Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks to the United States.

The September 11 events have kick-started the two decades of “war on terror.” Since then, like it or not, we have been living in an age in which contending with radical terrorist organizations was the No. 1 priority for the diplomatic and security policy of the U.S. and its allies.

The war was fought most intensely in the wider Middle East including Afghanistan. It also involved a global coalition of like-minded nations which took side with the U.S., with a varying degree of enthusiasm.

20 years are long enough to produce a generation of practitioners and scholars who are specialized in many aspects and phases of the war on terror, such as counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and nation building. They are Americans, Middle Easterners, and people from the U.S. allied states as well as from like-minded nations of the world.

They might have made a big reunion party or conference, if there were not for pandemic, in this occasion of 20 years anniversary to appreciate each other for their dedication and achievement in repulsing and containing the radical groups. They might also unite themselves together, to continue the path toward an endless fight against extremism, which now proliferate all corners of the world, East and West, and North and South.

Alas, the age of the war on terror was suddenly shut down. Mr. Biden showed his determination to call off the war on terror forcefully and once for all within his term in presidency. In his speeches after the haphazard withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan, he denied U.S. will and responsibility in conducting major parts of the war on terror, such as the counterinsurgency and nation building. It was a kind of “great reset” by Mr. Biden, ditching and throwing away the burdens which have been on their shoulder since the September 11, 2001.

The war on terror is no longer the top priority for the U.S., nor its allied nations. The new agenda and the new overall framework is the great power rivalry and confrontation between China and the U.S.

Nations are to be asked anew, more gently but determinedly, which side you are, either with us, or against us in this global rivalry.

New expertise is needed and will be provided by different corps of specialists on Chinese politics and policy, economic statecraft, and emerging technologies. 

Whither the experts on the war on terror who fought the previous war in the past two decades?

Old soldiers never die; They just fade away.

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