This is a transcript of the Tenth Anniversary 9/11 Lecture
Sunday, September 11, 2011
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Professor Roger McBride
Dean, Honored Guests,
It is a great honor to be chosen to give this tenth-anniversary lecture. This year, more than at any other time since the beginning of the war on terror, I think we can see clearly how that war has changed our country. Now that the terror seems finally to have receded somewhat, perhaps we can begin to consider the steps necessary to return the United States to what it was before 9/11. To do so, however, we must be clear about what has happened over the past ten years. Thus tonight I will dwell on the history of the war on terror.
Having ignored al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush responded to the attack in three ways. First, he ordered an end to the terrorist sanctuary in Afghanistan. For five years thereafter a token U.S. military force assisted the Kabul government in its attempts to rule the warlords and suppress the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Second, he moved to strengthen U.S. domestic law enforcement with the first Patriot Act (a law that civil libertarians would find benign from today's perspective) and the Department of Homeland Security, which in those early years of the war on terror was largely ineffectual.1 Third, Bush ordered the ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq, which effectively turned his administration into an active recruiting office for al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups around the world.
The move against Afghanistan did set al-Qaeda and the jihadi movement back. Although regional affiliates were able to stage spectacular attacks in Riyadh, Istanbul, Bali, Madrid, Baghdad, and elsewhere, and although there were twice as many attacks worldwide in the three years after 9/11 as there had been in the five years before that day, no al-Qaeda-related attacks took place in the United States in the years immediately following 9/11.