10 Ways The World Has Changed Since September 11, 2001



The United States and the world have changed sig­nif­i­cantly in the dozen years since ter­ror­ists launched the biggest attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Har­bor. The Wash­ing­ton Post’s David Beard looks at 10 of those changes.

  • U.S. has become less depen­dent on for­eign fuel. Decades of depen­dence on Mideast oil prompted U.S. alliances with regional monar­chies that 9/11 orga­nizer Osama bin Laden opposed. But that depen­dence is shift­ing. Domes­tic pro­duc­tion of nat­ural gas as an alter­na­tive fuel, led by tech­no­log­i­cal changes in extrac­tion, is at its high­est in decades.
  • The war on ter­ror. It took more than nine years, but the United States on May 2, 2011, found and killed bin Laden. The threat of ter­ror­ism remains, as al-Qaeda-related groups sur­face in parts of the Mid­dle East and Africa. Mean­while, the use of unmanned air­craft for sur­veil­lance and mis­sile attacks have out­raged many world­wide, as have deten­tion prac­tices from Afghanistan and Iraq to Guan­tanamo. The defend­ers of these prac­tices say extra­or­di­nary mea­sures have been nec­es­sary to keep a tar­geted United States safe
  • The intel­li­gence state has mush­roomed. We have more gov­ern­ment intru­sion in our lives post-9/11, from more restric­tive air travel reg­u­la­tions to increased phone and Inter­net activ­ity sur­veil­lance. Intel­li­gence bud­gets have sky­rock­eted, to the $52.6 bil­lion in 2013.
  • Anti-authoritarian fer­ment in the Mid­dle East. The peo­ple of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt all top­pled long­time military-backed lead­ers. (Egypt, how­ever, in July saw a mil­i­tary coup against the suc­ces­sor gov­ern­ment.) Rebels and pro­test­ers have risen up in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain as well, with mixed results.
  • World Wide Web of change. Hand in hand with that tumult has been the explod­ing use of Twit­ter, G-chat, Face­book and sim­i­lar social media in tightly con­trolled soci­eties world­wide, all giv­ing voice to peo­ple who are denied print­ing presses and broad­cast licenses. Thou­sands have fol­lowed protests in Iran and Egypt — and videos from Syria — through social net­works. The pat­tern has repeated itself across the globe, from China to Brazil, mag­ni­fied by the explo­sion in smartphones.
  • Rise (and fall) of U.S. fer­vor for mil­i­tary action. After the 2001 attacks, the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion moved quickly into Afghanistan in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the fight against the Tal­iban. Claim­ing a link to weapons of mass destruc­tion, it com­mit­ted the Pen­ta­gon to Iraq. The two long wars have sapped America’s appetite for mil­i­tary action, reflected in polls show­ing nearly two-thirds of Amer­i­cans oppose even lim­ited mil­i­tary efforts in Syria.
  • The unseat­ing of Iran’s Holo­caust denier-in-chief. From 2005 until 2013, Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad was an ardent oppo­nent of Israel and its ally, the United States. Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric against Israel knew few bounds. That’s why it was so star­tling ear­lier this month when, on Rosh Hashanah, Iran’s new pres­i­dent and for­eign min­is­ter took to Twit­ter to wish Jews a happy new year. When asked by a Tweeter when Iran would ditch its denial of the Holo­caust, the for­eign min­is­ter responded that that man, mean­ing Ahmadine­jad, was gone.
  • Rise of mul­ti­cul­tural Amer­ica. In 2012, whites made up the low­est per­cent­age of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion in Amer­i­can his­tory. Cen­sus data showed more whites died than were born, a slump more than a decade before the pre­dicted decline of America’s white pop­u­la­tion. The fastest grow­ing group is mul­tira­cial Amer­i­cans. The demo­graphic shifts have buoyed Obama and Democ­rats, who have out­size sup­port among women and gays and les­bians as well.
  • The deep­en­ing debt. Two over­seas wars and the deep­est reces­sion since the Great Depres­sion have taken a toll of the U.S. Trea­sury. The last U.S. bud­get sur­plus was in fis­cal year 2001. The national debt now is more than $16.7 tril­lion — or about $53,000 per per­son. Ris­ing health and defense spend­ing played a big role, as did a cut in the per­sonal income tax near the start of the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion and a reduc­tion of tax rev­enue caused by the multi-year reces­sion that started at the end of it.
  • Ris­ing above Ground Zero. Eight years in the mak­ing, the 104-story Free­dom Tower (pic­tured) is poised to open early in 2014 at the World Trade Cen­ter site in Lower Man­hat­tan. Open­ing in Novem­ber is the 72-story 4 World Trade Cen­ter, on the south­east cor­ner of the site. An under­ground museum will open in the spring, and two more office build­ings and a trans­porta­tion hub are sched­uled for the site.


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