Development & Aid, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, North America, Population

U.S.: Weighing in on “Generation 9/11”

Amanda Wilson and Rosemary D'Amour

WASHINGTON, Sep 8 2011 (IPS) - The 10 years since Sep. 11, 2001 have offered scholars, politicians and the Millennial Generation, a group who was entering adolescence at the turn of the century, fodder for contention about just what the changes of the last decade mean for the younger generation.

Some of these Millennials were on hand at a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress this week and weighed in on the shift in the U.S. social and legal framework that has defined the world – and the adulthood – they entered into.

“9/11 happened at such a formative stage in our lives that it’s hard to imagine what the world was like before it,” said Adam Serwer, a reporter for the nonprofit news organisation Mother Jones.

Some broad doctrinal shifts in both legal and social policy are worrisome to the emerging generation, said Alyssa Rosenberg, a blogger at ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, who witnessed the Sep. 11 attacks on cable television at her high school in Boston, Massachusetts.

Referring to post-9/11 moves in the United States in defence and social policy, she said, “I think America’s made its worst mistakes when it has assumed that we need to be a fundamentally different society to survive and to thrive.”

Legal scholars argue that a number of broad shifts, both social and legal, have characterised the 10 years in the U.S. since the attacks of Sep. 11 – the same decade the so-called Millennial Generation came of age.

Millennial Generation often refers to those with a birth date between 1982 and the mid-1990s, whose passage into young adulthood coincides with a massive leap in accessibility to new technologies.

Looking back at the last decade, scholars point to definitive changes in U.S. citizens’ relationship to their personal information – and how protected it is – and, whether they realise it or not, their relationship to the larger world from the perspective of international law.

The observations paint a picture of a world in which Millennials in the U.S. are sharing more information through networks that connect them to the entire world, yet in some ways are less protected and more isolated than they were 10 years ago.

Some scholars say that while U.S. citizens’ personal information may be less protected, they are also more isolated because of a broad shift away from integration into the framework of international law.

Legal scholars and civil society activists discussed doctrinal shifts in the 10 years since Sep. 11, 2001 at a meeting of the American Constitution Society (ACS) held early this month.

“9/11 happened right when technology was taking a big leap,” said Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel and director of the Project on Freedom, Security and Technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Nojeim said that with the rise in the use of new technologies, the amount of record-keeping and storage of personal data by third parties – often private companies – managing cloud computing, social networking, and mobile location storage related to cellular telephone use, also rose.

The shift of personal communication toward technologies that enjoy less protection coincided with another shift, according to a lawyer who also spoke at the ACS forum: a U.S. shift away from integration into international legal frameworks.

Richard Klingler, an attorney and former general counsel on the National Security Council, said U.S. policy is now less open to international law than it was 10 years ago.

The power to pursue an international course, he said, has rested with Congress, which he said has so far “not pursued an internationalist path” but instead tended to favour state law over international law unless the president explicitly stated otherwise.

Klingler pointed to U.S. opposition to the Kyoto Protocol to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and said the U.S. had not embraced the International Criminal Court (ICC) or engaged the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Neither had the Law of the Sea Treaty, Klingler pointed out, moved forward in the last 10 years.

“This decade’s retreat from international law and processes,” Klinger said, has created a new norm where U.S. policy toward international legal projects has become “a highly contested partisan issue”.

“The momentum of engagement in a transnational project has ceased or even moved backward,” he said.

Although this period may have been marked by a lack of U.S. participation in international law and cooperation, after the attacks, the U.S. ramped up its military engagement in the Middle East through wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The controversy surrounding not only the evidence but motivations for entering into conflicts throughout the world is perhaps indicative of a shift in the U.S. psyche following Sep. 11, Serwer said this week.

“We felt like something needed to be done,” Serwer said, referring to the war in Iraq.

But, while public support for the war was strong at the time, he said, he questioned whether it might have been reactionary. “It’s extremely difficult to make a good and informed decision when you’re scared out of your mind.”

The Millennial Generation’s attempts to reconcile the decisions of their elders with their own experiences of the world weigh heavily on their actions, panelists at the Center for American Progress said.

Serwer said, “It’s really important on some level to reduce that footprint, and make sure that the West’s relationship with the Muslim world is not defined at the point of a gun.”

Republish | | Print |