In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, The American Prospect gave cautious support to striking back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while warning about the risks of a wider war and emphasizing the need to preserve our own civil liberties at home. We opposed the Iraq War but insisted there were circumstances when the use of American power was justifiable. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we devoted an issue to the lost decadethe squandered opportunity after 9/11 to use the ensuing surge of solidarity and patriotism to deal with the real challenges the nation faced (and still faces). Not all the articles that appeared in the Prospect reflect a single viewpoint; the Prospect has also served as a platform for debate. Here are some excerpts from a few of the many articles we published over the past 20 years:
(October 22, 2001)
By Robert Kuttner
There is a terrible risk that we will overreach or underreach; that we will target the wrong enemy and inflame hundreds of millions of ordinary Muslims without wiping out terrorists If ever there were a moment to engage and debate complexities, it is this one.
By Paul Starr
We are embarked upon a war that has no clear limits and may require deep engagement in a region of the world that is strange and hostile to us. Our involvement there could backfire. The war might spread to neighboring countries. To avert these risks, we ought to keep the grander visions of the conflict in check. We must not compound the tragedy of September 11 by undertaking a jihad of our own.
By Harold Meyerson
Today, proportionality is both a moral and a strategic concern. As we learned in Vietnam, you dont win a war in which public sentiment is crucial by destroying a villageor a nation, or a regionin order to save it.
By Michael Walzer
[Terrorism] aims at a general vulnerability. Kill these people in order to terrify those. A relatively small number of dead victims makes for a very large number of living and frightened hostages. This is the ramifying evil of terrorism: not just the killing of innocent people but also the intrusion of fear into everyday life, the violation of private purposes, the insecurity of public spaces, the endless coerciveness of precaution But when moral justification is ruled out, the way is opened for ideological apology. In parts of the European and American left, there has long existed a political culture of excuses.
By Paul Berman
The present conflict seems to me to be following the twentieth-century pattern exactly, with one variation: the antiliberal side right now, instead of Communist, Nazi, Catholic, or Fascist, happens to be radical Arab nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist The genuine solution to these attacks can come about in only one way, which is by following the same course we pursued against the Fascist Axis and the Stalinists. The Arab radical and Islamist movements have to be, in some fashion or other, crushed. Or else they have to be tamed into something civilized and acceptable, the way that some of the old Stalinist parties have agreed to shrink into normal political organizations of a democratic sort.
By Robert Kuttner, Harold Meyerson, and Paul Starr
(September 30, 2002)
As Congress debates war with Iraq and the new Bush doctrine, it must look beyond November and beyond Baghdad and ask if the direction the administration wants to take America in actually will bring us the security Bush promises. The administrations unilateral determination to overthrow Hussein is already taking us down a dangerous path. Overthrowing the system of international law and security that has worked for the past half-century is more dangerous still.
By Paul Starr, Robert Kuttner, and Michael Tomasky
(February 21, 2005)
In reaction against Bushs embrace of Wilsonian rhetoric, some liberals may be tempted to go to the opposite extreme, downplaying any democratic aims of American foreign policy and asserting only the goals of peace and stability. That is not our view. In charting an alternative to Bushs foreign policy, liberals should uphold liberal aims. But those aims are not well served by a policy that has discarded the framework of international law and institutions built up since World War II and has made American power appear illegitimate in the eyes even of traditional allies President Bush has been wrong, often calamitously so, about many things, but he is right that America must do all it can to prevent another 9-11. When facing a substantial, immediate, and provable threat, the United States has both the right and the obligation to strike preemptively and, if need be, unilaterally against terrorists or states that support them The liberal alternative to Bush is not to lessen our power but to listen to the world and, in the process, to add to the power that we and other liberal democracies can marshal to strengthen our security and freedom and to get on with the forgotten agenda of protecting the global environment and alleviating the poverty and misery that are still the fate of hundreds of millions of the worlds people.
By Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias
(October 23, 2005)
Most liberal hawks are willing to admit only that they made a mistake in trusting the president and his team to administer the invasion and occupation competently The incompetence critique is, in short, a dodgea way for liberal hawks to acknowledge the obviously grim reality of the war without rethinking any of the premises that led them to support it in the first place An honest reckoning with this wars failure does not threaten the future of liberal interventionism. Instead, it is liberal interventionisms only hope.
By Tara McKelvey
(October 23, 2008)
A quiet revolution in the U.S. military has resurrected Vietnam-era strategies to fight the war on terrorism. Retired Lt. Col. John Nagl makes counterinsurgency seem so appealing that its easy to forget its dark side.
By Michelle Goldberg
(October 27, 2009)
One of the few remaining rationales for maintaining the occupation is protecting Afghan women. Is that enough? The answer depends on whether one believes that the American military can be a force for humanitarianism. After the last eight years, thats a hard faith to sustain. Staying in Afghanistan seems indefensible. The trouble is, so does leaving.
By Adam Serwer
(June 3, 2010)
The [Obama] administrations studious avoidance of associating terrorism with Islam isnt political correctness run amok. It represents one of the few points of divergence between the Obama administration and its predecessor on matters of national securitya deliberate effort to narrow the scope of the war on terror to a fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups.
By The Editors
Ten years after the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, the United States is in bad shape, but our problems have little to do with what al-Qaeda did to us. Americas troubles stem from what the country has done to itselfor rather, from what our political leaders have done with the nations power and resources The patriotism that swept America after September 11 could have helped forge a genuine moment of national unity and common purpose. Instead, the Bush administration and other Republicans used it as an opportunity to vilify liberals who opposed the push for war in Iraq or the need for wider government surveillance The American public is ready for a rapid drawdown of troops [in Afghanistan] and ambitious nation-building at home. In a larger sense, bin Ladens death can provide closure to the 9/11 decade. We never should have lost a decadeand we must not lose the next onebecause of 9/11.
By Rick Perlstein
We had heard Bush when he declared, We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. It turned out, however, that this was not the fight the Bushies were spoiling for.
By Kim Scheppele
From the end of World War II to the start of the global war on terror, international law provided crucial support for the promotion of human rights around the world. But the response to the September 11 attacks has had a profound and little-appreciated impact on international law with devastating global consequences for human rights, democracy, and constitutionalism.
By Jamelle Bouie
(May 2, 2012)
If anything, the beginning of the end in Afghanistan will help Obama build his leadership case against Mitt Romney.
By Robert Kuttner
(September 11, 2014)
There are key differences between September 11, 2001, and September 11, 2014. The first is that America is not under direct assault. The second is that we at least have a president who is reality-based, not prone to messianic interventionism, and who makes war only reluctantly. But in the thirteen years since the first 9/11, the Middle East has become even more unstable. And the face of radical Islam has become more hydra-headed. To say that this reality is, in large part, the legacy of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush does not make todays policy choices any easier.
By Karen J. Greenberg
(November 30, 2020)
Shuttering Guantanamo, long overdue, offers the chance to bring closure to the 9/11 era.
By Emran Feroz
(July 14, 2021)
What started as a counterterrorism operation led to wholesale cooperation with and empowerment of rapacious warlords, corrupt politicians, and drug barons.
By Rozina Ali
(August 10, 2021)
The Afghanistan War may be ending, but the age of war drones on. We may not be barreling cities with bombs anymore, but inflicting law and order at home and around the world, it turns out, still results in physical and moral carnage.
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