Journal of American History

Round Table

History and September 11

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the editors of the Journal of American History invited scholars with expertise on anti-Americanism, terrorism, the Middle East, fundamentalist religious movements, and foreign relations to write deliberative essays that put those events in historical perspective. They are presented in this special issue, “History and September 11.”

This special issue, “History and September 11,” is also available as a book. Tailored for classroom use with primarysource documents, an expanded introduction, and a new afterword essay, History and September 11th is available for purchase from Temple University Press. Details —>

History and September 11: An Introduction

By Joanne Meyerowitz (pp. 413–5) Read online >

In the Wake of September 11: The Clash of What?

Michael H. Hunt questions the historical analyses that undergird the “war on terrorism” sparked by the horrors of September 11. He warns against justifications for U.S. policy that rest on simple and self-congratulatory binaries—the battle of modernity and tradition or the defense of civilization against barbarism. Americans bring to the crisis a nationalism that is universalist, ahistorical, and inclined to simplify other cultures. An alternative, he suggests, is to recognize the hostility created by a half century of U.S. intervention in the Middle East and the yearning for domestic renovation that fuels Islamic politics. (pp. 416–25) Read online >

9/11, the Great Game, and the Vision Thing: The Need for (and Elements of) a More Comprehensive Bush Doctrine

The “great game” of imperial rivalry in the Middle East and Southwest Asia has fundamentally changed since September 11, 2001, Bruce R. Kuniholm contends. The zero-sum contest between great powers has been superseded by a clash of values that cuts across traditional boundaries and cultures. Relating the war on terrorism to earlier U.S. presidential doctrines concerning the region, Kuniholm calls for a broader definition of international interests and a shared, transnational vision of how to protect them. President George W. Bush should, he argues, make clear the elements of cooperation, underscore the costs of violating the new rules of the game, and address the political and economic realities that create support for terrorism in the region. (pp. 426–38) Read online >

A Cultural History of the War without End

Contrary to government proclamations, the U.S. “war on terrorism” did not begin on September 11, 2001. Instead, says Melani McAlister, we need to situate that conflict in a thirty-year-long history of American encounters with terrorism that included both policy making and popular culture. McAlister traces U.S. media and cultural responses to Israeli antiterrorist activities of the 1970s and the Iran hostage crisis of 1979–1980, placing them in the context of reactions to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. Linking popular culture, news accounts, and public understandings of events with policy making, McAlister explores the way narratives of public and political events are created. (pp. 439–55) Read online >

Rescuing Women and Children

As the United States was launching its effort to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Bush administration and the U.S. media focused on the need to rescue Afghan women and children from oppression. Emily S. Rosenberg draws on recent scholarship on gender and international relations to examine the competing “social imaginaries” animating such wartime calls for rescue. One imaginary takes shape within a tradition of male-coded nationalism and claims of Western superiority. Another arises in transnational networks working in culturally diverse ways to challenge the subordination of women. Although the two imaginaries may at times blur together, they coexist uneasily and point toward different futures. (pp. 456–65) Read online >

Notes on the cia ’s Secret War in Afghanistan

The 2001 campaign against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces constituted the second U.S. war in Afghanistan. John Prados asks what we can learn from the first: the Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to fund and equip an Islamic fundamentalist and tribal insurgency against a Communist government and occupying Russian forces in the 1980s. Distilling the declassified record and recent research, Prados explores the geopolitical concerns, ethnic divisions, methods of clandestine operation, and alliances with local leaders that shaped the conflict. The lessons are chastening—nations lose heart, allies become enemies, and weapons are turned against those who supplied them. He asks us to recall those lessons as the United States plans to expand its counterterror campaigns. (pp. 466–71) Read online >

A Short History of Anti-Americanism and Terrorism: The Turkish Case

What causes anti-Americanism and the terrorism sometimes associated with it? How can they be minimized? Nur Bilge Criss finds the history of U.S.-Turkish relations since the 1950s instructive. The two countries have long been allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato), and Turkey has a secular, democratic government. But U.S. affronts to Turkish sovereignty led military and civilian officials as well as leftist radicals to resist American influence. As Turkish politics polarized, some opponents turned to terrorism. To manage the gift and burden of power well and to enhance U.S. and global security, Criss argues, the United States should rein in the urge to unilateralism. (pp. 472–84) Read online >

Conjuring with Islam, II

How will we remember what happened on September 11, 2001? Many historians of American foreign policy, Bruce B. Lawrence predicts, will remember it as the real end of the Cold War, marked by the onset of a new, very hot war with Arab Muslim enemies. Lawrence argues that the Arab pilots who flew into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers were not motivated solely by religion: they protested U.S. political and military might and the attendant global economic disparities. To address the cause of that hatred and not just its violent expression, the war on terrorism must also be a war against poverty, injustice, and dictatorship. (pp. 485–97) Read online >

History in the Fundamentalist Imagination

R. Scott Appleby compares the ways contemporary radical religious movements in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have reconstructed the past to create distinctive world views. Such “fundamentalists” share a tortured construction of history that stresses a dispiriting record of humiliation, persecution, and exile of the true believers as a necessary prelude to God's decisive intervention and the final vanquishing of the apostates. To contextualize the historical vision of Muslim fundamentalists, Appleby explores the experience of the Islamic world in the twentieth century as it has been constructed and popularized by Sunni Muslim extremists such as Sayyid Qutb and one of his disciples, Osama bin Laden. (pp. 498–511) Read online >

Special Essay

Damming Afghanistan: Modernization in a Buffer State

President George W. Bush has pledged to “help Afghanistan develop an economy that can feed its people” so that it will never again threaten the United States. Wait, writes Nick Cullather, we did that once before. Strewn across the battlefield of Operation Enduring Freedom are the ruins of American development schemes undertaken during the 1950s and 1960s—airports, suburbs, schools, hospitals, and a massive dam project modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority. The United States practiced nation building for thirty years in Afghanistan, but the nation was crumbling even before the Soviet tanks rolled in. Cullather probes the resilient American faith in modernization—and the concomitant blindness to failure—that the Afghan episode reveals. (pp. 512–37) Read online >

For suggestions on how to use this article in the U.S. history classroom, see our “Teaching the JAH” Web project at

“Anti-Americanism” in the Arab World: An Interpretation of a Brief History

Ussama Makdisi historicizes the rise of anti-American sentiment in the Arab world by exploring Arab-American interactions over the past two centuries. He suggests that such sentiment is grounded, not in an epochal confrontation of civilizations, but in modern politics. Thus anti-Americanism is not ideologically consistent—its intensity, coherence, and evidence vary across the Arab world. Most Arab expressions of anti-American feeling stem less from blind hatred of the United States or American values than from profound ambivalence: the United States is at once admired for its affluence and technology (and by some for its secularism, law, and order) and resented for its contribution to a repressive Middle Eastern status quo. (pp. 538–57) Read online >

Review Essay

We Are the World: Internationalizing the National, Nationalizing the International

In his review of Rethinking American History in a Global Age, a collection of essays edited by Thomas Bender, Louis A. Pérez Jr. addresses the larger implications of current attempts to internationalize U.S. history. The desire to move beyond the analytical framework of the nation in order to grasp the complexity of the American experience is salutary. But Pérez cautions against assumptions that lurk within the internationalization project—the inevitability of globalization, the historical centrality and exceptionalism of the United States. In earlier guises such assumptions gave impetus to the more parochial and self-absorbed tendencies of the historical literature. (pp. 558–66) Read online >

Oral History

  • Introduction,
    by Michael Gordon and Lu Ann Jones (pp. 567–8) Read online >
  • “The September 11, 2001, Oral History Narrative and Memory Project: A First Report,”
    by Mary Marshall Clark (pp. 569–79) Read online >
  • “The Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project and Oral History in the National Park Service,”
    by J. Todd Moye (pp. 580–7) Read online >
  • “Oral History and the Study of Communities: Problems, Paradoxes, and Possibilities,”
    by Linda Shopes (pp. 588–98) Read online >

Book Reviews

Sept. 2002, Vol. 89 No. 2

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • Common-Place, by Stephen Railton (p. 735) Read online >
  • Making of America, by Tobias Higbie (p. 736) Read online >
  • California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849–1900, by William E. Brown Jr. (p. 737) Read online >
  • Digital Schomburg Images of African Americans from the Nineteenth Century, by Leslie Harris (p. 738) Read online >
  • Free Speech Movement Archives; and Free Speech Movement Digital Archive, by Jim O’Brien (pp. 738–9) Read online >
  • The American President, by Donald A. Ritchie (p. 740) Read online >

Editor’s Annual Report, 2001–2002

Letters to the Editor


Recent Scholarship

“Recent Scholarship” is available online, Read online >

thumbnail of cover

On the cover:

After the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, a group prays at the wall outside the Family Assistance Center at the Lexington Avenue armory, where families and colleagues had posted images of those they feared lost. In 1979–1980, the unprecedented takeover of a U.S. embassy and the suffering of American hostages in Iran made them national symbols. Similarly, in 2001, the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were immediately memorialized, even as loved ones held out hopes for their safety. Photograph by Bronston Jones. Courtesy Bronston Jones. See Melani McAlister, “A Cultural History of the War without End,” p. 439.

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