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Opinion: A Different World Four Years On

The catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina may have overshadowed the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, but there's no doubting the global impact from what happened that day.

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The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have dramatically altered the world

After September 11 nothing will be the same again -- that may be a cliché four years on after that horrible day in 2001.

But, of course, it is still true today as it was back then. Much did change -- far beyond the gruesome mass killings in New York and Washington, which the world followed on its television screens.

11 September Jahrestag in New York

September 11 -- leaving aside all the pathos by US President George Bush -- confronted the United States with harsh realities which had largely left the United States untouched.

Of course, terrorism wasn't invented on September 11, 2001. Cold-blooded murder of innocents had long become an instrument to push fanatical political ideas in some parts of the world.

But never before had a nation hit upon the idea of declaring "war against terrorism" as an official priority and in this context, even speak of a worldwide "war", as if one could fight terrorists with conventional methods.

Fighting a losing battle

Tanks, bombs and rockets aren't effective measures against fanatical underground fighters even though these weapons have managed to prevent Al Qaeda terrorists from establishing themselves more firmly as an institution in public.

Screenshot TV-Bild Ossama Bin Laden spricht wieder Al Jazeera TV

Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden

Those terrorists were once again driven underground, some of them are on the run -- but they aren't defeated as yet.

Instead, the United States has let itself be drawn into a battle which it can actually only lose. It's a losing battle because America in the process of fighting terror also strikes innocents. It also unwittingly panders to the clichés of an inconsiderate superpower on the one hand and plays into the hands of demagogues on the other.

It's always amazingly easy for the United States to find takers for the "clash of civilizations" scenario that its policies widely propagate.

Europeans can't afford to be smug

But it would be wrong to blame the United States alone for everything; there is no reason in Europe for smugness.

Terroranschlag in London Edgware Road Tube Station

The London bombings

The Spanish and British have already realized that when they paid dearly for the big terrorist attacks on their soil. Other European states, even if they're not participants in the US-led adventures, could face similar attacks. That's because the Europeans too have made it their goal to support the democratization of totalitarian around the world.

They thus risk clashing with some who believe that democracy is the fiendish work of the West.

Initial attempts at spreading democracy -- such as in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and now in Egypt -- are encouraging, but they're still too small and flawed to talk about changing the system. Besides, they too often serve to preserve the established forces.

Four years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the world is a different place.

But that's certainly no reason to be satisfied, for it hasn't become a better world. It's become more confused, more contradictory -- and even more dangerous.

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