David Greenberg: A Fitting Resolution to the Story of 9/11
David Greenberg, a contributing editor to The New Republic, teaches history at Rutgers University.
Give President Obama credit. As he promised in a bit of florid campaign rhetoric, he followed Osama bin Laden to the cave where he lives—in this case a high-walled compound of steel and concrete not far from the capital of Pakistan.
Characteristically restrained and innately cautious, Obama was quick to note in his remarks Sunday night that the death of bin Laden “does not mark the end of our effort” against the Al Qaeda terrorism network he led. Here the president's prudence served him well. We won’t know for a long time whether this moment will mark the beginning of the end of the war on Islamist terrorism; that will depend on the current state of Al Qaeda's strength—its wealth, numbers, organizational capabilities and other information that most of us have long since ceased paying attention to with any regularity. It’s tempting to believe that decapitating the beast of Al Qaeda will weaken it forever, or render it lifeless. But we just don’t know.
Even if bin Laden’s death doesn’t operationally cripple his network, though, it’s deeply significant in its own right. We understand our history in stories, and bin Laden was always the central protagonist of the story of September 11. It may be that we personalize our history too much, that our instinct to focus on individual heroes and villains sometimes distorts our understanding and simplifies complex realities. But personalize it we do, and there could be no satisfying resolution to our story without bin Laden’s death or capture.
comments powered by Disqus
- Rare silent Native American movie of 1920s attracting a lot of interest
- It happened in Idaho and was the largest massacre of Indians in US history, but where exactly did it take place?
- Junípero Serra’s Missions Destroyed Entire Native Cultures. And Now He’s Going to Be a Saint.
- Isis destruction of Palmyra's Temple of Bel revealed in satellite images
- McKinley's lost his mountain. Should we still remember his presidency?
- Japanese historian upends the familiar narrative of WW 2 by taking a bottom up approach, focusing on fascism from the grassroots
- Holocaust-denying historian David Irving organises 'disgusting' £2,000-a-head holiday tours of former concentration camps and Hitler's HQ so people can 'make up their own mind about the truth'
- 72 history professors sign letter urging removal of Jefferson Davis statue from Kentucky Capitol
- 10 Years After Katrina, the Enduring Value of the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
- Historian author Antony Beevor says his new World War 2 book may anger Americans