This article at Foreign Affairs by Matthew Duss is a good example of my agreeing with the conclusion reached by the author but being quite skeptical of how the author reaches that conclusion. The conclusion is that the U. S. has never recovered from the attacks on September 11, 2001:
With the declaration of its global “war on terror” after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States went abroad in search of monsters and ended up midwifing new ones—from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (or ISIS), born in the prisons of U.S.-occupied Iraq; to destabilization and deepening sectarianism across the Middle East; to racist authoritarian movements in Europe and in the United States that feed—and feed off of—the fear of refugees fleeing those regional conflicts. Advocates of the war on terror believed that nationalist chauvinism, which sometimes travels under the name “American exceptionalism,” could be stoked at a controlled burn to sustain American hegemony. Instead, and predictably, toxic ultranationalism burned out of control. Today, the greatest security threat to the United States comes not from any terrorist group, or from any great power, but from domestic political dysfunction. The election of Donald Trump as president was a product and accelerant of that dysfunction—but not its cause. The environment for his political rise was prepared over a decade and a half of xenophobic, messianic Washington warmongering, with roots going back into centuries of white supremacist politics.
I agree that the attacks on 9/11 were deeply traumatic and have affected U. S. foreign policy and politics ever since. But I think the author is too eager to draw a connecting line between George W. Bush and Donald Trump and avoids the more obvious resonance between neoconservative “hubris” and the liberal interventionism of Barack Obama’s bombing of Libya, the effects of which have been disastrous not only for Libya but for Italy and Spain among other southern European countries, and his various interventions in Syria. Note, too, that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden all voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq, try as they might to deny that’s what they did. Possessed of full information, they calculated wrong. Simple as that. Also unmentioned is the “drone war” prosecuted by the Obama Administration which contributed materially to the present war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
My argument at the time and since has been that rather than engaging in security theater and overseas aggression, the politically courageous stance would have been a short, extremely harsh punitive raid on Afghanistan along with greatly strengthened security at home including border security and keeping much tighter rein on foreigners here legally, particularly those on student or tourist visas.
Elected officials, particularly senators and presidents, feel no need to amend the policies they’ve put in place over the last 40 years because they and their families don’t bear the brunt of those policies. I fear that when they inevitably do it will not be pretty.