időjárás 21°C Amália 2022. október 7.

After 21 years, a new global political turning point

László Szőcs
2022.09.13. 07:04 2022.09.13. 09:17
After 21 years, a new global political turning point

The USA just commemorated the 21st anniversary of September 11, 2001. But while, global politics is once again dominated by clashes between superpowers, international terrorism is no longer the main concern as conflicts between Washington and Moscow beomce reminiscent of the Cold War.

We did not expect this, but Prague made a good point this time around. According to Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, the world has reached a turning point with the war in Ukraine that is comparable to the one on September 11, 2001. World power dynamics are transforming. On that particular September 11th, 21 years ago, we all stood bewildered in front of our boxy old televisions (flat screens were not around yet) and attempted to make sense of what was happening. We had never seen anything like this before. There were a few instances – such as the 1998 terror attacks against American foreign missions – but the collapse of the Twin Towers was completely unprecedented. What was al-Qaeda? Who was in it? What do we have to learn from this, here in the middle of Europe? This was the only topic in the newspapers the following day.


Most people were entirely clueless and completely taken aback – and not just in Hungary. There were Americans who, forgetting they were watching the news, thought the image of the World Trade Center ablaze was some kind of action movie – up until they stopped their workout.


This past weekend we commemorated the 21st anniversary. Many of our children have since grown up, started university, they may have never even experienced a pre-9/11 world. Full body scans at American airports are a given, if someone desires to travel there at all. The 9/11 “hero” George W. Bush is living the serene life of an affluent retiree in Texas while his former, more clever right-hand man, Dick Cheney also managed to stay out of the spotlight. Save for the recent film Vice that featured the unique coupling.

From their circle, Donald Rumsfeld – the architect of the war on terror – is no longer alive, but his comrades, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle are heading towards their late eighties. On the other end, public enemy number one behind the barricades of terror, Osama bin Laden was taken out by the Americans in 2011. His successor, Egyptian Ajman al-Zawahiri, recently faced the same fate as well. But in 2022, does this have any meaning? When barely three dozen remain from the hundreds of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, whom the Americans are eager to pass off to someone else’s hospitality sometime soon.

It is not enough. We are in a different world now. From an American perspective, the asymmetrical war – terrorist groups versus the state – has been replaced by tensions between states. Despite some of the worst nightmares, the Islamic State has proven far less effective than feared. Henry Kissinger, the nearly century-old doyen of American foreign policy, instead fears for the US being on the brink of war with Russia and China; he believes this should be worrying for the whole world as well. Moscow and Beijing held their demonstrative military exercises this past week at Vostok 2022 (East 2022). It is noteworthy that Kissinger believes America should always maintain a better relationship with these countries than they have with each other.

American resentment towards Moscow along with Western sanctions did not favor the latter strategy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February solved the mainstream US press’ dilemma of who to frame as the number one enemy of the world’s leading – albeit self-proclaimed – democracies.

For instance, the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post vacillated for years on whether the corrupt and aggressive Chinese should be their primary enemy – based on events in Hong Kong in 2019 – or the Russians. The dilemma was solved when Vladimir Putin – who is now staring down his fourth US president over the span of his 20-year rule – crossed every possible line, according to Washington. Yet Bush Jr got a look into Putin’s soul when they locked eyes. But who cares when millions of Americans are demanding their world-famous basketball star charged with drug abuse, Britney Griner, be saved from the “evil empire”?


Most likely, only the George W. Bush Presidential Library archivists would care. Yet it would also be an exaggeration to say the Americans are preoccupied with the world as their own country is burning. The 330 million-strong population is extremely divided, and according to over 40 percent of those interviewed, it is conceivable that a civil war will break out in the coming decade.


From time to time there are attacks from homegrown terrorists but nothing comparable to 9/11 has been repeated; Islamist terrorism has not been able to take root in the USA. To Washington’s credit, external terrorist threats were mitigated with strict entry and visa policies. In the decade since Bin Laden died, he has been replaced with a more clean-shaven public enemy number one in the mainstream American media: Putin. According to domestic media, Donald Trump was right alongside him, colluding. In fact, according to them, he will not be able to resist trying to take back the White House from Joe Biden in 2025. But Trump is currently under heavy fire: from the January 6, 2021 siege on the capitol (incitement) to the boxes he took home to Florida from the Oval Office (violation of state secrets). Too bad Trump looks like an older American and not an Arab terrorist… nothing is perfect.

But poor Biden! Among the survivors, he is the least fit for the task. Bush Jr was not much of an intellectual (but latent powers made sure to fill the void) nor a potent politician. America is facing a leadership crisis right now, right when its two main adversaries – according to their own foreign policy doctrines – are not in the least. Putin’s rule was not overturned by the Ukrainian war nor anyone else. Meanwhile, President and Party Secretary

General Xi Jinping is preparing for a surprising new shake-up in light of the usual Beijing performance coming in October. Will there be new kids on the block? Not exactly – in fact they are all around 70, but managing far better than Biden.


As the leading power of the West, America is waging a proxy war (on its own, but on a stage) in Ukraine by shipping weapons and providing material and communications support to its Eastern European protege. The sharpening conflict between the world’s leading powers are particularly contrasting on the occasion of Mihail Gorbachev’s funeral.


He was the last Soviet politician who reconciled with Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, allowing for Germany’s reunification and regime changes in Central and Eastern Europe. The world got out of the Cold War spiral during the glasnost period. But even in Gorbachev’s time, Arab terrorist attacks occurred such as in 1985 at Schwechat where actors Ervin Kibédi and Géza Molnár Szegedi were injured and the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed four Hungarians.

However, with time, history moved on and somehow gradually pushed these events along with September 11, 2001, into the backdrop.

Photo: American soldier with a tattoo of the Twin Towers of New York on his arm. Neither forgive nor forget (Photo: Getty Images)

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