At Foreign Policy Daniel Byman observes that his students had not been born when the attacks on 9/11 took place and presents a fair backgrounder on the attacks. Here’s his conclusion:
Under current U.S. President Donald Trump, students find it hard to understand the idea that a terrorist attack might bring people together.Under current U.S. President Donald Trump, students find it hard to understand the idea that a terrorist attack might bring people together. After all, Trump used the Orlando attack as an excuse to blast a “dysfunctional immigration system” and an “incompetent administration.” Right-wing terrorist attacks and white supremacist gatherings during his tenure have led him to talk about gun rights and the “very fine people” involved rather than bringing Americans together.
Today’s students also lack a sense of historical perspective. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was an average of more than one airplane hijacking per week globally, and those two decades saw hundreds of bombings in the United States by groups ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the Weather Underground. Indeed, on U.S. soil, both terrorist incidents and fatalities are down in the post-9/11 era compared with the years before.
I think the post-9/11 sense of national unity is greatly exaggerated. After all, the New York Times was back to publishing anti-Bush editorials by Thanksgiving 2001 and did so regularly for the rest of his presidency.
One thing I find missing from Dr. Byman’s account is that prior to 9/11 we had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. That’s a pretty significant omission given that was the stated grievance that spurred the attacks.
I also think he skips a lot in dismissing the connection between Al Qaeda and DAESH. As I understand it DAESH was a splinter group from Al Qaeda in Iraq that disagreed with the main organization over when the caliphate should be declared.