The United States and the world have changed significantly in the dozen years since terrorists hijacked jetliners and launched the biggest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Here are 10 of those changes:
• America has become less dependent on foreign fuel.
Decades of Mideast dependence prompted alliances with regional monarchies that 9/11 organizer Osama bin-Laden opposed. But that dependence is beginning to ebb. Domestic production, led by technological changes in extraction, is at its highest in decades. That growth seems poised to continue whether or not Washington approves the controversial Keystone XL pipeline carrying Canadian oil from tar sands.
• Bin Laden is gone.
It took more than nine years, but the United States found and killed the al-Qaida leader who bankrolled the 9/11 attacks. While terrorism threats remain, they do not have at their root a person such as bin Laden who personified the anti-U.S. movement.
• The intelligence state has mushroomed.
We have more government intrusion in our lives post-911, from TSA airport checkpoints to NSA phone surveillance. Intelligence budgets have skyrocketed, to the $52.6 billion plan proposed for 2013. U.S. drone attacks have outraged many worldwide, as have detention practices from Afghanistan and Iraq to Guantanamo. The defenders of these practices say extraordinary measures have been necessary to keep a targeted United States safe.
• Anti-authoritarian ferment in the Middle East.
Tunisia, Libya, Egypt all toppled longtime military-backed leaders, and Egypt saw a military coup against the successor government. Rebels and protesters have risen up in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain as well, with mixed results.
• What Google has wrought.
Hand in hand with that tumult has been the exploding use of Twitter, G-chat, Facebook and similar services in tightly controlled societies worldwide, all giving voice to people who are denied printing presses and broadcast licenses. Thousands have followed protests in Iran and Egypt — and videos from Syria — through social networks. The pattern has repeated itself across the globe, from China to Brazil.