It had become a cliché to say that “everything changed” after 911, but in many ways it was a transformational point in US history.
Americans got used to much stricter security measures at airports, the concrete barriers around the White House and other potentially vulnerable sites, color-coded threat levels, and the other attempted attacks on US targets – the “shoe bomber,” the “underwear bomber,” the failed or thwarted bomb attacks in New York, Portland, Oregon, and other locations.
The years since 911 also had seen the steady transformation of US armed forces away from the Cold War-era training, equipping, and disposition of military units to an increasing emphasis on counter insurgency (COIN). Coincidentally, the demise of Al Qaeda’s leader came just days after Obama had announced new leaders at the Pentagon and the CIA as well as the commander of US-led forces in Afghanistan.
Months and years will be spent detailing and learning the historical lessons of this period as they apply to US military and diplomatic approaches to threats around the world. His late Sunday statement may be seen as the most important of Obama’s first term as commander-in-chief.
Former president George Bush issued a statement of gratitude and congratulations. Analysts noted that it was exactly eight years to the day since Mr. Bush had given his “mission accomplished” speech aboard an aircraft carrier returning from the war in Iraq – words that turned out to have been more hopeful than accurate.