Ten years ago Sunday, the United States was attacked at two locations that symbolized its status as a superpower. The World Trade Center represented its economic might and the Pentagon, its military might. People all over the world, including people in Israel, associated the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center with New York, and they identified New York not only with the American dream, but also in many respects with their own dreams.
For this reason, almost everywhere around the world, people recall the moments of terror they experienced on September 11, 2001, as if the disaster was also their own disaster. The attacks on the centers of American power were not divorced from the Arab-Israeli conflict. As on that horrifying day 10 years ago, it is possible now, too, to say that "we are all American."
The assault on the Pentagon in Washington was less devastating, destructive and spectacular than the attack on the World Trade Center, but its symbolic significance is no smaller than the blow that New York sustained, because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the limits of American power. This has been compounded by economic and social crises that have taken their toll to such an extent that the United States no longer appears to be the omnipotent superpower it once was. One has the impression that the decline in the standing of the United States is grounded in a series of continuing historic developments, and people around the world are following them with concern.
Over the past decade, the United States invested huge sums in an effort to annihilate the "axis of evil" through force of arms. In June 2009, however, U.S. President Barack Obama went to Cairo in an attempt to halt what up to then had been portrayed as a war between good and evil, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. In a courageous speech, Obama proposed reconciliation and coexistence between the fundamental values of the United States and the fundamental values of the Muslim world.
It is possible that there is a connection between the speech and the protest movements that later swept the Arab world. They have not yet given rise to the much hoped for Arab Spring, but the very fact that the American administration has been able to free itself from the shackles of prior thinking is an encouraging sign.
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