As we enter the second decade of this struggle, we have gotten out of the habit of calling it a global war. But it goes on, not limited to Afghanistan and Iraq. How will we know when it’s over—when we can pass through airport security with our shoes on, when closing Guantánamo is not unthinkable, when the extraordinary security measures embodied in the renewed Patriot Act might be allowed to lapse? If, as some have suggested, we’ve created a “surveillance state,” can we rely on it to tell us when its “sell by” date has arrived? On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it’s possible, at least, to hope that we’ll remember to ask such questions on the 20th.
Joseph Lelyveld, executive editor of the New York Times from 1994 to 2001, has written the Gandhi biography Great Soul.