Bruce Ramsey / Times editorial columnist
The 10-year verdict on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
Seattle Times opinion columnist Bruce Ramsey talks to local academics about the long-run results from the 9/11 attacks.
Seattle Times editorial columnist
Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, what was the result? I asked some Seattle academics and received a wider group of answers than I'd expected.
Daniel Chirot, professor of international studies at the University of Washington, took it as a question of victory or defeat. He writes:
"In a sense Osama bin Laden was hugely successful and won his war, despite finally being killed."
Why? In responding to 9/11, the Bush administration ignored experts on Islam, Central Asia and the Middle East, and started two fruitless wars.
Nor is the Obama administration, which continued them, "all that much better." The wars "will not leave us with democratic allies in Afghanistan and Iraq," Chirot writes, but have left Americans with an aftertaste of sourness, paranoia and debt.
"All this," writes Chirot, "has been accomplished by an al-Qaida that never had very many members, that was never an existentialist threat to our survival, and that should have been handled much more deftly."
Chirot's colleague at the UW's Jackson School of International Studies, Resat Kasaba, agrees that the U.S. government reacted poorly, but argues that it was no victory for bin Laden:
"I see al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden as utter and total failures," he writes. Bin Laden would have cheered the ouster of rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but he envisioned a Muslim caliphate. The revolutionaries of the Arab Spring are not that.
Fear of Islam is an obvious consequence of the attacks, but on campuses there has been a different reaction. "Arabic has become a major language of study," says Clark Lombardi, associate professor at the UW Law School. At UW Law, courses on Islamic law have swelled, including students from the military and business.
Seattle University plans a seminar in October in which Christian, Jewish and Islamic scholars will discuss passages on the same subjects from the New Testament, Torah and the Koran.
The Catholic-affiliated institution has long had dialogues with Jews. The 9/11 attacks and the associated hatred were reasons to include Islam.
"We have a religious 'other' in our culture," says Mark Markuly, dean of SU's School of Theology and Ministry. "We have to learn how to talk to them. It makes us better Christians for having the conversation."
At Seattle Pacific University, teaching fellow Max Hunter studies a different kind of culture: street culture. One result of 9/11 and the two wars, he says, has been the worldwide adoption of black American hip-hop music by Muslims in such groups as Arab Legion, Halal Styles, Iron Crescent, Kenny Muhammad and Mujahideen Team.
"I think the tragedy has transformed the art, culture and worldview of young people in the hip-hop culture," he writes.
Finally, jobs and income. Charles Nelson, professor of economics at the UW, notes that the Federal Reserve responded to the 9/11 attacks with interest rates that were the lowest in years, to stimulate investment. The Fed's financial air inflated the bubble in real estate.
Without the ultralow interest rates of 2002-2004, writes Nelson, "It is hard to imagine that the crisis of 2008 could have been as severe, or perhaps have happened at all."
Responding to that crisis, rates are even lower now — and to what end no one knows.
The 9/11 attacks, Nelson writes, "were much more important than we like to think."
Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Dive into history in Now & Then