A few days ago, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 events was unusually calm. For the American people this year, the events seemed as if they were from a movie. The US media was not interested in the event, which changed the face of international relations over the past seven years, in contrast to the attention it previously received.
With the exception of editorials published in The Washington Post and The New York Times, that discussed ways to commemorate the attacks’ victims through the inauguration of museums in New York and the Pentagon, neither of them or any other newspaper gave adequate space for these events. Nor has there been a security alert or a state of emergency, contrary to what usually takes place every year.
Perhaps the reason is attributed to vociferous interest in the feverish presidential campaign between Republican candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Both of them have visited Ground Zero where the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell, pledging not to engage in an election battle that day.
However, the pressing question is: Will the Americans get rid of the moral and material influence of the September 2001 events? Indeed, the answer may come through the test of McCain and Obama’s standpoints toward the war on terror and relations with the Islamic world.
McCain believes that his country is still living in a state of war with what he calls “Islamic terrorism and that the war on terror should continue until it is uprooted. He also believes that the Iraq war is a just war. He therefore believes that Iraq represents a central front in the war on terror.
But Obama opines that the United States is not in a state of war, but rather in a state of constant fear. He emphasizes the need to reconsider the strategy of the war on terror through expanding the network of international alliances without direct involvement. He also emphasizes the need to address the real roots of terrorism. Therefore, he proposes doubling foreign aid provided to poor countries in Asia and Africa to help them develop and eradicate the roots of terrorism. He also calls for the need to focus on Afghanistan not Iraq as a frontline in the war on terror.
Obama proposes spending $5 billion on a law allowing increased logistical and intelligence support to dismantle terrorist networks in Asia and Africa. McCain calls for the creation of an intelligence agency to be in charge of clamping down on and fighting Islamic extremists. While Obama focuses on soft power, McCain focuses on the use of military force within the framework of preemptive war.
As for the relationship with Muslims, Obama insists that he is not at war with Islam and Muslims, but he is against the extremist minority that wants to distort relations between the US and the Muslim world. However, McCain still mixes between Islam as a religion and some extremists who seek to exercise violence in the name of religion.
So if Obama wins the presidential election, a large part of the 9/11 legacy will vanish; but if McCain does, the September 11 era will continue with us until 2012.
Khalil Al-Ananiis an expert on political Islam and Democratization in the Middle East and is a visiting fellow at Brookings Institution. E-mail: [email protected]