September 11th has been dubbed "Patriot Day" in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the infamous terrorist attacks. Lost in all of the flag waving is a pragmatic look at what led to those attacks and what we have done to prevent them in the future.
First of all, the organization accused of the attacks is still in tact. Osama bin Laden appears to be as charismatic as ever and his ability to elude US forces has expanded the cult of his personality. Al Qaida has increased its reach and recruits members from all over the world. Millions of Muslims living in poverty and chaos see him as a hero. How can we honor those who died when the man believed to be responsible for those deaths is still at large, celebrating this day as his greatest accomplishment?
Second, we have not begun to address the root of the problem. Why did Osama bin Laden order such a devastating attack? Too many people have convinced themselves that these Muslim extremists simply hate our way of life but the reality is that Osama bin Laden's goal has always been the removal of western influence in Middle Eastern affairs. For hundreds of years European countries held loose control over tribal cultures, drawing arbitrary borders and creating imperialistic governments that failed to respect the rich cultural diversity of the area. The result has been decades of regional instability and global exploitation. How is it these countries that produce so much oil have so many people living in poverty while those of us who purchase that oil live in decadent comfort? This is the question that drives so many to hate the US. It's not our lifestyle but the fact that we appear to enjoy it at their expense.
Our current foreign policy typifies precisely what has bred the extremism that threatens stability throughout the region. We're trying to impose an American way of life on people who want nothing to do with it. In order to maintain control, political leaders must gain support of Islamic clerics while they fight to generate enough revenue to improve the quality of life for their citizens. Too often, the United States is perceived to be standing in the way of progress and anti-American sentiment grows.
September 11th 2007 marked the sixth year of this country's failure to address these issues. Thousands of Americans have lost their lives and there is no end in sight. Our military is overextended, our national budget is in the red, Osama bin Laden is still ranting, and the world is still a very dangerous place. Mission Accomplished?
Patriot Day. It's great that we have seen fit to honor the fallen in word but a shame that we have not done right by them in deed.