9/11 marked a new phase after the Cold War
Nine-eleven had marked the culmination of a new reality in the uni-multipolar world led by the USA just as the fall of the erstwhile Soviet Union had marked the end of the Cold War era in 1991. The USA fought back, just as it had done after the German and Japanese attacks on it during the First and the Second World War, respectively, in 2011, put to rest the mastermind of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, on the soil of Pakistan. The death of bin Laden, just like the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago, concluded an era of threat to world peace.
The 9/11 phase ended in 2011 but new challenges emerged soon
But the USA soon discovered that the elimination of Laden did not give peace an everlasting chance. The worsening situation in the West Asian region in particular and in international politics in general in the past few months has reiterated that reality.
Today's challenges are tougher
From Washington's perspective today, 9/11 was perhaps a preliminary phase of the gradually worsening world situation. The rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and beheading of two American journalists named James Foley and Sotlof by their fighter, Russia's growing rigidity in the Ukraine region and al-Qaeda's spreading wings in the strategic South Asia region are bound to give Washington enough reason to worry. In 2001, George W Bush knew who was the enemy. In 2014, Barack Obama has little idea about the real threat.
Rise of IS has put US foreign policy under pressure
The situation is so critical that the Americans might even have to befriend the tyrant in Bashar al-Assad to fight the bigger evil, the IS. This is quite a tough situation for a president who was under pressure to attack the Syrian ruler a few months ago to protect the human rights of the latter's own men.
However, the US is in a corner over how to tackle the deadly IS. While its president said after the first beheading that Washington didn't have a strategy to deal with the outfit, he said the USA's goal is to destroy the IS after it beheaded the second American. It signified that the USA didn't really have a full-fledged strategy to deal with the IS in two different countries.
One opponent, two policies?
While the Americans commenced air strikes against the IS in Iraq after the Iraqi forces suffered reverses, they were yet to decide on how to proceed in Syria, even against the same opposition. This was a pathetic foreign policy exhibit by the world's only superpower. Can the US gain some ground by taking Iran, another of its foe in the region, in the fight against IS?
The US is also in a spot over the Ukraine crisis for although President Obama has vowed to defend the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) signatories in the region in the face of Russian aid to Ukrainian rebels, the fact that Ukraine is still not part of the alliance is a concern.
For if Ukraine enters Nato now, it can lead to a full-scale conflict between Russia and the West with serious repercussions being felt in Syria to whom Russia is a close ally. The US is under serious pressure today to ensure that it doesn't enter into another Cold War with Vladimir Putin. It will take a massive toll on the world economy, thanks to the importance of Russian gas.
The US was responsible for the rise of people like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain and later it had to undertake a tough mission to eliminate them. Washington can't overlook its responsibility in the rise of the IS either, particularly in Iraq, where a massive vacuum was created after its invasion in 2003. Will it have to face another 9/11 to rectify its foreign policy course?