Do you think 9/11 changed everything? said Gideon Rachman. No doubt the collapse of the towers changed the world profoundly. But when the history books are written, 9/15—marking the Sept. 15, 2008, collapse of Lehman Brothers—will likely be the more important date. “That might seem a strange judgment,” but 9/11, for all its terrible consequences, “did not shake U.S. dominance of the global political and economic system”; in fact, it prompted a “dramatic reassertion” of U.S. power.
The financial crisis unleashed by Lehman’s insolvency, on the other hand, forced America to acknowledge its limits. What’s more, with the economies of Asia recovering so much faster than those in the U.S. and Europe, Westerners are now acutely “aware of the strengths of potential rivals,” especially China.
Both 9/11 and 9/15 were harrowing. But the extremists’ goal of using 9/11 as a springboard to the creation of a “global Islamic caliphate” is “a fantasy.” Lehman’s collapse, meanwhile, “is likely to go down as the moment that both revealed and accelerated the erosion of Western dominance.”