When Wilson School professor Stanley Katz remembers 9/11, his first thoughts are not of Sept. 11, 2001, but rather of the walk to his office in Robertson Hall the very next day. That his workplace and the now-demolished World Trade Center at the base of Manhattan Island had been designed by the same architect — Minoru Yamasaki — had never, before the morning of Sept. 12, stood out in such high relief to Katz, who began to notice eerie similarities between the buildings.
"When I walked up the stairway, I noticed the design of the balustrade [in Robertson Hall] was the same as the pillars of the World Trade Center," Katz said. "I got to my office ... the windows were identical to the windows through which people jumped on Sept. 11. It took me a good long time to adjust to that."
A decade later, the more immediate and unsettling scars of 9/11 have quieted. But scholars at the University emphasized that the effects of that September morning continue to permeate national security, foreign relations, leadership and even academia many years after the fact. In the eyes of University academics, the ramifications of 9/11 are no less real and profound today than they were 10 years ago — within the University, across the United States and around the world.
An eye on security
Many University professors said they felt that the aftermath of 9/11 has manifested itself most prominently in the area of security, on both the national and individual levels.
"We can no longer feel immune from foreign attack," Near Eastern Studies professor Michael Reynolds GS '03 said — and he added that it is remarkable that the United States has not yet experienced another similar assault.
"I think the efforts put forth by our military and intelligence agencies deserve credit," he said, "even if aspects of our response have been reprehensible."
Wilson School professor Daniel Kurtzer also noted that 9/11 sparked a heightened public awareness of terrorist threats. "Wherever you go now, it's on people's minds," he said. He added the impacts of 9/11 were clearly visible "almost from the first minute," through the stringent security measures taken in airports and elsewhere to ensure citizen security.
"I think it's dawned on people ... [that] there are a lot of people who are going to take up terrorism and terrorist tactics and inflict pain, almost no matter what you do," Kurtzer said.
Reynolds noted that the inevitability of some level of terrorism is especially true in a country that takes a position as prominent in world affairs as that of the United States.
"Whether we like to admit it or not, we have taken on the role of the world's policeman," he said. "We should not be surprised to discover that others resent and even hate us — yet somehow, we are. We want to play a dominant role in world affairs and also expect everyone to like us."
But while many scholars expressed satisfaction with the stronger homeland security infrastructure and higher threat awareness that exist today, some said they felt 9/11 catalyzed some less pleasant outcomes — most notably an unnecessary paranoia and unhealthy public opinions towards Muslims and the Islamic world.
"The truth is ... when have you seen a positive portrayal of a Muslim American in the American media?" politics professor Amaney Jamal said. "All of this hysteria that Muslims are an unwanted entity in this country and that it is your national patriotic duty to mobilize against them ... it's needing to have an enemy, needing to assert some patriotism against unwanted individuals. That, for me, has been very disappointing."
Such attitudes have given rise to some of the most significant mistakes the country has made since 9/11, according to Katz. He explained that heaping the blame on particular populations generated destructive religious and ethnic feelings that have quickly become genuine problems in U.S. policy.
"It was a way in which Americans — too many Americans — were convinced that our very existence was in peril," Katz said. "And that any kind of act, no matter how extreme, might be justified in order to protect our own national interest, leading to a kind of self absorption and radically self-interested behavior that I think is terribly bad for us and for the world."
For Wilson School professor Douglas Massey, the extreme caution that resulted from 9/11 has meant a stronger anti-immigrant culture in the United States. This development has made life significantly more difficult for noncitizens in the country, including permanent resident aliens, those on student visas and illegal immigrants, he said.
"There's a lot of repressive force being brought to bear on these people and their families," Massey said, noting that the situation has led to the United States missing out on an influx of talented foreign students and human capital.
But Jamal acknowledged that the balance between security and diplomacy is a challenging one for the country to maneuver.
"It's in our interest to make sure the U.S. remains extremely protective so that this never happens again," she said. "So do we engage the Muslim world, or do we fight the Muslim world? I'm very much for the security of the U.S., but I'm also a huge advocate that diplomacy can accomplish things that bombs and wars cannot accomplish."
The Princeton connection
Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter '80 understands 9/11 as a day that turned America's understanding of its place in the world on its heels. Looking back on the decade after 9/11, and considering in particular the terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Bali and Mumbai that happened in that time, may help show the United States that its experiences were shared by others around the world and were not unique events, she explained in an email.
"9/11 connected all Americans fundamentally and inextricably to conditions and events in remote villages in countries halfway around the world," she said, adding that the event also demonstrated "the dark side of globalization," which had previously been seen only in positive terms.
Students at the University seem eager to understand these connections, professors said, with enrollment in Arabic language classes and courses on the Middle East increasing dramatically over the last 10 years. Fall enrollment in Arabic language classes up to the 400 level has swelled by a factor of 14 since the year 2000, according to the Near Eastern studies department. The number of undergraduate concentrators in the department is also rising, with 12 students graduating with an A.B. in Near Eastern studies in 2011, compared to just two in 2001.
"Among the student body there has been a much greater aptitude for ... trying to figure out what was going on and trying to appreciate the dynamics and circumstances," Jamal said. "A lot of people are preparing themselves for jobs in intelligence. It's really refreshing to see this."
But professors noted that, even with the heightened interest among University students in issues pertaining to the Middle East and U.S. foreign relations that 9/11 might have stimulated, the event also brought about robust complications — mostly pertaining to the economy — that will be challenging for young people to overcome. Two wars and a lack of fiscal restraint in matters of taxation, for example, resulted in a "wild spending spree," to the detriment of a secure future for students, professor of journalism Evan Thomas said in an email.
"Now we have to pay for our profligacy," Thomas explained. "Princeton students will face a bleaker economic future and a tougher time finding jobs."
Wilson School professor Uwe Reinhardt agreed, noting that the post-9/11 America has verbally demonstrated great patriotic zeal but has done little to actively engage in improving the country.
"Much patriotic babble, but we supported the war by giving ourselves huge tax cuts on the tab, letting you young ones cope with the debt," he said in an email. "And only a few brave ones fought and fought and fought again. Call me a cynic, but that's how America came across to me."
Jamal remains optimistic, however, explaining that her students' investment in learning about foreign relations and the knowledge that results from it will serve them well in a future of service for America.
"We need smart people to be working for the country," she said. "And there's a demand for it, by the way."