9/11: How it Has Changed Our Thinking
A Panel Discussion
September 7, 2011
The Brandeis community marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a memorial, a community gathering, a vigil and a discussion of what those events and the ensuing years have meant to us as individuals, and as a community. The Center hosted "9/11: How it Has Changed Our Thinking" as part of the week of related programming.
The discussion featured a panel comprised of Kanan Makiya, an award-winning author and influential commentator on the Arab world; Daniel Kryder, associate professor of politics and a Fulbright Scholar; Isabella Jean, MA ’06, an international peacebuilding and development consultant; and Michael Perloff '12, an Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Fellow.
Daniel Terris, director of the Ethics Center and Brandeis’ vice president for global affairs, moderated the wide-ranging discussion. The panelists shared their thoughts on the events of 9/11 and the repercussions, with a particular focus on their areas of expertise and experience.
Perloff shared his perspective as someone who – like many in the audience – was still a child on that day 10 years ago.
“My life as a citizen of America has certainly been changed, and the public way of life that I experience is very much shaped by 9/11. But as a thinker, as a student, as an individual, I don’t think that 9/11 has played that dominant a role in defining who I am,” he reflected. “I was 11 when the event happened. Many in the audience here were 12 years old, maybe younger than that….
"On the one hand, we were all old enough to recognize that there was something distinct happening beyond just adults acting strangely," he said. "On the other hand, I couldn’t emotionally process the event. Similarly, we were there for the consequences… of 9/11 as they happened … but we couldn’t fully understand their significance, we didn’t have the kind of context of studying the American presidency or coexistence work or the Middle East [as did the fellow panelists]. And so to a large extent we were both insiders of this event, but also outsiders to it, who had so much of our response to it transmitted to us from other people.”
“I think we are losing the distinction between war and peace,” said Makiya, who is the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and author of “Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World” and “The Rock: A Seventh-Century Tale of Jerusalem,” “and that’s a very scary thing. The clarity that previously existed helped us as human beings or civilization in general develop things like rules of war and the Geneva Conventions. Once the line is blurred, those categories also fall apart. We’ve seen things like Guantanamo, things like Abu Ghraib, develop as a consequence.”
Asked by Terris to reflect on the concept of peace we share now as compared to how we thought of it a decade ago, Jean responded that she sees the pursuit of peace “as a very different enterprise. It involves a number of actors, and there’s more and more recognition of the need to really listen and understand what the domestic actors in these societies that have seen war and conflict and terrorism for years – a lot longer than the United States, and a lot more of it – actually do understand as peace, and what they define as sustainable, lasting change in their societies.”
“I think the biggest effect that one can find in terms of American national politics is additional presidential discretion, additional presidential detachment from the Constitution and from Congress,” suggested Kryder, a professor of politics and a scholar of the American presidency. But, he went on to say, “that is something that has been developing for decades.”