By Anjan Roy
Twenty years back on September 11 evening, I was in the news room of a leading newspaper, on Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. Following the normal rhythms of a newsroom in the evening, journalists were sitting down to slog on their copy, discussing news items, someone would occasionally look at the small little box of a TV set and watching the screen.
Then suddenly the screen was showing some extraordinary scenes. A solitary plane was flying at alarming low heights and then flew straight into a tall building. With a huge plume of smoke, followed by leaping tones of fire, the building had turned into a towering inferno.
Yet another plane appeared on the screen, when watchers were already aghast and it also headed straight for the now burning tower and as if went into one of the top floors.
The massive quantities of aviation turbine fuel —which is nothing but kerosene— were streaming down the tower and turning into whipping flames. In that infernal fire, generating inconceivable heat, was meting the steel from of the building. Soon enough the towers had collapsed.
That is what “9/11” was all about. There was total confusion about what was happening. The newsreaders had announced another two aircraft had come with the same mission. One hit the Pentagon building, killing scores and another crashed on a field in Pennsylvania.
It was not known how could the planes have flown into the World Trade Centre, standing at the head of New York’s Wall Street. Much later, it had dawned that the planes had flown in as missiles from the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation.
Like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour during the Second World War, this was a hit on America on its very soil. This was unnerving not only for most Americans, it was for the rest of the world.
Nine-eleven had changed the known world for good. Or, did it. Let us see.
Nine-eleven was interpreted as a battle between the known “civilised world” and the barbarians who had hit the most visible expressions of present-day free market capitalism and its companion, free society as embodied by America.
The event had killed some 3000 odd Americans and this had aroused the worst animosities in the victim country. As it came to be known that the dreaded Al-Qaida had mounted the attack, America had decided a move to punish these terrorists. The epicentre of the Al Qaida movement was in Afghanistan and in the strongholds of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
United States twenty years back was the most powerful country in the world. Soviet Union had collapsed. In 1991, the world was viewed mostly as unipolar, with the USA being the only remaining world power.
In about 63 days from the 9/11 attack, USA had invaded Afghanistan and defeated the Taliban government. The terrorists were on the run. Entire western world said the attack on America was an attack on each of them. Cold War foe, Russia, had declared military support to tackle the menace of terrorism.
America had invaded Iraq to prevent that state, under its leader Saddm Husssain, who was said to have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). USA bombarded Syria for its ruler, Assad’s using chemical weapons on his own people, killing in one single instance some 1000 Syrians in Damascus.
America had intervened in Bosnia where the Serbians Muslims were killed in a planned genocide. Much earlier, USA had launched the Vietnam war where it was defending the liberal order from a direct attack from the Communists.
9/11 had given rise to the doctrine of “liberal intervention”, meaning that the liberal west, at whose pinnacle stood USA, had the right to intervene in any situation of genocide and gross violations of human rights. Following the attack on World Trade Centre, for twenty years America had been waging the new holy war against terrorism and violation of basic rights.
Liberal intervention doctrine was developed and justified when a younger Joe Biden was the chairman of the US Congress Committee on Foreign Relations. He had resolved to support American rights for policing the world an spread the liberal order.
This lasted till August 15, 2021 — the day Kabul fell to the Taliban defeating the Americans straight away. America’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan, without an whisper of a talk with decades long friends, fellow campaigners and members of the NATO, was seen as abject surrender to the forces of barbarism.
America’s unreliability as a friend was articulated clearly by none else than the French President Emmanuel Macron, who had urged fellow Europeans to develop military deterrence independent of America. , America had left those afghans who had defended the American order for two decades on the ground in Afghanistan to their fates.
US President Je Biden had shown obligation to protect numerous Afghans who had worked with them, he had seen American foreign policy being determined by considerations of American middle classes. The moral high ground of American global standing was conspicuously given up or lost.
Today, the typical western intellectual feels left in the lurch. The Economist magazine, which remains the avowed high priest of the global liberal order, is cowing about the apparent demise of the doctrine of “liberal interventionism” after total withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan.
Not that the doctrine was shown to be hollow even otherwise. Despite utter contempt shown by China for human rights and total genocide of Uighur Muslims in Xinchuan province, the western liberal order was had to live with that
In their view in the fight between civilisation and the religious fundamentalist forces,, it is the latter which which had won the day. At least for the time being. (IPA Service)