|Twenty years later, a forlorn “United We Stand” still hangs in the Manhattan’s main bus terminal.|
When it comes to force more broadly, the U.S. military, intelligence services, and law enforcement will defeat the Islamists. So, ideas – not violence – offer a path for Islamists to advance their cause. There’s still occasional violence, to be sure, but it’s less important and less effective than the infiltration of institutions, what I call lawful Islamism.DC Insider: The aftermath of 9/11 led to many sorts of disagreements about who was responsible for the attacks, what led to the attacks, etc. Was it the beginning of the major rift between the Left and Right that we see today?
Pipes: Short-term, 9/11 brought Americans together. “United We Stand” was the slogan and, briefly, the reality. But then, profound disagreements over the causes and implications of the attack became paramount. Conservatives argued that the attacks came from extremists who hate Americans for ideological reasons, while liberals argued that U.S. foreign policy mistakes made the country partially or even fully to blame for what had happened.
This debate in some ways began the huge differences of opinion between Left and Right in the United States that obtain today, with so many issues over which the two sides disagree so profoundly that they cannot find common ground: abortion, guns, transsexuals, and so on. I’m not saying 9/11 caused that fissure but that it definitely contributed to this problem.
DC Insider: 9/11 inspired countless conspiracy theories. As the author of two books on conspiracy theories, do you find are any of them plausible?
Pipes: Actually, only one significant conspiracy theory exists: that the US government was behind the attacks on 9/11 as a way to justify fighting Islam and attacking Afghanistan. Some European polls found that a third of the population believed this, as did many Muslims. Plausible? No, 9/11 as an insider job is nonsense but important nonsense that has had a political impact.
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