The final dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991, which made the US the world's only superpower, is what changed the world, not the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, argues William J. Dobson, managing editor of Foreign Policy.
In spite of a widespread international consensus that 11 September 2001 marked the beginning of a new chapter in history, the managing editor of Foreign Policy, William J. Dobson argues that "if you look closely at the trend lines since 9/11, what is remarkable is how little the world has changed. The forces of globalisation continue unabated; indeed, if anything, they have accelerated."
According to Dobson, the real watershed came 15 years earlier on New Year’s Eve, 1991: "It was on that day, far away from any cameras, that the Soviet Union finally threw in the towel, dissolving itself and officially bringing an end to the Cold War. From that moment on, the United States reigned supreme — 'the sole superpower'. From that moment on, the world was out of balance—and it still is. The tragedy of 9/11 was a manifestation of the unipolar disorder the world had already entered a decade earlier".
As a quirky reminder of what has not changed, Dobson gives examples of newspaper stories that were printed on the morning of
11 September 2001. Washington Post wrote "Israeli Tanks Encircle a City in West Bank." New York Times wrote "Scientists Urge Bigger Supply of Stem Cells" and "Iran: Denial on Nuclear Weapons."
Dobson also cites economic and other data to support his observation:
On September 10, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,605.51. When markets reopened on September 17, it took only 40 days for the market to close above that level again.
The value of US monthly exports has continued to rise. From $60 billion to more than $75 billion between 2001 and 2005.
The value of global trade to a slight hit in 2001 from $8 trillion to $7.8 trillion. But it has increased every following year, peaking at $12 trillion in 2005.
The tourist industry was badly hit at first, but it bounced back. In 2001, more than 688 million tourists traveled abroad; but by 2005, that number had risen to 808 million.
The US’ openness to the immigrants of the world also did not change as much as it was initially predicted: "United States granted far more worker visas in 2005 than in 1998, the heyday of America’s triumphant, open-for-business dot-com boom. Last year, 255,993 student visas were handed out—only 541 fewer than in 2002," writes Dobson.
Anti-American sentiment may seem to run higher that ever, but that is not really news either, says Dobson: "Europeans had only slightly more confidence in President George W. Bush than in Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of 9/11. In an August 2001 a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, showed that strong majorities—more than 70%—of four West European nations characterized the Bush administration as unilateralist." He also cites a 1983 Newsweek poll conducted by the Gallup Organisation. It found that in six countries, Brazil, Britain, France, Japan, Mexico, and West Germany, only the Brazilians approved of U.S. government policy.
Some things of course havechanged, as Dobson points out: "Perhaps the truest thing that changed because of 9/11 was the way in which the Pentagon’s budget soared. The American military’s budgeted defence spending grew 39% between 2001 and 2006. Put another way, in 2001, the United States’ military expenditure of $325 billion was the same as the next 14 biggest militaries combined. By 2005, the Pentagon was outspending the next 14 militaries by $116 billion."
Dobson concludes: "If the world resented the imbalance between the United States and everyone else before September 11, you can understand how that resentment could be so much greater today."
"The United States was a target on 11 September because it was perceived to be the global hegemon. Al Qaeda’s efforts to overthrow the Arab regimes had been an abysmal failure in the 1990s. Unable to accomplish his objectives in the Arab world, Osama bin Laden plotted to strike the “faraway enemy”, the United States. By striking at the colossus, which for decades had helped shore up the bedrock of Arab regimes, bin Laden hoped to remake the world. The attacks of 11 September have not altered the balance of power. Instead, they only aggravated differences in the imbalance that already existed."