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9/11, and the lost decade

What are the principal lessons of the ten years of war since the 11 September 2001 attacks? Paul Rogers, whose first openDemocracy column was published a few days after 9/11, responds to three questions.

What has been the biggest single impact of 9/11 on the public and political world?

The diversion of security thinking into a fatally flawed “war on terror” and the sidelining of far more important human-security issues - not least poverty, malnutrition and disease. In addition, it has meant the loss of an entire decade in beginning to react seriously to climate change. The combination of an economically-divided and environmentally constrained world is the core issue for the coming decade and the response to 9/11 has meant that we have lost precious time in facing up to this.

There has been so much loss. Have there been any winners from 9/11?

The main winner has been the military-industrial complex, especially in the United States, where substantial increases in the defence budget have brought in numerous examples of highly profitable new lines of destruction. Private-security contracting has also expanded massively, with many new contracts being available, and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “terrorism industry”  has extended its reach, in the process soaking up think-tankers and academics who were heading for difficult times after the ending of the cold war.  For all these people and companies, 9/11 came not a moment too soon.

Did the events that day change you in any way you care to mention?

No real change as I’d been part of a small group of analysts who, sadly, had seen something like this coming for some years. Looking back over ten years, though, the most daunting consequences have been the human costs, with at least 225,000 people killed, twice that number seriously injured and well over 7 million refugees. That we failed to argue loudly enough against the war on terror, as its consequences were already becoming clear, is something for which we still bear responsibility.  We did not try hard enough.

[This contribution also appears in "9/11, ten years on: reflections", an ongoing series by openDemocracy writers marking the anniversary. To read more, click here - )

About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international security adviser, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His latest book is Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins (IB Tauris, 2016), which follows Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on Twitter at: @ProfPRogers

A lecture by Paul Rogers, delivered to the Food Systems Academy in late 2014, provides an overview of the analysis that underpins his openDemocracy column. The lecture - "The crucial century, 1945-2045: transforming food systems in a global context" - focuses on the central place of food systems in human security worldwide. Paul argues that food is the pivot of humanity's next great transition. It can be accessed here

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Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers


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