The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

FOCUS 9/11, TWENTY YEARS LATER THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2021 31 Anthony H. Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. At CSIS, he has been director of the Gulf Net Assessment Project and the Gulf in Transition Study, as well as principal investigator of the CSIS Homeland Defense Project. He served as a consultant to the Departments of State and Defense during the Afghan and Iraq wars. He has had numerous foreign assignments—including posts in Lebanon, Egypt and Iran—and has worked extensively in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. He is the author of more than 50 books, including a four-volume series on the lessons of modern war. T here is no doubt that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pen- tagon on Sept. 11, 2001, were one of the most traumatic events in modern U.S. history, and still have a major impact on U.S. perceptions of the risk from terrorism. At the same time, the United States is today withdrawing from Afghani- stan with only limited regard to the consequences, phasing down its small remaining cadre of forces in Iraq and reducing its counterterrorism efforts in most of the rest of the world. The central focus of U.S. strategy has now shifted to competition with China and Russia, adversaries such as North Korea and Iran, and important hostile nonstate actors. The fear of some form of massive Islamist extremist attacks on the United States and the West has faded, and the focus of U.S. strategy that still deals with terrorism and extremism has shifted to a wide range of relatively small and splintered movements seeking to win power in a number of largely Islamic states. In fact, from today’s vantage point, the events of 9/11, trau- matic as they were, amounted to an episode, a “one-off,” rather than a new fundamental threat to U.S. national security. In retrospect, 9/11 did not foreshadow the major changes that now drive U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy. BY ANTHONY H . CORDESMAN TheReal-World Impact of TerrorismandExtremism