How will 9/11 be remembered on its hundredth anniversary? Will it be seen as a dramatic but ultimately minor tragedy or as a turning point that altered the United States and the trajectory of world politics in fundamental ways? Will future generations see that day as a telling reflection of underlying trends, the catalyst for a series of catastrophic foreign-policy blunders, or as an isolated one-off event whose long-term impact was relatively modest?

It is impossible to predict exactly how 9/11 is going to be interpreted, of course; perhaps all we can say with confidence is that the meaning attached to it will vary depending on who is doing the interpreting. Americans will view 9/11 differently than Afghans, Iraqis, Saudis, or Europeans, and for many people around the world it is likely to be little more than a historical footnote. What looms large in our consciousness today is often irrelevant to others and especially once…

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