The Impact Of The 9/11 Attacks On America

Dominic Waghorn, US correspondent

The immediate impact of 9/11 in America is well documented.

Phrases like "a loss of innocence" and "a nation violated" have been used often because they describe the transformation well.

The attack caused enormous fear and insecurity in a country that had not suffered anything comparable carried out by outsiders on US soil since Pearl Harbour.

Many of us forget now how we expected something as big if not bigger to quickly follow.

But with a decade's perspective we can say that it is events since that may have caused more impact.

"It's all the things that have happened since 9/11," says Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute "that 9/11 catalysed and sparked that have cumulatively weighed down on us more than the attack itself."

The attacks led America to launch wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have proven massively costly.

The inconclusive natures of the wars, and abuses by the US military have undermined America's standing in the world.

When America faced financial crises like that in 2008 it was far less able to cope because of the debts caused by its wars.

Some trace the current political polarisation of America back to 9/11.

Americans are divided because so much more seems to be at stake, it is argued, in the light of the attacks.

It made Americans re-examine what is important and what is American and in the light of that became more and more divided about their conclusions.

But it is important to remember that 9/11 brought about a strong sense of national unity, initially at least.

That continued well into the Afghan conflict.

The polarisation began over Iraq and has continued worsening in the ideological bickering over how to cope with the financial burden of war.

In that sense it was not 9/11 that divided America, but the way the Bush administration responded.

For some America lost its self confidence that clear September day, when it suddenly realised there were some in the world that hated all it stands for.

But a longer perspective reminds us that Americans in the Vietnam era were more than used to being despised for what they were doing in far flung parts of the globe.

And outsiders always overestimate how much Americans even think about what us foreigners think about them, let alone worry about being hated.

The demise of the American dream arguably is far more responsible for America losing self confidence and that is an entirely economic process.

The myth that hard work would always be rewarded with a better life could only last as long as America continued creating jobs.

The emergence of new economic giants like China have undermined that dream and America's self confidence.

9/11 had a huge impact on America but it was probably not the watershed it seems at the moment in the light of this anniversary.