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Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
When the world went adrift
Nine years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaida on the United States — symbolized by the collapse of the Twin Towers at New York's World Trade Center after two airliners' had crashed into them, and the deaths of some 3,000 people — the world seems adrift without a compass. In the absence of evidence that stable global security and economic systems are in place, a pervasive uneasiness exists.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Bush administration started a war in Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaida's stronghold there. But the U.S. is far from achieving the goal of establishing a democratic central government in that country.
There are few signs that the war in Afghanistan will end with success; on the contrary, the war seems to be escalating. More than 2,000 coalition forces soldiers are reported to have been killed since 2001. The U.N. Mission in Afghanistan puts Afghan civilian deaths since 2006 at some 7,000. A private-sector group estimates the annual cost of the war at nearly $100 billion.
The 9/11 attacks demonstrated strong hatred harbored toward the U.S. by at least some segments of the Muslim world. Although U.S. President Barack Obama has sought dialogue with Muslims, concrete results have yet to come.
One of the reasons that the Bush administration started a war in Iraq in 2003 was its mistaken belief that the late President Saddam Hussein had forged connections with al-Qaida. Some 4,400 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq and, by some estimates, more than 110,000 Iraqi citizens have died.
U.S. scholars Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes estimate the total cost of the war at $3 trillion, a conservative figure. Although the U.S. has withdrawn its combat units, the situation in Iraq is shaky — politically and in terms of security.
In addition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the shock of the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 added to America's difficulties, undermining the foundation of the finance industry-driven U.S. economy. The glory days of the U.S. appear to have passed, although it still ranks as the No. 1 world power.
In this uneasy age, Japan needs to correctly analyze the surroundings in which it finds itself and build diplomacy that will help the country steer through an opaque world.