11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview

Introduction

BÜLENT GÖKAY and R.B.J.WALKER

On 11 September 2001, a group of hijackers turned some commercial aeroplanes into missiles and attacked key symbols of American economic and military power. These attacks flattened the World Trade Center towers in New York and destroyed part of the Pentagon. The military, political and diplomatic responses to this attack have been profound. Moreover, both the attacks and the response to them have led to intense debate not only about the immediate causes of, and responsibilities for, this specific set of events, but also about the broader historical and structural contexts in which these events might begin to make some sense. No one predicted the tragic events of 11 September. They were not inevitable but neither did they come out of the blue. They were the product of long-term structural developments and conjunctural individual actions that might have turned out differently. There is no single cause or set of causes to explain them, and responsibilities rest in many places.

What special vulnerabilities does the world of the twenty-first century have to terrorist attacks? What kind of role does the United States see itself playing as the world's only superpower in the coming decades? How should we now characterise the conduct of the US foreign policy? How should we understand these events in relation to the dynamics of world economy? How will they effect relations between Europe and America? How do they fit into our understanding of various regional conflicts, especially of the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the place of Saudi Arabia in the global reach of American military and economic power? Whatever happened to international law and the various institutions of the United Nations? Answers to such questions are perhaps not much clearer now than they were immediately after the attacks, but one of the more positive effects of these attacks has been to stimulate much serious discussion about them, and thus about the place of violence-about changing forms of warfare, about different forms of terror, and about challenges to prevailing accounts of the legitimacy of violence in contemporary political life-in the context of emerging and in many respects dangerously unstable structures of power and authority on a global scale.

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