It is undeniable that the September 11 (9-11) attacks were an extremely significant event. Specifically, 9-11 refers to the attacks on September 11 where al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked airliners and flew them into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon (Manar 2014). However, the significance 9-11 had and continues to have across a multitude of areas in not abundantly clear. Thus, what is the significance of 9-11? This paper will seek to explain what said significance is, exploring a number of areas that were significantly impacted and affected by 9-11. The impacts 9-11 had in areas such as security, trade, crime, counterterrorism and its influence on terrorism will be examined in both short-term and long-term contexts. Through exploring these areas affected by 9-11, it is clear what the significance of 9-11 is.
A summary of the events of 9-11:
Firstly however, it must be understood what exactly 9-11 was. On September 11 members of the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked 4 separate airliners in the United States (Manar 2014). The terrorist groups targeted the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia and a third unknown target (Nacos 2002). The hijackers were successful in their attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon but failed to attack their third target as passengers on that plane were able to force the plane to crash in Pennsylvania (Bergen 2019). Ultimately, nearly 3000 people were killed due to the attacks, by far the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil (Williams and McDonald 2018). The 9-11 attacks are categorised as fourth wave attacks (Rapoport 2002). This fourth wave is categorised by terrorist groups that target military and government installations, frequently those belonging to the United States (Rapoport 2002). Ultimately, the scale of 9-11 was unprecedented and has had a significant impact on the world in a number of areas, thus revealing 9-11s significance.
The events of 9-11 have greatly affected security across the globe. Both national security and human security have been significantly affected by 9-11. National security refers to a nations ability to prevent adversaries from harming their people or national interests (Sarkesian et al 2008), whilst human security refers to a person’s ability to live “without having their survival threatened or their dignity impaired” (Sen 2000). The significance 9-11 had in correlation to national security is most evident when examining the United States. Following 9-11, major changes were undertaken by the United States to prevent further attacks. Greater emphasis was placed on national security by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security was established, and the Department of Defence increased its activity in attempting to identify terrorist threats in the United States (Waxman 2009). Furthermore, at local and state levels there was a change towards preventative measures and preparations in the event of further attacks (Waxman 2009). Evidently, 9-11 holds a large amount of significance pertaining to national security. Perhaps of most significance was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war against terrorism (Webster 2011). The invasion of Iraq was justified by the US as they claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, an obvious threat to national security. The main reason behind the invasion however was to subdue al-Qaeda forces in Iraq, the same group responsible for 9-11, and remove Saddam Hussein from power (Webster 2011). Human security too was significantly affected. Human security encompasses a number of aspects, most fundamentally freedom from fear (Reinert 2018). The United States invasion of Iraq was thus an attempt to improve human security too. 44% of Americans believed the perpetrators of 9-11 to be Iraqi (none actually were), and 64% believed the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein to be linked with al-Qaeda (Webster 2011). Thus, the US believed an invasion was also in the interests of human security, to act and prevent further fear stemming. Therefore, it is evident that 9-11 holds a large amount of significance in relation to security, both national and human.
9-11 also holds a large significance in relation to global trade. In essence, the 9-11 attacks drastically undermined any procedures and protocols in place to prevent such attacks. Many new policies and procedures were implemented, many of which significantly affected trade (Liebman 2003). One such change was the implementation of the Homeland Security Act which encompassed areas related to trade including customs (Liebman 2003). The position of Secretary for Border and Transportation Security was also established to oversee customs (Liebman 2003). Following this, customs also adopted the roles of import specialists, international trade specialists and more (Leibman 2003). The impact 9-11 had on trade is perhaps most apparent when examining trade between Canada and the United States in the years after 9-11. Immediately after the attacks, trade between the two nations crashed. It was only until 2005 that exports from the US to Canada returned to a normal level (Globerman 2006). Furthermore, imports into the US from Canada hadn’t even returned to normal levels by that time (Globerman 2006). This is evident in the fact that by 2003, US imports to Canada were 26% lower than normal and by 2005, imports into the US from Canada were still 12% lower than usual (Globerman 2006). There were also additional measures taken shortly after the events of 9-11 in relation to trade, such as the deployment of the National Guard to border crossings (not just for Canada) to manage trade and provide security (Globerman 2006). Thus, the significance 9-11 has in relation to trade is clear.
The significance of 9-11 pertaining to crime rates is evident, specifically in the correlation between 9-11 and hate crime rates. Hate crimes can generally be described as crimes committed against an individual due to the group affiliation of the victim, this generally being race or ethnicity (Hall 2013). Thus, in the wake of 9-11, several groups became the targets of those looking to commit hate crimes in deluded acts of vengeance. These hate crimes can be divided into two categories of motivation, these being defensive and thrill (Levin 2014). Defensive hate crimes encompass crimes where an individual seeks to protect their land, community or other people from someone they perceive as a threat (Levin 2014). Thrill hate crimes are crimes committed by individuals seeking excitement or enjoyment from the act of committing the crime (Levin 2014). The events of 9-11 saw a significant rise in hate crimes, mostly defensive motivated ones (Levin 2014). In the year 2000, there were almost no hate crimes targeting Muslims and Arabs in America. However, following 9-11, 60% of all hate crimes were anti-Islamic focused (Levin 2014). This is reflected in a 1600% rise in anti-Islamic motivated hate crimes post 9-11 (Levin 2014). Notably, Arabs and Muslims were not the only groups to increasingly become the victims of hate crimes, as Latinos, African Americans and immigrants regardless of ethnicity all were increasingly targeted (Levin 2014). Ultimately, any group perceived as being outside of the mainstream was more likely to be a target of a hate crime, defensive or thrill motivated post 9-11 (Levin 2014). The impact 9-11 has had regarding hate crimes still remains, as anti-Islamic motivated hate crime rates still remain five times higher than they were in 2000 (Disha et al 2014). These anti-Islamic views are further seen in the controversy that arose when the construction of a mosque was proposed at a location not far from the site of the World Trade Centre’s, known as Ground Zero (Disha et al 2014). Overall, the anti-Islamic views that developed following 9-11 are still present in many Western nations today, most notably in the United States. These views are thus responsible for inciting hate crimes. Therefore, the significance 9-11 has in relation to hate crimes is evident.
The significance of 9-11 is also apparent in relation to the change it triggered in counterterrorism efforts around the world. The most obvious counterterrorism response to 9-11 was Americas ‘War on Terror’ (Bossong 2013). America’s response was thus action orientated and was an immediate response to the al-Qaeda led attacks on September 11 (Bossong 2013). European nations, such as Germany and France responded differently however (Bossong 2013). Their response was not as direct as Americas and involved counterterrorism operations to stop terrorist activities before they actually occurred. This was achieved through the establishment of EU Counter-terrorism Strategy and the EU Plan of Action on Combatting Terrorism, created in 2005 and 2004 respectively (Bossong 2013). Thus, it is evident that the events of 9-11 triggered large and significant change regarding counterterrorism. However, not all these changes were so apparent in their implementation. More secretive responses also took place which also aimed to disrupt terrorist activity. Law enforcement agencies are heavily utilized when engaging in counterterrorist activities (Waxman 2009). For example, the New York Police Department had undercover officers monitor protesters who were members of religious groups, when the Republic National Convention was held in New York in 2004 (Waxman 2009). The United Nations Security Council also had a large response following 9-11 (Roach 2011). The Security Council responded by enacting Resolution 1373 just a few weeks after 9-11 occurred (Roach 2011). Resolution 1373 aims to hinder terrorist activity by criminalizing the funding of terrorism (Roach 2011). The resolution notes that respecting people’s human rights is essential, however it also defends nations who use repressive laws in an attempt to curb terrorism (Roach 2011). Ultimately, nations across the world and global bodies such as the United Nations had and continue to have large counterterrorism responses post 9-11. Thus, the significance 9-11 poses to counterterrorism is clear.
Influence on Terrorism:
The attacks carried out by al-Qaeda on September 11 have influenced many other terrorist groups. 9-11 remains the deadliest and most destructive terrorist attack to date on US soil (Mueller and Stewart 2012). Previous terrorist attacks such as the 1972 Munich Games Massacre (Large 2009) and the bombing of the World Trade Centres in 1993 (Asaeda 2008) were small in comparison. Thus, through the success of their attacks, al-Qaeda has had a significant influence on other terrorist organisations across the globe. One such terrorist group is Islamic State (ISIS). Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in response to 9-11, anti-American sentiment grew drastically among Muslims in the Middle East (Webster 2011). This resulted in many joining al-Qaeda to fight against the United States (Hove 2018). One such man who fought against the United States was Ahamd Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalaylah, more commonly known as Al-Zarqawi (Hove 2018). Al-Zarqawi fought with al-Qaeda against the United States in Iraq and also led the terrorist group, al-Qaeda in Iraq known as AQI. (Hove 2018). However, Al-Zarqawi was killed in an air strike in June of 2006 but was succeeded by Abu Ayyoub al-Masri (Hove 2018). AQI then became Islamic State in Iraq and later, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham or ISIS in 2013 (Hove 2018). Ultimately, the success of the 9-11 attacks by al-Qaeda enabled the group to gain support and resulted in the establishment of ISIS through Al-Zarqawi and Abu Ayyoub al-Masri. Therefore, the significance 9-11 has regarding its influence on other terrorist organisations is evident
Thus, it is clear that 9-11 holds a large amount of significance to a number of areas. These areas that hold a large amount of significance in relation to 9-11 include security, trade, hate crimes, counterterrorism and its influence on terrorism. The long-lasting impacts and influences the 9-11 attacks had on these areas thus reveals the significance the attacks had and continue to have. Therefore, it is evident what the significance of 9-11 is.