Today we remember September 11, 2001 and all that has changed in the past 17 years. In his speech today at Shanksville President Trump was right to speak of incredible security challenges and sacrifices: “Since September 11th, nearly 5.5 million young Americans have enlisted in the United States Armed Forces. Nearly 7,000 service members have died” he said, adding “And we think of every citizen who protects our nation at home, including our state, local, and federal law enforcement. These are great Americans. These are great heroes. We honor and thank them all.” There is a plaque at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium honoring Stanford Alumni killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The past 17 years have also brought large changes in the way economics interacts with national security. This is most clear in the way financial sanctions have worked in tandem with national security in the case of North Korea. But the challenges began in earnest in the months right after 9/11, and they have grown in importance since then. As I wrote here “Few Americans now remember that the United States launched its first post-9/11 attack on terrorists from a very unusual front—the financial front. As President George W. Bush put it, ‘the first shot in the war was when we started cutting off their money, because an al Qaeda organization can’t function without money.’” At first, these changes had to be pushed rapidly through the the existing structure at Treasury and elsewhere, as explained here, but eventually a new Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence was created to handle such matters. September 11, 2001 and the days immediately following were challenging for economics as well as for national security. As Defense Secretary James Mattis now puts it: we need a strategy for security and solvency.