Two years have passed since the frightened faces of New Yorkers and the burning images of the Pentagon and a falling World Trade Center were tattooed onto the memories and minds of every American and person who watched the events unfold worldwide.
In that time, the nation has gone to war in Afghanistan where it defeated the Taliban, toppled the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, lived through anthrax attacks via the federal mail and has seen airline security measures pass that allow pilots to carry firearms onto national flights.
In two years the federal government has merged 22 separate domestic agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security and has passed the USA Patriot Act, allowing more freedom for domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies to gain information about citizens and suspected terrorists.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks many aspects of American politics have changed. Along with the changing politics are myriad changes in military, international relations, and security at a national and state level.
Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, believes the events of Sept. 11 serve as an example to the American people of the United States’ vulnerability.
“If there is one thing that we’ve learned from (Sept. 11) it is that we are somewhat vulnerable,” Allard said. “We continue to mobilize our military to meet the changing threats (that America faces). Our (military) units are changing to become more mobile and lightweight.”
Allard said the military has a newly defined focus on developing new technology to support the War on Terror and in the gathering of intelligence, but he also believes the country has excelled the last 10 years in this area.
“High-tech issues are more important now than in the past,” Allard said. “Now, we’re moving toward real time information on that battlefield. We have done a lot to improve (our military technology) since the first Gulf War.”
International relations between the United States and other countries across the world have also changed post-Sept. 11, said U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo from Colorado, who serves on the congressional International Relations committee. He believes the events of Sept. 11 have pitted the United States against countries who are considered allies.
“It put America into awareness mode, and that was the best thing that happened to us. These events were a wakeup call to the West,” Tancredo said. “The worst part is that we have seen our allies succumb to the most basic levels of jealousy and the practical implications of having millions of Muslims living in their country. The effect of a large number of Muslims in a country takes away the cloak that hides the anti-American sentiment (in these countries).”
Tancredo also believes the weak nature of the United Nations was exposed by the attacks two years ago.
“(Sept. 11) caused a showdown between the U.S. and the U.N.,” Tancredo said. “The U.N. has lost a great deal of influence and the (U.S.) has been more content to taking a unilateral approach to dealing with international terrorism.”
Former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart co-chaired a U.S. commission on National Security/21st Century, which released three reports pre-Sept. 11 warning of the probability of a terrorist attack on American soil. He also served on the Council on Foreign Relations’ task force on homeland security, which recently released the report, “America – Still Unprepared, Still in Danger.” Hart believes the challenges of securing America post-Sept. 11 are numerous and multifaceted.
“The task of preparing this country for further attacks is terribly difficult to achieve and very complex,” Hart said. “The task involves three major simultaneous integrations: the Homeland Security Office, which began operating on March 1, a vertical integration of federal, local, and state forces, and an integration of the public and private sectors.”
Hart believes the federal government should work with the state and local governments to assist in the training of first responders, emergency personal and to help fund and equip the National Guard and Port Authority. Hart also believes that by integrating the public and private sectors, the susceptibility of our “critical infrastructure, which is vulnerable to cyber attack or attack from weapons of mass destruction” can be minimized.
The state of Colorado has also made security reforms as a result of Sept. 11. Receiving funding from federal agencies and by reorganizing the structure of communication, Colorado has began to better defend itself from terrorism, said Kristen Hubbell, deputy press security for Gov. Bill Owens.
“The Colorado Infrastructure Committee, they meet regularly to assess and reassess security issues and concerns (in Colorado),” Hubbell said. “The Colorado Department of Public Safety has received $57 million (from federal agencies) to help aid in better security for the state.”
The implications of Sept. 11 on American politics are many and varied and could take many years before they come to pass, said Bob Lawrence, a political science professor at CSU. The support for President Bush has remained high because of Sept. 11 and his approval ratings may have broader implications, Lawrence said.
“If those attacks had not occurred, I think President Bush would still be at a 42 percent (approval rating). But now, many Americans are still looking to him to be a wartime leader. This could lead to the reelection of Mr. Bush and that could have major implications to American politics,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence believes that if the President Bush is reelected, the U.S. Supreme Court, who has members getting ready to retire, could likely be filled with conservative justices. This scenario, if it were to occur, could lead to decades of an American political culture that encompasses the views of President Bush.
“The attacks on Sept. 11 give Mr. Bush the chance to imprint his views on many aspects of policy onto the nation for the next 30 years,” Lawrence said. “If he can pull off the War on Terror, make Iraq a democratic nation and have that democracy spread to (surrounding countries) in the region, he could be looked upon in the same light as Washington and Lincoln.”