Ten Lessons Since the 9/11 Attacks

Ten Lessons Since the 9/11 Attacks

Which policies have worked and which ones need work ten years after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history? CFR experts examine ten issues that have preoccupied U.S. planners.

August 22, 2011 1:31 pm (EST)

Expert Roundup
CFR fellows and outside experts weigh in to provide a variety of perspectives on a foreign policy topic in the news.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington prompted the Bush administration to declare a "war on terror," launch two major military actions, and initiate a series of policy reforms and innovations across government. There has been no major attack on the United States in the ten years since 9/11. Ten CFR experts explore policy successes and missteps of the past decade and offer recommendations on the path ahead.

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Watch CFR experts share their perspectives on 9/11 in a new CFR video series.

Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Immigration Policy Needs Easing

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The tightening of U.S. border and immigration policy since the 9/11 attacks has been far too sweeping, turning away the kind of visitors who have strengthened the country.

Richard K. Betts

Intelligence Reform Is Working


The payoff of huge investments in security precautions mean better intelligence collection, surveillance, and other security infrastructure that combine to make the likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack today very slim.


Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy

Learning to Live with Insecurity


While we can contain terrorism, we can’t afford the costs of trying to eliminate it and will have to learn how to live with the chronic threat of low-level attacks.

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Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Why Terror Attacks Have Not Been Repeated


A near absence of terrorist incidents in the United States since 9/11 points to the success of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism measures that once stirred controversy but now have bipartisan acceptance.


Robert Danin, Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies

Improve Discourse in the Muslim World


While U.S. efforts to forge a better relationship with the Muslim world are important, it will also take leadership within that world to challenge the myths that lead to anger and disapproval toward the United States.

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Richard A. Falkenrath

A Safer, Yet Vulnerable, Homeland




U.S. homeland security is unquestionably safer a decade after 9/11 and will remain so if the country pursues a robust, yet proportional, counterterrorism effort abroad.


Michael A. Levi

Unfinished Nuclear Safeguards




The United States has made real strides against nuclear terrorism, but efforts to secure nuclear materials are incomplete and will require continued commitment.


Daniel S. Markey, Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

A Decade of Mistakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan


Initial U.S. successes in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9/11 masked deeper problems that have beset Washington’s effort to stabilize the "AfPak" theater.


Matthew C. Waxman

Detention-Policy Paralysis


Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of terror suspects have been detained since 9/11, has underscored the need for flexibility and careful balancing in detainee policy to confront twenty-first-century threats.


Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow

Beware the Rise of the Drones


Drones have become a cost-effective default tactic for dealing with potential terrorist threats since 9/11, but this policy could lead to drone strikes by other countries as well as pushback from targeted states.


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