In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001, American officials scrambled to interpret what had happened and plan an appropriate response.
Their reaction can be broken down into two phases. In the first, the United States invaded Afghanistan and expelled the Taliban regime that had hosted Osama bin Laden.
However, beyond that there was a second reading, one that came to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Key officials in the administration of George W Bush believed that the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime and its replacement with a democratic government would produce regional shock waves that would favourably transform Iraq’s Arab neighbours – above all Saudi Arabia, from where 15 of the 19 hijackers came.