9/11, 20 years later: U-M experts can discuss
Written by Jeff Karoub and Jared Wadley
The approaching 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks comes with many reflections, remembrances and reckonings on how that tragic day has shaped our individual and collective identities and actions. University of Michigan experts are available to talk about a wide range of issues related to 9/11 and the two decades since.
Javed Ali is an associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy. Ali has more than 20 years of experience in national security and intelligence issues in Washington, D.C. He held positions in the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security before joining the FBI.
“The Biden administration’s recent policy decisions to stop combat operations in Afghanistan, a similar decision to wind down the military presence in Iraq, steps in Congress to repeal legal authorities like the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force that was the basis for operations against the Saddam Hussein regime, and more restrictive limits on strikes against terrorist targets outside ‘hot battlefields’ suggest the United States is about to turn the page on the last 20 years of counterterrorism efforts abroad,” he said. “Conversely, the administration has also stepped up efforts to focus on domestic terrorism in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which includes the release of the country’s first-ever national strategy on this topic, and a range of new programs and initiatives to meet this threat.
“As a result, the country is at an inflection point with respect to its posture against terrorism, with a shift more towards combating domestic terrorism at home vs. international terrorism. In addition, unlike the immediate years following 9/11 and through the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the mid-2010s, counterterrorism is no longer the dominant national security issue that draws an outsized level of policymaker and public attention, as well as money, resources and personnel.
“The administration’s Interim National Security Guidance from March indicates threats from China, Russia, Iran, climate change, cybersecurity and the ongoing response to COVID-19 must now all be balanced and reprioritized, which likely will result in a smaller focus on counterterrorism in the years ahead. That’s despite the fact terrorism will continue to present challenges both domestically and abroad.”
Event: Key developments in counterterrorism and national security since 9/11
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Ann Lin, associate professor of public policy at the Ford School of Public Policy, teaches courses on public policy implementation, gender and politics, and immigration. She has studied federal efforts to reform immigration policies and the political beliefs of U.S. immigrants, with a specific focus on Arab Americans.
“The tragedy of 9/11 resuscitated a politics of fear that was directed against Arab and Muslim immigrants in the same way that the politics of fear was turned against Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, German immigrants in World War I and Japanese immigrants in World War II,” she said. “But the evidence of history, and of the past 20 years, shows that immigrants fight for the U.S. in wars, create the technology that keeps America safe and strengthen our knowledge and understanding of other societies and nations.”
Adam Horwitz, assistant professor of psychiatry, can discuss the impact of coping on outcomes in response to stress.
“Sept. 11th is unique in that it has an impact and holds meaning for all Americans,” he said. “In many ways, it is more of a ‘memorial day’ than the actual Memorial Day in the United States, which to many nonmilitary families is primarily associated with barbecues and furniture sales. Sept. 11th is an opportunity for a more somber reflection of those we lost on that day, as well as the veterans and their families who experienced losses in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
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Mike Barger is executive director of Ross Online and clinical assistant professor of business administration at the Ross School of Business. His resume includes a 13-year career in the U.S. Navy as a pilot, flight instructor and, ultimately, chief instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (commonly called TOPGUN). He left the Navy to be a founding member of JetBlue Airways and created JetBlue University, the company’s centralized training department.
“By September 2001, JetBlue had been in operation for a little over 18 months. As a company co-founder, one of my early responsibilities was director of our Emergency Command Center (ECC),” he said. “On the morning of 9/11, I was welcoming a group of new hires during a company orientation session at our headquarters in Kew Gardens, New York. After the first aircraft struck the north tower of the World Trade Center (we could see the black smoke from the windows of our training room), I raced to our ECC a few floors below to make sure that one of our planes wasn’t involved. As I arrived, I was joined by other company leaders just as the south tower was struck by a second aircraft.
“At that moment, I looked at my JetBlue colleagues and said, ‘Those weren’t accidents. We are at war.’ For the next several days, few JetBlue leaders left our headquarters as we managed the crisis and cared for our customers, crew members and other stakeholders devastated by the horrific events of that fateful day.”
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Juan Cole, professor of history, studies the ongoing political change in the Middle East.
“Twenty years after the Sept. 11 attacks, America is poorer, more militarized and more polarized. Instead of a lean, targeted counterterrorism policy, the U.S. launched big, messy wars,” he said. “Iraq, which had nothing to do with Sept. 11, was targeted.
“The unnecessary wars and long-term military occupations for which Washington elites made September 11 a pretext cost trillions, and much of the money for them was borrowed, running up the national debt to alarming levels. Tens of thousands of veterans suffer from war injuries or PTSD and suffer high suicide rates. Police departments that received excess war materiel became distant from their own communities and often seemed like occupation forces themselves. The wars and occupations manifestly failed, diminishing U.S. standing in the world.”
Yasmin Moll, assistant professor of anthropology, is an expert on religion and media with a focus on the Middle East.
“The narrative of a clear cut “us” versus a clear cut “them” was easy to adopt in the aftermath of 9/11 because it was a familiar one, rehashed in countless American films, television shows and newscast over the past century that depict Arabs and Muslims as fundamentally terrifying,” she said. “These media representations left room neither for the ordinary experiences of individual Arabs or Muslims nor for the collective trauma of Arabs and Muslims as themselves victims of political violence and terrorism, whether here in the US or abroad.”
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, associate professor of American culture, is a scholar-artist-activist whose work examines the intersections of race, religion and popular culture. She can discuss anti-Islamic sentiment before and after 9/11. In addition, she’s a New York native who was in the city the week after the attacks.
Susan Page is a professor of practice in international diplomacy at the Ford School of Public Policy’s Weiser Diplomacy Center and a professor from practice at the Law School. She was the first ambassador to the newly independent South Sudan.
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