USSC CEO Dr Michael Green was working for the White House National Security Council during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He describes the chaos of the evacuation and the significant changes for US alliances with Australia and others across the globe in the wake of the attack.
What was the atmosphere in the White House when they heard the news? What changed after 9/11? What did this mean for US alliances then and now?
Dr Green shares his inside perspective and reflections on how this has changed the Australia-US alliance, 22 years on.
Read the reflections from President George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard 20 years after 9/11 in their contributions to The Alliance at 70 here.
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Dr Michael Green: She was ordered to stop the plane from coming to the White House and I asked her, what were you going to do? And she said, I had no ammunition. There were no missiles or bullets on the plane. She said she was going to try to take off the rudder to hit the plane and then bail out. And she and her wingman were prepared to do that.
Mari Koeck: You're listening to the Briefing Room, a podcast from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, where we give you a seat at the table for a briefing on the latest developments in US news and foreign policy. We'll cover what you need to know and what's beneath the surface of the news. Hi, I'm Mari Koeck, Director of Engagement and Impact at the USSC. Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we're recording on today. The University of Sydney is located on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and future. Today we're talking to USSC CEO Dr Michael Green. Dr Green was working for the White House National Security Council when 9/11 happened. We're going to get his insider's perspective on what it was like in the White House on September 11th, 2001, Australia's role in the response and what the ongoing impacts are on the US-Australia alliance.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on September 11th where multiple planes were hijacked and flew into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon and one flight crashed in a field on its way to another site. The event was a real turning point for the US-Australia alliance, and the US Studies Centre has a chapter on it in our book, The Alliance at 70, which includes letters from President George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard. Now, at the end of the episode, we're going to get a by the numbers stat related 9/11. Are you good to go on that Mike?
Dr Michael Green: Yes, I will be by the end of the podcast.
Mari Koeck: Okay. It sounds good. Looking forward to it. So, I guess just to start off, could you set the scene for us a bit? Where were you and what were you doing on September 11th, 2001?
Dr Michael Green: So I was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the time. It was called the Old Executive Office Building. It's the federation period, large building attached to the White House where many staff work. At the time I was on the National Security Council staff. I had joined in April of 2001 with the new administration, and I was in charge of allies and, principally that day, working on Japan, had a delegation from the Japanese Prime Minister's office in my office. We were talking about US bases in Okinawa and very technical issues we were trying to resolve with Japan. And the TV was on and the conference room next door. And one of our staff came in and said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. And of course, like most Americans, most people around the world, we assumed it was an accident and continued meeting. And then I remember hearing a colleague say, “Oh my God.” And when the as soon as we saw that a second plane hit, we knew it was not an accident, but chaos. We were evacuated from the White House. It was a beautiful day, almost eerily beautiful September day, clear skies, perfect weather.
Mari Koeck: Well, I mean, that's just sobering. And I think, yeah, like so many people, when the second plane hit, that was a moment where it just kind of snaps and you realise this is an entirely different thing. And what like what was the level of threat or concern you felt, you know, being in Washington, DC, when this was happening? Because those planes hit in New York and you evacuated, but were you feeling a real sense of immediate concern, or did it still feel somewhat distant?
Dr Michael Green: Immediately after we saw the attack, I did not feel under threat in the White House. We were then evacuated. And in retrospect, it's somewhat shocking how unprepared we were. The intercoms didn't work. We had to be evacuated by uniformed Secret Service personnel running down the halls saying, “Get out.” We went out to the area on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in the Old Executive Office Building. And there was a huge throng of people just sitting there. We had not been, frankly, trained on where to rally in an evacuation at that point. As a new administration then, and there's just so much work to do. So busy just on the day-to-day work of foreign policy, defence, domestic policy. We never really been drilled or trained, so we stood around in a huge huddle outside. I remember we heard this roar of fighter jets going overhead. Um, two F-16s from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. And by that time, it was pretty clear that it was a terrorist attack. When the F-16s flew overhead, gosh, I would guess less than 2000ft, they felt like they were very close. The people who did not work on national security kind of panicked. But the people who did, particularly military officers, said, no, those were ours. I later met one of the pilots. Um, she was a captain on standby at Andrews Air Force Base.
The order came down to immediately take off. Two F-16 fighters took off to intercept one of the planes that had not responded and was still in the air that they assumed was heading for the White House. Um, she was ordered to stop the plane from coming to the White House, and I asked her, what were you going to do? And she said I had no ammunition. There were no missiles or bullets on the plane. She said she was going to try to take off the rudder to hit the plane and then bail out. And she and her wingman were prepared to do that. But, of course, as we know from history, that fourth plane never got to the White House because the passengers, somewhere over Pennsylvania, found out what happened from cell phone conversations with their wives and friends and tried to stop the plane. And, of course, it went down in a in a field of Pennsylvania. I think about that a lot, because it's pretty clear now that it was it was trying to head for the White House. So yeah, it was a bit of chaos, and it was surreal. And some people my boss evacuated into a part of the White House that was secure. But almost everybody left the White House or the Executive Office Building to the street. We were told not to go back inside.
We were told to get to our offices or homes and work from there. So, my dad was a lawyer and went to his office, probably a 15-20-minute walk from the White House and used his office for a while to do my job. Basically, we were getting calls from the Australian, Japanese, Korean embassies trying to account for missing people. Of course, it was by then obvious that the towers had fallen. I remember seeing them in my dad's office on TV. It's hard to describe every American or everyone in the world seen it, the gut-wrenching feeling. But it's sort of one of those iconic pictures now, like the Arizona at Pearl Harbor or something like that. But when you're seeing it for the first time in real time, just like a sucker punch and eventually went to my parents’ apartment, which was a little further away and just worked from there through the night. Again, I was in charge of allies. So was basically trying to get an accounting for people where their people were, which of course, is very hard to do from the White House, let alone my parents’ apartment. But one call particular was very, very powerful. I got a call from, The Situation Room in the White House with a message to me from my boss saying the prime ministers of Britain and Australia have told President Bush was that evening, early that evening, as I recall, Blair and John Howard had told President Bush they were going to invoke the Anzac Treaty and NATO Treaty because the United States has been attacked. And for those of us, who was an expert on treaties and alliances, I've done my dissertation on it, we never thought about Britain or Australia or US allies coming to the United States defence. We always assumed these treaty commitments, even though they were mutual treaties, were for us to come to the defence of Western Europe or Japan or Australia or Korea. And so it was a historic moment, of course, but it was a powerful, powerful, moving moment as well. We were scared. We were angry. We didn't know what was going to happen. And here, two allies. Very quickly said, we're going to go our parliaments and we're going to get our cabinets and we're going to move forward with invoking the security treaties because you're under attack. And it had an electric effect on everyone, particularly the next particularly early the next morning when we all went back in very early and everyone was talking about how much that we weren't alone, that we weren't alone. And that's a very, very powerful moment.
And the interesting thing also was I was instructed to call the Japanese ambassador. I actually got through to his political minister, couldn't reach him to tell them that two of our allies were going to invoke our mutual security treaties. And the treaty with Japan doesn't have a mutual defence pact that Japan does not commit to defend the US. It's unlike the Australia or New York treaties. The US committed our treaty in 1960, revised our treaty with Japan that we would defend Japan. And I was told to tell the Japanese Government that to get them thinking. And it went right to Prime Minister Koizumi within about two hours. And he later backed the Japanese constitution as much as he could to support the US, realising that Japan needed the US to win in this struggle, whatever it ended up being. So not only did the John Howard decision and Blair decision electrify it, support President Bush and the White House staff and the whole country. It got other countries like Japan thinking we've got to step up to a huge impact on Japan and subsequent debate about the Constitution and Japan's role in the world. So decisive leadership for John Howard that anyone who is in the White House on that day, especially President Bush, will never forget. Very, very powerful moment.
Mari Koeck: Yeah. I mean, I just think, you know, the symbolism is quite significant. I mean, John Howard was in America at the time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, but it had never been invoked. And most people's assumption was that, if anything, Australia might ask the US to come to their aid, but that the tables were turned and there was such a quick fast response. I mean, it sounds like that really had I think you used the word electric, but that kind of effect where there was this instant sense of energy and momentum, and a lot comes with that.
Dr Michael Green: Yeah, I'm sure for Prime Minister Howard and I should have mentioned, of course, he was in the United States, he was in Washington, which was also attacked. The White House in the end wasn't attacked, but depending on was and you could see the smoke. And so having just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the alliance and all its historic importance and then have this unprecedented attack happen while you're in Washington, where you can see the smoke rising over the Pentagon. Not sure the next day if there would be more attacks on the White House or State Department or on malls or God knew where. And in that incredibly powerful moment, John Howard, really, it must have been, I assume any Australian prime minister would have done what he did, but it was so decisive. I think it's what the kind of leader John Howard is, but also must have been very, very powerful, actually be there and see what it meant and how urgent it was to offer support.
Mari Koeck: And do you think that 9/11 was a turning point for the US-Australia alliance? I mean, clearly it was the first time that the ANZUS Treaty was invoked. But were there any other significant changes or was it a milestone in any way?
Dr Michael Green: It was a very important turning point, but to be honest, it was not the turning point that we thought it was going to be for the rest of 2001 and 2002. I remember, you know, we put out the regular White House national security strategy the next year, and it was all on 9/11, what that meant. And a lot of us, including, you know, pretty serious, international relations scholars like Condi Rice and others assumed that this was a new world and that as we put the national security strategy, alliances would be important. But also relations with countries like China and Russia would be transformed because we faced a common threat from terrorism. So, in retrospect, we were right about the alliances. We were wrong about the relations among the major powers, because while there was a very fleeting moment of common purpose with China and even Russia, it did not last. Geopolitics, as we traditionally think of them, won out and the transnational threat from terrorism, let alone the other transnational threats such as the pandemic or of course, climate change didn't really change a lot of the fundamentals of geopolitics and great power rivalries that we've seen since Thucydides. But the alliance, I think, and all the major alliances did transform, you know, in a number of ways. So the US alliance with Australia or alliance with Japan or NATO in the 90s for the previous decade plus with the collapse of the Soviet Union was not focused. What was the threat we were dealing with? What was the challenge? We had a vague sense China's growing power was going to be a question mark we had to keep an eye on. In 2001, Putin was not an admirable character, but he hadn't invaded, you know, Georgia or Ukraine. North Korea was a rogue state. You know, we knew they were trying to develop nuclear weapons. They didn't have them yet. We were worried about Iran. So there was a sense that the threats from actors like North Korea or Iran, the threat from climate change or what would be the pandemic came later, but the threat from terrorism certainly would allow us to manage great power relations, we were wrong about that. But the alliances were transformed by the 9/11 attack because that threat of terrorism to allies was very, very real. Of course, Australia lost a lot of people in the Bali bombings. I remember before 9/11 I got almost no reports on my desk about terrorism. But after 9/11, we had, as you can imagine, regular, thick, detailed threat briefs with a matrix showing where my countries allies in the Indo Pacific were and it was lighting up every day. There were threats to Singapore, to Japan, to Australia, to Australians and Indonesia, of course, to Indonesia. And that terrorism threat really forced a much deeper intelligence relationship. With Japan, it transformed Japan's intelligence services and intelligence relationship with the US. It built a new relationship with their research and analysis wing, the RAW and in India. It deepened an already very strong Five Eyes intelligence sharing relationship with Australia and Britain and others. But it really deepened it because now the Australian Federal Police and security services and intel experts were working with the FBI, CIA, US State Department to help the Indonesian authorities roll up Jemaah Islamiyah and terrorist cells in Indonesia, working with the Singaporeans. So it created a real deepening of our intelligence relationships instantly. And then with Afghanistan and Iraq, it led to, you know, very high end, significant operational deployments together. And so it really brought the alliances up to a whole new level they hadn't been in. And the alliance has stood the test, the alliances on an operational level and on the intelligence level did very, very well. On the other hand, it tested alliances because after the initial support for the US with the Iraq war by, you know, 200-, certainly 2003, but especially 2004 and five, when there were no weapons of mass destruction found, when the fighting in Fallujah became brutal and very, very ugly and difficult, the public support for the alliance in Australia and in Europe, a little less so Japan, in Korea, it had a profound effect. There was a real backlash, and it was generational. In Australia, Korea and Europe, it was people in their 20s largely. Japan was a bit different and there were protests and there were polls that showed support for the alliance, which had been very, very high, was shaken, especially among a younger generation. Of course, that's probably why the US Studies Centre was established after John Howard talked to George W. Bush around 2005 and pointed out some of these new polling numbers that the concerns and the desire to set up an institute and a centre and a think tank that would give a comprehensive look at the alliance, study the US. A lot of the criticism of the US was fair, but a lot of it was very superficial. American Studies was not really a thing in Australia at that point, not really – a few pockets of academia. So, to really study what the US meant for Australia, but also as a think tank to look at challenges that would emerge in the future the way terrorism did. And so our own origin story is intertwined with 9/11 at the US Studies Centre.
You know. Today, support for the alliance is robust, as our polls show. As Lowy Institute's polls show, Gallup and Pew everywhere really in Japan and Korea, Australia and Canada, it's very, very high because of Ukraine and the Russian threat and because of China's challenge to the to the region. But what's interesting in our polls is you can still see the scars from Iraq, which, of course, was after 9/11. But in our surveys, people in their 30s now or in their late 30s, early 40s, you know, still are less relatively less supportive of the alliance than people in their 40s and 50s or people in their 20s. So that generation that would have been in university in Australia, not in 2001 where there was great outpouring of support for us, but in 2004, especially and five, still in the polls, that cohort is less supportive of the alliance and AUKUS than people younger and older than them. So it was, the alliances came out of the entire 9/11 era Afghanistan and Iraq experience stronger, more, more interdependent, interoperable, trusting on intelligence and development of things like AUKUS and capabilities, and on diplomacy more supported today than ever before. But the scar tissue is also pretty clear when you look at the polls.
But then it's interesting now when you fast forward to 2015 and then Trump was on the stage, not that Australians were massively supportive of Trump, but the level of interest and intrigue and people asking questions about the United States. People were constantly asking me as an American or other people just, “Oh, can you explain this?” And you become someone who's always trying to explain America to people. And I feel like the level of interest we see in a number of things, the level of interest in America continues to surge and grow. But I guess there's a great opportunity there for bringing understanding to things that maybe people don't fully understand.
Dr Michael Green: I think almost all Australians appreciate how significant America is for Australia in everything from culture to security to economics, to war and peace mean everything, you know? Yeah, the Trump years were probably entertainment, frankly. I think the fascination. But the but the early 2000s, I think what happened with Iraq was that there was a straight line, of course, from 9/11 to the Iraq war. And the straight line was and look, after 9/11, we were being told by the intelligence services, as we're, I'm sure Australia and other governments, this was the beginning of a wave of attacks. We were getting very credible threat matrices that showed planning for attacks everywhere Australia, Japan, Singapore. As I said, we knew that by then that 9/11 had been planned by terrorists under Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are protected by the Taliban and Afghanistan. There was no question that the US was going to go after them and the Taliban was given an opportunity to actually turn over or get out of the way so that the US could deal with al Qaeda and chose not to. And that's why the Afghanistan invasion happened. The intelligence on Iraq was wrong. And the intelligence community in the US and Australia and Britain have all acknowledged the mistakes they made, the analytical mistakes, the assumptions they got wrong.
I think what people have lost or could not have really understood was how desperately frightened government officials and politicians in charge were that there would be more 9/11s on their watch and they'd be responsible for it. And so that really drove the intelligence assessments and drove analytical assumptions and connecting of dots that proved to be wrong because nobody wanted to be told after 9/11, “you missed it”. And so the evidence pointing to Iraq was on WMD, but also on al-Qaida was flawed. And there were some people in the US intelligence community and elsewhere pointing that out. But people kind of forget how close that was to 9/11 and how nobody as a moral, not just bureaucratic, it was a moral thing, wanted it to be said that they did not do what they could to stop another 9/11, potentially with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. And you see some post-mortems where people point this out, point out the mistakes, try to learn from them. But an awful lot of the narrative is also just plain wrong. Like the US went into Iraq for oil or to democratise the Middle East. And it's very hard to break those narratives, in part because, frankly, when the intelligence was proven wrong, there was no narrative. There wasn't a whole lot that, you know, the governments could say. And that vacuum was filled by counter narratives that really fuelled anti-Americanism.
But that has now been replaced, frankly, by the urgency of the challenges we face today. And they're pretty serious. And polls show that most Australians recognise you cannot deal with the challenges, particularly from China right now, without a strong alliance with the US. It's pretty, pretty broadly accepted. You don't see Labor Party politicians doing what Mark Latham did in 2004 and running against the US because of just sort of the enormity of the challenges facing Australia, facing Japan, facing Korea and NATO and the possibility of dealing with them without the US. And the flip side, of course, we found in our polling at the Studies Centre, which is Americans now recognise they can't deal with the world without allies. Support for allies is up, but also the number of Americans, as you know, in our polls, the number of Americans who say we need allies to keep us safe is jumping, skyrocketing. And that's where we are. But there's scar tissue for sure from Iraq and 9/11. There was a straight line from 9/11 because of the things I said.
Mari Koeck: And we've only kind of just passed the two-year anniversary of when American troops left Afghanistan. You know, that many years later. You've touched on this a little bit, but what would you say is the legacy of 9/11 and the war on terror and what stuff is kind of like fallen by the wayside or have been left behind?
Dr Michael Green: Well, the alliances are stronger because the US came under attack and our allies stepped up. And support for alliances in the US grew after 9/11. It's been a secular upward trend, and that's huge. And that's really important for the world we face today. So I, I feel that alliances despite the scar tissue mentioned, despite protests and difficulties 15 years ago or so, are much stronger today. And part of that is 9/11. Is, is I mean, obviously Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinas coercion against its neighbours, fuel support for the alliances. But 9/11 US came under attack, allies stepped up and the alliances are stronger now because we got through that moment. The Iraq and Afghanistan legacies, there's a straight line from 9/11. Of course, there was an Iraq problem and an Afghanistan problem before 9/11. It is an open question whether the sanctions regime and the isolation of Saddam Hussein was sustainable. He was breaking out, provoking neighbours even before 9/11. But the US would not have done 14 Security Council resolutions, formed a coalition, gone into Iraq, if 9/11 hadn't happened. For the reasons I said people were afraid of. You know, as I think Condi Rice put at the time, we don't want the next smoking, smoking gun to be a smoking cloud, to be a mushroom cloud, to be a nuclear attack on the US. And there was very in that moment such anxiety about that. And so that's part of the legacy, too, is the is the disruption that Iraq caused to Americans –ots of casualties to Iraq, of course – and to international relations and Afghanistan. In terms of what we threw away, look I think the Biden administration made a mistake getting out of Afghanistan the way they did. I don't think it was necessary. I think we could have maintained politically in the US and internationally a small footprint and prevented a Taliban takeover and all of the suffering and chaos and damage to America's reputation that flowed from that. So I don't think that anybody who was involved in the decision to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan supported that decision and the way it was done. So I wish we had not thrown that away, I wish we'd kept the commitment to Afghanistan. There was a fleeting moment of real unity in the United States, of bipartisanship, of common purpose. You were living there then. I don't know how long it lasted, but, it was nice while we had it. We could shoot that again. I wish leaders on both sides had done more to maintain and maybe even evoke the sense of common purpose that came out of that moment and hard to put that back together. I actually think that the partisan divide in the US, while in some ways is worse than ever in other ways when you spend time in the US not reading newspapers are watching Fox News or MSNBC, but actually just going to picnics, going to 4th of July parades, going to baseball games, I don't know about you, Mari, but when I go home with the family I was struck at how unified America actually is when you're actually spending time there going to baseball games and things like that. It just it you know, there's one statistic – there are more people who own pet snakes than watch cable news. Yeah, but that just amplifying the sense of division. And you see much less of it when you're actually traveling around the country.
Mari Koeck: And how doyou think Americans feel about 9/11 now, 22 years on from it?
Dr Michael Green: So many lives were shattered, lost. Of course, there was such a surge of patriotism. People there were two colleagues of mine in the NSC, in the White House who were on Wall Street, had high paying jobs, quit their high paying jobs, sold their assets, came to work as officials in the US government on national security because they were motivated by what they'd seen happen and wanted to serve. People forget there were professional football players who signed up for the military. There was a surge in volunteerism and recruiting. You know, I don't know that people who weren't of that age remember it that way. I don't think people who are studying this now in high school or in college in the US are really being shown or are able to capture that that moment. There are a few movies like small handful of movies about 9/11, but they're mostly about sort of the stories of people who lost something or the tragedy. President Bush made a decision – historians will judge if it was the right one – that part of what the troops were trying to do was attack our way of life. So we were not going to let them, you know, undermine our way of life. So he encouraged people to keep shopping, keep, you know, doing what they did beforehand. That was a very deliberate decision because he didn't want the terrorists to gain a victory by creating panic and economic displacement, so on and so forth. But what was lost with that was the power of the country coming together at the surge in patriotism, the sense of common purpose, that was lost as a result. And I'm not sure that in high school textbooks or in popular culture. That has been retained. And that kind of, frankly, breaks my heart because it was for tragic reasons, but it was a very powerful moment for America in the world. And by the way, not just the United States internally coming together, but things like the French colouring the Eiffel Tower and the American flag or the Coldstream Guards at Buckingham Palace playing the Star-Spangled Banner. I mean, the just outpouring of support. I remember a bunch of Kiwis wrote a cookbook called Tucker for the Soul and famous cooks in New Zealand offered recipes to support America. It was like random, but it was very, very moving. And that whole aspect of global and American culture is kind of gone. I don't see it anymore. It was wiped out partly by the painful chapter in Iraq, but also, frankly, because leaders decided not to preserve that moment. And that's too bad, actually, because there was something very powerful for the US, for the world.
Mari Koeck: Yeah, definitely. And I think it'll be interesting even if we think about, you know, in recent years we've had Ukraine and as we saw in our polling, that led to a real strong surge in support for alliances broadly, they'll be interested to see kind of what's next in the years and decades ahead.
Dr Michael Green: You know, I published a book a few years ago called By More Than Providence, which was a history of US statecraft in the Pacific since the 1780s. So a huge, thick book which I hope everyone has on their shelves. But when I was working on it, I had a fellowship at the University of Hawaii, which, to be honest, involved half a day of work and half a day going to the beach. I still got a lot of work done and I started going through Gallup polling to try to get a sense of what Americans thought about. The Pacific in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s about Japan, China and so forth. And one poll really struck me that Gallup asked Americans in the early 1920s were we right to go into the Great War, World War One. And two-thirds of Americans said no, it was a big mistake. This was in the early 20s. You know, a lot of casualties coming home, gas victims, a lot of congressional inquiries into the military industrial complex who got us into this war. The roaring 20s people. People wanted to be done with war and, you know, all the rest of it. Two-thirds said it was a mistake and that number just kept going down and down and down as the geopolitical circumstances deteriorated into the 1930s. And by the late 1930s, two-thirds of Americans said we were right to go into the Great War. Germany had to be stopped. World order had to be maintained. These things are not linear. Certain generations are stamped by the experience, positive or negative of major world events.
But world events transform succeeding generations. And people now see, it's because of Ukraine, because of China's stance towards Taiwan and the South China Sea, and in India, in the Himalayas, because of North Korean and Iranian proliferation, people see it's a really dangerous world. And I think that adds a clarity about the need for national security, the need for good allies and friends in an uncertain world. So that structural factor, that aspect of geopolitics, yeah, that's going to propel support for the alliance. I think even, frankly, if the election of 2024 causes some damage to America's reputation – and it could – I don't buy any arguments that one election in the US or even if you know, the former president were re-elected, that somehow the vast majority of Australians would say we're better off without the US alliance because it simply isn't true. It'll be challenging in many respects, but I think the alliance is strong. There are big challenges. The real thing is not the survival of the alliance, is it? Are we fit for purpose and are we up for this complicated world with obviously geopolitics with China and Russia? With proliferation, we don't talk about it as much with Iran and North Korea with the existential threat of climate change and with who knows what before September 11th, 2001 Terrorism was not on the top of people's lists for things we'd be worried about in the alliance. And then it was. So who knows what else is out there that we may suddenly find we are having to deal with as allies.
Mari Koeck: Well, I think that's a nice look to the future and what we can kind of expect drawing the arc through history as well. The last thing I want to do before I let you go is just check in and get your by the numbers stat that's related to 9/11. What statistic did you choose?
Dr Michael Green: Well, zero. And I chose zero because the thing of all the stats that we can talk about reflecting on 9/11, more than two decades later, you could include 10 Australians killed in the World Trade Center, almost 3000 Americans killed in the attack, the 120 some killed in the Pentagon, which people forget about from that plane that hit the Pentagon. But the thing that would have surprised me the most 20 plus years later, if you told me on that day, especially later in that day, would have been the number zero, which is the number of successful Al-Qaeda attacks on the US after 9/11. There were attacks inspired by Al-Qaeda. There was an army major in Texas who, you know, lone-wolf terrorist attack but planned attacks like 9/11 on American soil against American people, American targets – zero. So, you know, when the American people were looking for leadership after 9/11, what they wanted, the reason they supported Afghanistan and Iraq both was to go on the offensive. So there were no more attacks on the American homeland. And by that metric, zero is a pretty striking number because there weren't. And that's not a brush over the many challenges that were created by the strategies in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but the American people. Frankly, after 9/11, that would have been the number they cared about the most. Was zero and I would not have predicted it. We expected constant attacks on schools and malls on high profile events. John Lewis Gaddis, the famous historian and scholar of the Cold War and grand strategy, wrote a book shortly after 9/11 called Strategic Surprise and American Foreign Policy. I think that was the name. They basically looked at the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Korea's June 1950 attack on South Korea. And he argued there's something in the American political and strategic culture that when we are punched in the nose, we don't retreat into a corner. We expand, as he put it, we expand our security commitments. We create more security commitments. We don't retreat from them, we create more. After Pearl Harbor, of course, defeating Germany and Japan after the Korean War. The entire alliance system we have in Asia and this and the forward bases and the security commitments to Japan and Korea, Australia and so forth. And he predicted, predicted after 9/11 the US would expand our security frontier. And we did. In the Middle East in particular. So he said, as a historian, that's what the US does. When it's hit, it goes after and expands its security frontier to keep the threats far away. And that would be a pretty accurate description of what happened after 9/11 for all the consequences negative – and when you look at the numbers, zero positive – that there probably flowed from it. So I hope people reflect on 9/11, what it meant for Australia, for America, for the world. Among other things, it's a reminder we need each other because you have the threats you know about, but you never know when the threat you haven't thought about is going to sucker punch you and profoundly shake your world.
Mari Koeck: Yeah, well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I was in Chicago on 9/11 watching all of this unfold on TV. But as we hit yet another anniversary, it's nice to reflect and this helped me feel more connected and get a sense of what was happening and what it was like at the highest levels of government during perhaps the biggest crisis of the lifetime. And as we wrap up, I'd like to point out a couple of other podcasts that might be of interest to our audience. Dr. Green is the co-host of The Chessboard podcast with Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair for China Studies and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I'd also recommend checking out the USSC Live podcast series that runs recordings from our major live events. Recent episodes include a breakdown of the GOP candidate presidential debate and our readout from the White House National Security Council staff Kurt Campbell, Edgar Kagan and Mira Rapp-Hooper. You can find these on our brand-new website, ussc.edu.au or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks so much, Mike.
Dr Michael Green: Thank you, Mari.