September 13, 2011

Summary

The focus of this issue of Diplomaatia is on the world-changing terror attacks on New York City and Washington ten years ago on September 11, 2001, and their legacy. We raise the questions whether the attacks changed the Western world permanently, as many commentators predicted they would, whether the terror threat has diminished by now and what the ‘War on Terror’ has achieved, what it has taught us and how it has affected Estonia and our international position. In addition, this issue contains articles on Syria and the Libyan war, some follow-up discussion on our reflections on the restoration of Estonia’s independence 20 years ago and a book review on the Swedish solidarity concept.

The focus of this issue of Diplomaatia is on the world-changing terror attacks on New York City and Washington ten years ago on September 11, 2001, and their legacy. We raise the questions whether the attacks changed the Western world permanently, as many commentators predicted they would, whether the terror threat has diminished by now and what the ‘War on Terror’ has achieved, what it has taught us and how it has affected Estonia and our international position. In addition, this issue contains articles on Syria and the Libyan war, some follow-up discussion on our reflections on the restoration of Estonia’s independence 20 years ago and a book review on the Swedish solidarity concept.

Summary

The focus of this issue of Diplomaatia is on the world-changing terror attacks on New York City and Washington ten years ago on September 11, 2001, and their legacy. We raise the questions whether the attacks changed the Western world permanently, as many commentators predicted they would, whether the terror threat has diminished by now and what the ‘War on Terror’ has achieved, what it has taught us and how it has affected Estonia and our international position. In addition, this issue contains articles on Syria and the Libyan war, some follow-up discussion on our reflections on the restoration of Estonia’s independence 20 years ago and a book review on the Swedish solidarity concept.
In the opening essay, Ambassador Kurt Volker summarises the lessons learned in the ten years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He admits that the effect of the attacks and their aftermath on the collective psyche of the West has been palpable. At the same time, he insists that those events confirm that the global advance of core values – freedom, democracy and economic opportunity – remains the best hope for the future of all people. He sees a connection between the War on Terror and the Arab Spring, as he points out the irony of the fact that a democracy movement in the Arab world was, in a way, triggered by the actions of Osama bin Laden, ‘the most radical of all extremists’. 
Defence policy expert Sven Sakkov describes 9/11 as one of the most drastic events in American history during the last 100 years, remembered as vividly as the end of WWI, the assassination of President Kennedy or man’s first steps on the moon. Sakkov argues that after war fatigue caused by Vietnam and a series of other setbacks for the US, 9/11 has made military operations and human casualties more accepted among the American public again. He insists that the War on Terror has profoundly changed our perceptions of war and peace and that now it is important to invest not just in military power but also in reconstruction and society-building capabilities. Sakkov concludes his article with a warning that the next world-changing event could involve cyber wars.
Political scientist Asta Maskaliunaite analyses the effects of the War on Terror on democracies and the democratic values that the war is meant to protect. Referring to international experts in this field, she claims that democracies cannot compromise too much on their own values in order to protect themselves without compromising their own identity as democracies – obscure arrests, targeted killings and the use of torture in interrogations being typical examples at hand. However, she does not believe that ten years after the 9/11 attacks fear has gained the upper hand in Western societies. She assures it is possible to control the terror threat while remaining true to the values that our societies rest upon.
American author and journalist Jere van Dyk shares his experiences as a journalist travelling with the mujahideen in Afghanistan first in the 1980s when they were fighting the Soviet Union and then again after 9/11 when he himself was ‘the enemy’. He describes his meetings with central Taliban figures and also his plight as a hostage to the Taliban in 2007. Referring to the traditions and beliefs of the tribal areas that he has seen at close distance, van Dyk implies that regardless of the death of Bin Laden, Al-Qaida is still alive and is not going to disappear.
Security expert Indrek Elling assesses the impact of the War on Terror on Estonia and specifically on Estonia’s defence capacity. He reminds us that direct involvement in military action in connection with the War on Terror was not initially self-evident to the Estonians, but after having become involved, participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has actually strengthened the position of the Estonian Defence Forces both internally and internationally. Internally, they have gained more experience and self-confidence. Internationally, Estonia has secured its position as a serious partner.
Politician Asso Zand and sociologist Kristiina Koivunen offer an overview of the situation and protests in Syria and the violence of the al-Assad regime against the protesters. They predict that once the Syrian regime has fallen, it will have profound consequences for the rest of the Middle East, as it will trigger a ‘domino effect’ more powerful than in the case of other regimes that have already fallen. Moreover, if democracy had a chance in Syria, it would improve the situation of the Kurds in the whole region.
Tomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, assesses the effects of the war in Libya for NATO and specifically the relationship between the US and the European member states of the Alliance. Despite the criticism presented in the US, he offers a relatively optimistic view of the role of Europe that has been more active in the Libyan conflict than it has been before, e.g. in Bosnia. Valasek argues that in spite of the challenges caused by the differences between the member states and defence budget cuts, there is hope that the Alliance will stand strong also in the future.
Ambassador Jüri Luik, Estonia’s Permanent Representative to NATO, recalls the restoration of Estonia’s independence and the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Luik presents those events in the context of other major developments in world politics of the time, such as the first Gulf war and the reunification of Germany. He demonstrates that the events of crucial importance to the Estonians also played a significant role in international politics and placed us on the world map.
Last but not least, defence analyst Riina Kaljurand reviews a collection of articles with the title of Till bröders hjälp (To the Aid of Our Brothers), edited by Bo Hugemark. In the book, different authors analyse the new concept of solidarity, which was announced as the official policy of the Swedish government in 2009, replacing neutrality in its defence policy. The central message of the book is, according to Kaljurand, that so far the solidarity declaration is not sufficiently credible.

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