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What If 9/11 Never Happened?


Thomas L. Friedman
columnist, New York Times

9/11 Five Years Later

The United States would have a much more hostile relationship with China. September 11 took all the worst instincts of the Bush administration about China, the sense that we were somehow fated to be in a cold war with them, and put them in a deep freeze. The attacks put America and China on the same side of a new divide between the world of order and the world of disorder. Since the U.S. and China have the biggest and most important relationship in the world, the fact that tensions didn’t increase was a big geopolitical dog that didn’t bark. All of the oil price trends would have existed—and existed more, because if 9/11 didn’t happen, there would have been more globalization, more global commerce. China and India would have risen as fast, if not faster. September 11 didn’t stop globalization, obviously, but it slowed the process down. And North Korea would have been as far, if not farther along, in its ambitions, because China, given a more hostile relationship with the U.S., would have been less cooperative in dealing with Kim Jong Il. I seriously doubt that George W. Bush would be president. Security was the key issue in 2004, and absent that, it’s hard for me to believe that John Kerry couldn’t have beaten him. Bush used 9/11 to take a far-right domestic agenda from 9/10 and drive it into a 9/12 world. And that 9/10 agenda was not exactly going anywhere. In the wake of 9/11, this administration began to shift America’s status in the world from a country that exported hope to a country that exported fear. And when you export fear, you end up importing everyone else’s fears.


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