The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

The andDiplomaticPractice FOCUS 9/11, TWENTY YEARS LATER 26 SEPTEMBER 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Ambassador Larry Butler served for 40 years with the State Department, starting in Finland and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria during the Cold War and finishing his career in the Greater Middle East with postings in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has a track record of involvement in peacemaking, including working for President Bill Clinton at the White House for the Northern Irish Good Friday Accords and with Richard Holbrooke in Belgrade for the Dayton Accords. A Balkans expert, he served in Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and as U.S. ambassador to Macedonia (2002-2005). After retiring from the Foreign Service in 2013, he now provides interagency operational expertise to U.S. military organi- zations from his home bases in Maine and Virginia. T wenty years ago, jetliners crashing into New York City’s twin towers and the Pentagon shocked America out of its post–Cold War complacency, ushering in the global war on terror (GWOT) and a surge in international support for the United States. A senior State Department official, Assistant Secre- tary for Diplomatic Security Francis X. Taylor, speaking to the American Bar Association in late 2002, answered a question on how long the war on terror would last: “As long as it takes. Years, maybe decades.” Taylor was prescient. This summer’s withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan after 20 years is a controver- sial coda to two decades of GWOT-dominated foreign policy that fundamentally changed American diplomatic practice and argu- ably left a trail of collateral damage to America’s standing in the world and readiness for future challenges. In the two decades of the war on terror, we squandered the goodwill America enjoyed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The war on terror fundamentally changed U.S. diplomacy, leaving a trail of collateral damage to America’s readiness for future challenges. BY LARRY BUT L ER