In the Shadow of the Twilight War

Last week, we commemorated the 10 year anniversary of September 11th. I still remember when my third grade teacher came into our classroom, sobbing. This event has impacted me in such a way, that I’m sure it will never be erased from my mind. September 11th did much more than create a lasting impression in our memories; it shook our whole nation to its core. And the aftershock can still be felt today. Before Philip Zelikow’s recent lecture at Dickinson about his theory on “Twilight Wars,” two students from New York City spoke about their experiences that day.
In his lecture, Philip Zelikow highlighted the lasting effects from September 11th when he said that we “witness the worst and the best” in our society during times of tragedy. He addressed the threat of terrorist organizations or what he termed as mere “organizations of zealots,” by posing the following question: “How do we adjust to these dangers?” This is a particularly interesting question that has sparked fierce debate and inspired research from leading academics. One article I found, written by Alexander Gutfraind from Cornell, centered on counter- terrorism. http://www.cam.cornell.edu/~gfriend/gutfraind_model.of.terrorism.draft.pdf
Yet, Zelikow asserted that Americans are “exaggerating the threat” posed by Islamist terrorist groups now. This assertion leads to an essential question: how do we assess threats? This is a difficult question to answer. Zelikow claimed that there is a “paradox” associated with the assessing this threat. As a post- 9/11 society, we have two options: The first is to attempt to “normalize” or reduce the perceived threat. Therefore our second option would be to ratchet-up our perceived threat. Zelikow expressed that he believes that Americans are taking the threat “too seriously” now. I definitely would not say that the United States is taking the threat of terrorists too seriously, especially since attempts to kill Americans have still been occurring.
In a response to an audience member’s question, Zelikow stated the obvious, “the world is changing.” But how do we adjust to this brand new world? That is the most important question that was spurred from Zelikow’s speech. I believe it is a question that we will be forced to wrestle with, but for now we are must continue with our everyday lives in the shadow of the Twilight War.

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