It isn't clear to me how we should commemorate this anniversary. Some of us might feel like waving flags and talking about how great the USA is. But is America better off today than it was before 9/11? I don't think so. Not only did the attacks weaken us, but so did our response to the attacks. I think Americans need to ask themselves: What we could have done differently between 9/11/01 and today, what mistakes have been made in the last ten years have made us worse off?
The wars that this country has entered in the past ten years have been huge mistakes. The people that were so confident that Hussein had WMDs and that fighting the Iraq war would be easy and inexpensive have been proven wrong. There is no connection between Libya or Iraq to the 9/11 attacks and when we finally found Bin Ladin he was in Pakistan. Politicians have used 9/11 and the fear of another terrorist attack to drum up support for unrelated conflicts. We have little to gain from winning any of the three wars we're in, and it's not clear what exactly our victory conditions are (except perhaps in Libya, but who knows what will happen to that country when its ruler of 40 years is deposed or assassinated). We've lost more military personnel in these conflicts than we lost citizens in 9/11, not to mention all the non-Americans who've died. These wars are unpopular among US citizens and especially unpopular with citizens of other countries. Yet we continue them because we think that somehow fighting and killing will lead to a better outcome.
As a country, we can't admit when we're wrong. If we were the dominant superpower, that strategy might be viable, but with Europe uniting, China rising and the economic growth of most of the so called "third world" exceeding that of the "developed world" the US cannot expect to grow in international power and prestige if we remain so stupidly stubborn.
Americans have also lost a lot of civil liberties in the past ten years. I know it's cliche, but I feel obliged to use the Benjamin Franklin quote:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Now we're harassed more at airports, can have our telephones conversations eavesdropped upon and many of the liberties established by the US Constitution have been limited. Of course, defenders of the Patriot Act and similar legislation would probably point out that there hasn't been an attack on the US in ten years, and claim that's evidence that these measures are working; they might also claim that unless you are hiding something you have nothing to fear from a loss of civil liberties. I find those claims to be naive for the following reasons:
1) There have been plenty of attacks against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why would these terrorists go all the way to the USA to kill innocents when they can kill US soldiers and contractors without being racially profiled on the plane flight? This isn't to say I believe that these wars are a deterrent for terrorists, but that these wars make it easier for terrorists to harm Americans.
2) There have been attacks in Europe, India, Pakistan, throughout the Middle East, Russia and Indonesia. It's not clear to me that this is because these places have an abundance of civil liberties.
3) The intelligence community had the ability to violate various civil liberties in the name of national security before 9/11/01 yet they failed to prevent the attacks. Why should we give up more civil liberties for security when doing so in past hasn't worked?
4) The US government was clearly partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I'm not going to try to convince you of a conspiracy theory but nobody disputes that several of the hijackers learned to fly on US soil. We continue to support Saudi Arabia and buy tremendous amounts of oil from them even though 15 of 19 hijackers were from there.
5) Osama had specifically stated that the attacks occurred because of the US support for Israel, it's intervention in Lebanon and the US military presence in Islamic holy land. I'm not suggesting that we start taking orders from our enemies, but I do believe we should listen to our enemies. I believe rescinding support from Israel and withdrawing US troops from the Middle East would be a small price to pay if it ensured that the War on Terror would end.
The World Trade Towers were filled with the same bankers that would cause the economic crash and demanded a bailout. Can anybody honestly say that justice wouldn't have been served if Madoff died in 9/11? While many innocent Americans died on 9/11, many of the bankers and soldiers who died were guilty of causing damage to the world. This isn't an attempt to justify the attacks, but we should at least be aware that the purpose of these attacks was not simply to kill innocents. We should try to make sure that when we fight our enemy, we use more ethical tactics and harm less innocents or else they (as well as the rest of the observing world) will feel justified in killing innocents when they fight us.
I think in order to win or achieve honorable peace in this War on Terror, we need to understand the perspective of our enemies. Some would like to portray them as sociopaths who are beyond understanding, but I don't think that's true. I think our enemies are more like ourselves than we realize. Our enemies have the same desire for world domination as us. It's true that withdrawing for our wars and changing our policies may cause our enemies to perceive us as weak and attack us again. But it's also true that our enemies aren't fully united, if they don't perceive the USA as a threat to them, they will begin seeing each other as enemies and fight amongst each other.
So to commemorate 9/11 we should remember what America and the world were like before the horrible event happened. We should try to restore the more peaceful world that we had on 9/10/01. Americans should acknowledge and respect those that died on this tragic day, but also show concern for those that have died in our misguided and vengeful wars in the last ten years.