump has cracked: spectacularly united in September 2001, American society is now deeply divided.
Bush’s America wanted to reshape the world by force. Joe Biden’s wants to go home. Twenty years later, the American power, weakened by its errors and challenged by new actors, is withdrawing to better redeploy itself. The unipolar moment for the United States has passed, but it retains military, technological and financial superiority. Like a groggy boxer who has taken too many punches but refuses to give up the competition, they come out of the ring to regain their strength. It is to be hoped that this phase also involves the analysis of the errors of these twenty years.
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