Terror didn’t win: 9/11 changed democratic countries in some unlovely ways. But democracies stayed on track

Synopsis: This article highlights how global democracies change after the 9/11 attack.


A study from the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies estimated that the number of active terrorist groups was 67 in 2018, the most since 1980.

A new study from the Costs of War project at Brown University calculates that the US spent $8 trillion during its two-decade-long war on terror that also took 9,00,000 lives.

Does terrorism threaten democracy?

It created a lot of trouble in the last 20 years and has the capacity to disturb democracies. Still, it was not able to outcast democracy.

Existence of democracy: Despite the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan, multiple terror groups in Africa, and the persistence of the Islamic State outfit, democracies hasn’t been thrown off track.

No Quality of Life in terrorism controlled areas: No terrorist movement nor any state that sponsors terrorism has been able to provide the better life they promised than democracies.

Lack of Governance in terrorism controlled areas: Although ISIS did briefly control territory in parts of Iraq and Syria, establishing its caliphate. But it was short-lived, and violent movements were there. In these conditions, it is difficult to build viable states or provide good governance.

What are the impacts of terror attacks?

To counter the attacks, some democracies have diluted some of their core principles.

Western Countries: Post-9/11, they reinterpreted their privacy laws, boosted surveillance and armed their security agencies with powers overriding legal checks.

India: Used the same method India is providing justification for some of its most Draconian laws, For example, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

Globally: widespread Islamophobia and refugee fatigue in some countries provided space for right-wing populism.

China: The war on terror coincided with the rise of China after 2001. After 9/11 USA was busy with its war on terror while China strengthened its hold over the global economy. And as the USA withdraws, we witness China is ready to adopt a transactional approach to groups like the Taliban.

What should be done next?

It is clear that adopting terrorism as a state policy has disastrous consequences. This is evident in the case of Pakistan. Overall, 9/11 did change liberal democracies. But terrorists didn’t throw any democracy off track.

Source: This post is based on the article “Terror didn’t win: 9/11 changed democratic countries in some unlovely ways. But democracies stayed on track” published in The Times of India on 9th September 2021.

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