It is possible to draw only provisional conclusions about the larger significance of September 11, both because the events are still close and because the unforeseen always has the capacity to confound hasty judgments. Nevertheless, on the basis of the foregoing analysis, three conclusions suggest themselves.
First, September 11 brought terrorism to the forefront of the global agenda. Since the end of the Cold War, no other single issue has proved so compelling. As far as America and its allies are concerned, the war against terrorism has served to structure foreign policy, indeed international politics as a whole, in the way that containing communism did during the Cold War, with the singular difference that the war against terror achieved wider consensus than the West's fight against communism ever did. While communism had powerful champions in the form of the Soviet Union and China, to say nothing of their satellites and supporters inside other nations, few if any states openly champion terrorism. The states that the United States believe do back terrorism are relatively small and weak. On the face of it, then, the war against terrorism is a powerful instrument of international consensus. Dangerous and destabilizing as it is, terrorism apparently has the potential to unite governments and peoples as perhaps no other issue does. Who can be opposed to measures to deal with this most destructive and heinous of crimes? And that surely is the point. While communists may have committed crimes to further their causes, communism was essentially a political movement that carried legitimacy in the eyes of large bodies of population around the world. Terrorism is regarded by most as first and foremost criminal activity, albeit often carried out on behalf of political causes.
Neat as these contrasts appear to be, the reality is more complicated. It is not clear how deep the international consensus on the war against terrorism goes. Only time will tell. As things stand, while there has been substantial