The morning of Sept. 11, 2001 initially appeared to be a typical one. I awoke between 8:40 and 8:50 a.m. and proceeded to make breakfast and get ready to go to work. Immediately, I received a phone call from my employer to turn on the television, and as I did, I saw the unimaginable image of the attack on the first Twin Tower. Later, I saw the second plane fly into the second tower and waited for their collapses. From the beginning, in interviewing intelligence experts, it was clear that the intelligence community knew that al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, had been the architects of the attacks. As I watched the news coverage that day, I was in horror and in shock.

Remembering Sept. 11 is more than just reflection on the deaths of roughly 3,000 people; it includes the impact that event had on American foreign and domestic policy that continues to this day. This includes the interrogation tactics of accused terrorists by the United States government, usage of government surveillance on foreign and domestic citizens and U.S. military intervention, particularly in the Iraq War. Moreover, the foreign and domestic policies of the U.S. government had been carried out as a larger effort against the War on Terror. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration advocated for U.S. military engagement in Iraq for the accusation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

As the Iraq War progressed, many Americans, particularly millennials, became disenfranchised with it, as well as with the War in Afghanistan. The unpopularity of the wars helped then-Sen. Barack Obama secure the Democratic nomination and, later, the presidency in 2008. Even in the present election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is still getting criticized for her vote on the Iraq War. However, the reality is that as the junior senator from New York, she could not have voted any other way. Furthermore, a female politician can never look soft on national security.

Despite opposing the Iraq War, President Obama, to an extent, has largely continued the policies under the Bush Administration. His strategies are different, but the goal is the same: Both Republicans and Democrats are committed to promoting democracy in the Middle East. While President Obama eventually made good on his campaign promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, it took him a little longer when it came to Afghanistan. With the decrease of military deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama expanded the usage of drones in the Middle East.

One of the main legacies of the attacks on Sept. 11 is the bipartisan commitment to become increasingly involved in the Middle East to combat terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and to promote democracy. This commitment extends beyond politicians and includes think tanks and non-profit organizations. Certainly, the federal government has a duty to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, but the Islamic State attacks in Europe have demonstrated that the world is getting smaller and smaller. We must remember that it is also important for Americans to question the cost of American foreign policy. In accordance with the Patriot Act, should Americans sacrifice their civil liberties to ensure that a Sept. 11 does not occur again? And as the United States becomes more involved in the Middle East, how can policymakers avoid the mistakes of the past?

Leslie McNamara is a public policy graduate student specializing in health policy. She can be reached at