• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Did 9/11 Change the World?

    In each century since our nation’s founding, foreign enemies have tested the strength of the American republic, our national security, and our political principles. September 11, 2001 was not the first devastating attack on U.S. territory: in 1814, the British burned Washington, D.C., and, in 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. A look back at these two events reminds us that 9/11 was not a wholly unique event. The death, destruction, and shock of the attacks reinforced a lesson learned previously by generations of brave Americans who bequeathed to us a United States, independent, strong, and free.
    Soon after the American Revolution, the Napoleonic wars in Europe prompted England and France to infringe upon American sovereignty on the high seas. France demanded bribes in its diplomacy and England impressed American citizens, forcing them to serve in the British Navy. In response to these violations of American independence, the United States sought to assert its sovereignty and secure the hard-won blessings of liberty for American citizens. But years of inadequate defense spending had left the United States ill-prepared to fight the War of 1812.

    The few American victories against the British were directly attributable to earlier congressional appropriations for forts, frigates, regular troops, and officer training. These military preparations were far less than what Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson had requested, because Congress was confident that diplomacy was sufficient to maintain peace. As a result, President James Madison was unable to defend the young capital. In the summer of 1814, British troops landed in Maryland and within eleven days captured Washington, D.C. They burned the Houses of Congress, the White House, and the Library of Congress (which housed Jefferson’s collection of books). Though Great Britain and America soon negotiated a peace, the ultimate cost of the war was much more expensive than increased defense preparations would have been.

    Over a century later, Japan’s growing military and increasingly aggressive policies in East Asia during the 1930s went largely unchecked. Confusion and discord at home in America led to timidity abroad. A growing isolationism on the one hand, and a deferring, altruistic foreign policy on the other, left American interests unprotected.

    Even as World War II raged on, many Americans (having forgotten the lessons of their early foreign policy) pretended that the U.S. would remain unaffected. The attack on Pearl Harbor shattered such notions and required a bloody and costly war to defeat America’s enemies and reassert America’s sovereign independence.

    Combating the radical Islamic terrorism responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 has its own set of unique challenges and requires new policies. But 9/11 did not change the world such that new principles are required to protect America. We are still a people who desire the exercise self-government at home and independence abroad. America has faced implacable enemies before: the British in the nineteenth century and the Japanese in the twentieth century. But the grand strategy required to address these challenges is still that of America’s founding fathers.

    Throughout this twenty-first century, foreign powers will invariably continue to threaten our independence. America certainly cannot withdraw from world affairs in a naïve hope for isolated safety. Indeed, experience has shown that ignoring threats abroad makes Americans less safe at home. Two centuries ago, In the midst of America’s fight to protect its independence against the coercion of foreign powers, James Madison wrote: “It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.” America’s commitment to protect its sovereign independence and America’s military preparedness against its enemies continues to secure the blessings of liberty for its citizens. That is the lesson of 9/11; a lesson that has been reinforced throughout America’s history as an independent nation and one that must never be forgotten.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Did 9/11 Change the World?

    1. Lloyd Scallan says:

      There are major differences between 1814, 1941, and today. The threat to our nation is not from outside forces alone. It's coming from so called Americans, living next door or in public office, that profess a hatred for what this nation stands for. "Tolerance" that has been allowed to fester in our cities and neighborhood, under the liberal banner of "political correctness", has opened the door to a strain of religious and political fanatics that actually believe martyrdom will bring about glory and distroying this nation will being about there socialist utopia.

      Throughout history, when people fought each other, almost all wanted to survive. But today, religious and political radicals are promoting their own people to die for their cause by leaders that don't have respect for our lives or our way of life.. When we face this type of blind religious and political insanity, we must recognize the internal threat and whom it's coming from. Until we stop what the liberal progressives have done to all of us, this once great nation will not survive.

    2. Excellent read about America's Liberty and how it's been defended, starting at the very beginning of our country's freedom from English Rule and how we as a nation came together after the Terrorist attacks of 9/11…

    3. carol,az says:

      "Throughout the 21st century, foreign powers will invariably continue to threaten our independence."
      This summary of America's independence is historically accurate, but stops at 911.
      Like most of American, terrorism is believed to be executed by, "foreign powers."
      Countries that train terrorists, execute acts of terrorism are not" foreign powers."
      They are rouge regions throughout the world, supplied with money, weapons, training camps, used as the strong-arm, by other counties.
      Somalia is a primary example of this.
      After Black Hawk Down, and the lives of 19 American Marines lost, their dead bodies mutilated by terrorists, recorded around the world, America did nothing for military reprisal.
      What we told the rest of the world;
      America allowed herself to be, " victims of terrorism."
      Somalia continues to operate as a terrorist run military, on the high sea , and high jacking shipping from countries around the world, in international waters, for ransom.
      Is this a foreign power? or another American indecision that has allowed this terrorist force to operate unchecked?

    4. HARRY SNYDER says:

      Probably not related, but as of September 11, 2001 the U.S. became aware that we have two major enemies: The global Islamic "jihad" which has become a major force, what with bin Laden and related groups and individuals, PLUS China, which has hated the U.S. since the Korean War, if not since the "Boxer" uprising ca. 1900 and perhaps since our "Open Door Policy" in the mid 1800's. U.S. policy must take these realities seriously when forming policy where either of these two entities is involved. It is a difficult situation to confront, but it must be seriously considered. China is growing in economic and military strength and Islam may be also, especially in Iran.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.