How will 9/11 be remembered on its hundredth anniversary? Will it be seen as a dramatic but ultimately minor tragedy or as a turning point that altered the United States and the trajectory of world politics in fundamental ways? Will future generations see that day as a telling reflection of underlying trends, the catalyst for a series of catastrophic foreign-policy blunders, or as an isolated one-off event whose long-term impact was relatively modest?
It is impossible to predict exactly how 9/11 is going to be interpreted, of course; perhaps all we can say with confidence is that the meaning attached to it will vary depending on who is doing the interpreting. Americans will view 9/11 differently than Afghans, Iraqis, Saudis, or Europeans, and for many people around the world it is likely to be little more than a historical footnote. What looms large in our consciousness today is often irrelevant to others and especially once memories fade and more recent events command our attention.
Yet despite these unavoidable uncertainties, asking how 9/11 might be seen in 2101 is still a useful exercise because it helps place the event within a broader geopolitical context. I can think of at least two broad and radically different possibilities (plus a third wild card). Ironically, which possibility comes closest to the truth has little to do with what occurred on that sunny Tuesday morning 20 years ago and much more to do with what has happened in response to it. Moreover, what happens in the next few decades is going to determine how 9/11 is remembered a century later.
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.