The 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks won’t draw the same sort of attention that you’ll see for the 20th in a couple of years — or what we saw for the 15th.

Milestones and anniversaries that end with zero or five take on additional significance. That’s true for the good things in life, like weddings, and for the horrors — like what America watched unfold on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

But the 18th anniversary does have a certain significance, because it will mark a dividing line. For the first time in American history, people born in the wake of 9/11 will be able to vote and step up to serve their country in the military.

They were born and have been raised entirely in a world without the World Trade Center towers. 

They have been raised in the shadow of the senseless violence and cruelty of international terrorism in much the same way that generations before grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation in the chill of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And just as that generation endured a war that stretched across decades — punctuated by proxy conflicts across the globe — this generation will have been born in a different type of war. While the Cold War may have eventually found its end in the unraveling of the Soviet Union, there’s little sign that the American War on Terror ever will.

With no nation state to defeat — either through military means or through economic prowess — the battle against extremist violent ideologies may truly be a war without end, and from this point forward, it will be those born after the terror attacks, who will be asked to bear the cost of that conflict both physically, and over the longer term, fiscally.

It’s a battle worth waging.  The alternative is terror without limit.  Americans born before 9/11 have already seen what that looks like.

 

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