But that window proved fleeting, the sense of sympathy and solidarity short-lived.
From Egypt to Pakistan, large majorities of Muslims have an unfavorable opinion of the United States and its policies abroad 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Even among traditional allies in Europe, the United States is widely viewed as acting too unilaterally and failing to take into account the interests of other countries in foreign policy decisions.
In some countries, such as China, animosity toward the United States and suspicion of American intentions has deepened. Ordinary people describe a sense of dismay over what they see as an American preoccupation with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Compared to 10 years ago, our anger is stronger, not weaker,” said Luo Ruxi, 24, a recent university graduate who was in middle school at the time of the attacks and now joins other former students for weekend gatherings at a leftist bookshop, Utopia, in Beijing.
“I think they started all these wars to divert attention from their own domestic crisis,” Luo said. “Their hegemony is well known by everybody.”
An inevitable shift?
Some of the breakdown in unity was Washington’s own doing.
Perhaps the Iraq invasion — the months-long public debate, the huge antiwar rallies around the globe, the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction — was primarily responsible for the fraying of that post-Sept. 11 global solidarity. Or maybe it was reports of abuses and civilian casualties at the hands of U.S. troops. Maybe the world simply tired of the conflicts after a decade.
Or, as also seems likely, the shift was at least partially inevitable, because the post-Sept. 11 solidarity was always artificial and fragile.
Even at the time, the response to the attacks was not universally sympathetic. Less reported was the fact that in some quarters there was satisfaction, even jubilation, that the swaggering superpower had met its comeuppance. While Arafat gave blood, there were also anti-American celebrations on the streets of the Gaza Strip — automatic weapons fired into the air and gunmen handing out candy to children.
In China, too, anti-Americanism had already been widespread, in part because of the accidental U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 Kosovo war and the death of a Chinese pilot earlier in 2001, after his jet collided with a U.S. spy plane over the South China Sea.