9/11 was not the way the 21St Century was meant to be. A long time ago, back when the world was young and telephones were rotary, the hopeful view of the current century involved cities on the moon, flying cars, and technological marvels. The less than hopeful view featured nuclear or some other kind of destruction or a variation of dystopia, such as depicted in the films “Blade Runner” or “Soylent Green.” Instead we got the long, grinding war against militant Muslims who believe their god demands that we all die or submit to Islam.

Could 9/11 have been prevented?

In hindsight, after regarding a disaster of a few terrorists using asymmetrical warfare to hurt a superpower, one can always imagine Wiser policy forestalling it. The Clinton-era policy of erecting a wall between intelligence gathering and law enforcement certainly contributed to 9/11. Clinton also passed up an opportunity to take out Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s out of unbecoming timidity. What if Clinton (or some other president) had been more proactive in tamping down the then nascent threat of Al Qaeda? Could 9/11 and then subsequent long war against militant Islamic terrorists have been avoided?

The world without 9/11

Let us suppose that September 10, 2001, had passed just like any other day.

3,000 or so people who went to work or took an airliner flight got to see the dusk and return to their families. Smart intelligence work and proactive covert action keep the terrorists at bay. No mass casualty attacks blight the subsequent 17 years of history.

Besides the thousands upon thousands of people who would be alive and unmaimed, an enormous amount of treasure would not have been expended in little wars in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and so on.

The money would either be spent on other concerns or not spent at all. The national debt would be far lower. The world would be more prosperous and less fearful.

Of course, imagining the world without 9/11 is like imagining the world without World War II or without the Cold War. One can imagine the good things to come out of such a circumstance, but would the butterfly effect have created other, perhaps worse disasters?

Rogue states with nuclear weapons and countries like Russia and China with imperial ambitions would remain threats.

Still, in some alternate universe, the World Trade Center still stands, Afghanistan is just another country many people find difficult to locate on a map, and perhaps American politics will be just a little saner. One can only imagine that the world without 9/11 is a better one.