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Lehigh faculty members reflect on the impact of 9/11

Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. It will be a day of remembrance, recognition and reflection for people across the globe. At Lehigh University, faculty members reflect on how 9/11 has impacted national security, political agendas, journalism, international education and our spirit of caring.

Can we claim victory in the “war on terrorism?”
Rajan Menon, chair of the Department of International Relations:

“There is a great danger--and great folly--in militarizing the war on terror, or even declaring a ‘war on terrorism,’ for two reasons: terrorism is a technique that has been used by groups (of all kinds, let it be said, religious and secular) for hundreds of years, and it's not clear how one achieves any final ‘victory’ over what is a technique aimed at achieving a political result. But that is what the war metaphor suggests is possible. More importantly, while there is undoubtedly an aspect to protecting citizens against terrorism that involves intelligence gathering, security measures, and military operations, it is wrongheaded to leave it at that.  

No less important is the question of how we are seen in the rest of the world; and that depends on what we do and stand for. In short, it involves larger issues of our foreign policy. This, too, is lost sight of when our thinking on terrorism is shaped by the war analogy.

Finally, our ends-justifies-the-means philosophy in preventing terrorist attacks can take a toll on civil liberties (ours and others’), democracy, and harmony in what is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional society, and on our image in the world. These are things about which we should be ever vigilant.”

Overreacting to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks damaged our national security
Chaim Kaufmann, associate professor of international relations:

“The United States over-reacted to the disaster of Sept. 11, 2001 in ways that damaged our national security, especially by legitimating the arguments of Salafist jihadists such as Bin Laden that the United States had aggressive designs on the Islamic world and, to some extent, legitimating fears of allies and neutrals that we were such a loose cannon as to be a threat to the peace of the whole world. We also inflicted some damage on rule of law domestically. Partly this was simple hysteria. Although in normal circumstances the United States has a strong marketplace of ideas, in which bad foreign policy ideas have trouble getting past opposition parties, independent experts and the press, these operated poorly in the debates over the Iraq War and over torture. Intentional distortion of intelligence by the administration also played a role, as did exploitation for partisan purposes; such as Karl Rove's famous hope that a [permanent] ‘war on terror’ could enable a ‘permanent Republican majority.’

Toward the end of the Bush administration and continuing in the current one some of the mistakes of 2001-2004 have been corrected, especially scaling back militarized methods of combating terror in favor of more effective international cooperation in intelligence and policing. But we are not yet back to a normal or fully effective policy environment.”

Changes in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001 will not serve us well
Henri Barkey, professor of international relations:

“Some say that the world changed after 9/11.  In fact, it did change some.  The real change has occurred in the United States.  We have developed a series of new institutions, a more intrusive government, greater mistrust of things foreign and a general sense of vulnerability.

This does not currently and will not serve us well in the future.  We have turned our back on valued principles, made deals with a whole bunch of awful people and tried to impose our new ways of life on others.”

9/11 should not be used to leverage political careers
James Peterson, director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English:

“I, as always, hope that people will use that day/time to reflect on where we are as a nation, especially with respect to our foreign policy and how we conduct ourselves around the world. I wonder if this anniversary is any less painful for 9/11 victims' families and survivors now that Osama Bin Laden has been killed?

I hope that NYC officials will update folks on plans/developments for the World Trade Center site and that we continue to have substantive conversations about how best to compensate and support our first responders, fire men/women, and police.

And lastly, I sincerely hope that politicians will refrain from politicizing this tragic moment in recent American history.  Nothing is more painful to victims’ families, survivors or New Yorkers in general than when political figures use 9/11 to leverage their campaigns or careers.”
 
Mr. President: This is your opportunity
Saladin Ambar, assistant professor of political science:

“I think we have to conclude that something extraordinary has happened in this country since 9/11. We have somehow managed to take that singular day -- the only such date referenced in our national history to commemorate tragedy (no one talks of 12/7 for Pearl Harbor Day for example) - and make it psychically a part of a ten year window of sorrows and disappointments.  

The second-layer of tragedy of 9/11 is that we have not recovered our civility, reasoned discourse or the ability to grapple with large scale problems outside of an effort to ridicule or pulverize our opponents. This state of affairs was in our control, and somehow, we have become more divided, less reconciled, and more juvenile in our politics. Our national economy, infrastructure, policy apparatus, and very way of relating to one another all reflect this.

As workers were compelled to dig out from the fallen rocks of buildings ten years ago, I'm afraid we yet await our politics and leaders to dig out of the rubble of our fallen imagination. If the President has another great speech in him, he must know, that he will never get a better opportunity to demonstrate it before the nation a week or so from now.”

There is no evidence the U.S. knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Frank Gunter, associate professor of economics:
 
“The 9/11 ‘Truthers’ believe that the attacks a decade ago on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93 were committed by elements of the U.S. or Israeli governments. Or, at least, they believe these governments knew about the attacks in advance and deliberately allowed them to proceed.
Despite such a conspiracy requiring thousands of persons willing to commit murder and remain silent and despite a sophisticated series of ‘Loose Change’ movies supporting this extreme conspiracy view, only a minority of Americans actually believes that the U.S. government would slaughter its own people for political advantage or oil. But polls in other countries show that many still believe the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks.
 
But the watchdogs didn’t bark. In 2009, President Obama – who was an Illinois state senator on 9/11 - took office and appointed Attorney General Eric Holder – lawyer in private practice on 9/11. In addition, the President appointed over 3,000 mostly Democratic persons to high-level positions throughout the U.S. government. If there were any evidence of a conspiracy by President George W. Bush’s administration to either commit mass murder of U.S. citizens or allow these murders to occur then it would have been discovered. And there would be an irresistible incentive for the current Democratic administration to shout it from the rooftops!
Credible evidence that President Bush’s administration was responsible for 9/11 would destroy the Republican Party. The Democratic Party would dominate the U.S. government for decades. But in the two years and eight months since President Obama was sworn in, the silence has been deafening.

International schools offer optimism in period of uncertainty
Ron Yoshida, professor of education:

“Imagine a teacher in Dubai clothed in an abaya and hijab asking fifth-grade students from several Arabic countries about the American Revolution, patriots, and liberty? How about Egyptian girls and boys carrying American textbooks in their backpacks or wheeling them around in carry-on suitcases?  How about high school students in Saudi Arabia reading Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen or discussing the Protestant Reformation?  

K-12 independent private schools increasingly are being founded in the Middle East since 2001.  Their English language curricula are based upon American, British or International Baccalaureate standards. These schools seek accreditation from U.S. regional associations. They are a source of optimism in this period of uncertainty and suspicion.”

After 9/11, American journalism re-discovered the world
Jack Lule, professor of journalism:

“American Journalism was profoundly affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. For at least a decade, U.S. newsrooms had cut back on time and resources devoted to international news coverage. Around the world, U.S. news bureaus were shuttered and foreign correspondents brought home.

Since 9-11, television, newspaper and magazine journalists have re-discovered the world. The percentage of news devoted to foreign policy, particularly policy related to terrorism, has risen appreciably. The quality of the reporting is still wildly uneven, ranging from flag-waving photo shoots to true investigative pieces. The growth of online news outlets, from Global Journalist to ProPublica, offers some hope for continued interest in the world outside our borders.”

We need to reclaim that 9/11 spirit of genuine care

Lloyd Steffen, university chaplain and professor of religion studies:

“For all the tragedy and heartbreak of 9/11, the one thing I will always remember about the immediate aftermath of that event was the show of common concern and the outpouring of generosity people made to one another. Of course anger in the wake of the attacks was justified, as was grief, and we were touched by that grief in very immediate ways here at Lehigh.  
But we did not sustain the generosity and good will. We had an opportunity to create a new national resolve to charter a course toward energy innovation and independence, and had we started down this road ten years ago as our national response, who knows where we might be right now.  The route we chose instead was war, and it turned out to have involved misinformation, one miscalculation after another, and an expense the nation has been paying for a decade and simply cannot afford. My hope is that that original spirit of genuine care that we saw in the wake of 9/11 – and we've seen it since after tsunamis and earthquakes around the world as well – may yet be reclaimed.”
Contact: Jordan Reese, jor310@lehigh.edu or 267-934-9573
 

Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011

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