Comment: A changed world since 9/11

The true dimensions of the threat posed by terrorism are yet to be absorbed.

Nineteen out of 20 people surveyed in the US remember precisely where they were or what they were doing when they heard about the attacks on September 11 five years ago. Fifty percent, AP reports, say the attacks affect the way they live their lives today. The US has approved $432 billion in spending on Iraq and the war against terrorism since 9/11. Over 40 million items have been confiscated since the Transportation Security Agency took over airport screening in the wake of the attacks. These are just a handful of post 9/11 figures - the full AP story appears on today's page 8 - that provide a statistical insight into a world muchchanged since the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people that day. Israel had been on the front line of the war against terror long before 9/11, and there is, bitterly, no one here who can say that terror does not affect the way they live their lives today. What sometimes seem staggering, from the Israeli point of view, is the degree to which, in other parts of the world, even with global spread of terror since 9/11, the true dimensions of the threat are yet to be absorbed. As a direct consequence of that failure to internalize, the free world has yet to muster the kind of coordinated, concerted strategy to defeat Islamic extremist terror that is, quite simply, crucial to all of our survival. As The Jerusalem Post editorializes today (page 13), with a wary eye on Iran, its sponsorship of terror, its declared ambitions to wipe out Israel and its insistent drive to nuclear power: "Prime Minister Tony Blair... and President George Bush are among the only world leaders even attempting to convince free nations that they must take concerted action to defend themselves. The fact that so acrimonious a debate still rages in the West over whether we are at war, who it is being fought against, and how to fight it, is itself perhaps the most telling marker of where we stand on the anniversary of this terrible event. "We are at a dangerous point in this war. The danger is that the West, having defeated lesser terrorist regimes, will allow the most belligerent of them all to obtain nuclear immunity and to undo much of the progress that has been achieved to date." Five years after 9/11, the war against terror has certainly been joined. As certainly, it is far from won.