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Before and After 9/11: Perceptions of the U.S. Then and Now

Ethan Katz, a UC assistant professor of history, analyzes the domestic and international perceptions of the United States since 9/11.

Date: 8/23/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: Ethan Katz
Other Contact: Dawn Fuller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

UC ingot   Ethan Katz is a UC assistant professor of history; a historian of modern Europe. His research interests include inter-ethnic relations; religion and the secular in modern life; Islam in the West; the interplay between colonial regimes and anti-colonial politics; and national and sub-national identity.  Katz has written widely on these issues, and has lectured extensively in the U.S., France and Israel.

The 10-year anniversary of 9/11 provides an opportunity to reflect on the way that this event in many ways has utterly transformed both domestic and international politics for the United States. 

UC Assistant Professor Ethan Katz
UC Assistant Professor Ethan Katz

Domestically, in the months and years after 9/11, Americans became conditioned to a set of enormous sacrifices in their personal freedom – from wiretaps to airport pat-downs to no-fly lists – that have exacted a largely ignored but significant cost on our society. Likewise, alleged associations with anything Islamic became the new way to try to poison one's political opponents.

Internationally, the attacks have had a number of major consequences for the U.S. First, the attacks deeply punctured America's image of invincibility. The American decision to invade Iraq and the gross incompetence of much of our post-invasion effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan have exacerbated this problem of perceptions of American power and effectiveness. 

That leads to a second point, which is that by helping to provoke these wars, the attackers have created a widespread image of the West and Islam at war. This has served to inflame anti-American sentiment in large segments of the Islamic world and often to isolate the United States internationally. It has also changed the nature of our relationship with key allies, particularly those in the Middle East and Europe. 

On the whole, 10 years on from 9/11, America is a more fearful, more insecure, less respected nation than it was before the attack. At the same time, it is worth reflecting on how the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden and the diplomatic successes of the Obama administration may be altering parts of this pattern. 

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