A U.S. honor guard stands next to a metallic model of the World Trade Center during an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 11, 2011. (Stringer/Reuters) Strategic perspective on the 20th anniversary of 9/11
Imagine how short would be the tenure of the speechwriter who gave President Biden a speech on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 honoring the sacrifices of the last 20 years but also exhorting the nation to persevere for another 20 or 50 years in the war against terrorism. President Biden, like his two predecessors, took steps that he thought would disengage the U.S. from the grip of the struggle; the three presidents offered a series of false choices (“nation-building at home,” “leading from behind,” “America first,” “forever wars”) about that struggle that encouraged the body politic to wave it away. After all, what elected politician wouldn’t want the 9/11 terrorism era brought to a tolerable conclusion on his watch?
And yet, from a strategic perspective 20 years after the tragic attacks of 9/11, that is exactly the sort of speech the president or other national leaders should give on this anniversary. A call not to arms or even to duty, but a call for a perspective that can offer the American public some insight into how the United States can put those attacks and the 20 years since into a meaningful context. The president needs to offer guidance and even hope, rather than just mourning, honoring, and memory.
My own life is oddly bound up with the 9/11 attacks. In the years before the attacks, I was a military futurist working on a government commission that warned in 1999 of catastrophic terrorism against the homeland. In 2000 I spoke on a PBS Frontline Future of War special about Osama bin Laden, suggesting that the future would look more like Mogadishu 1993 than Desert Storm 1991.
And yet, on the day of the attacks, I was a newly minted downtown New York financial executive two blocks
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