My European friends, do not despair of America! It is still the bold and idealistic country of FDR and JFK, though boldness and idealism have latterly turned somewhat into bellicosity and arrogance.
This is the result of two history-making experiences. One is the victory of democracy over communism in the cold war. The dissolution of the Soviet Union leaves the US as the planet's unchallenged and unchallengeable superpower - not just in the military and ideological sense, but in economics, technology and popular culture.
Neoconservative ideologues in Washington were confident that the US could dispense with allies and international institutions. They systematically disparaged and vilified the UN, ironically enough, in the house of its founders Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Many Americans sought comfort in reverting to traditional mistrust of what Jefferson called "entangling alliances".
The second history-making experience we mark today - the third anniversary of the assault by hijacked airplanes on the World Trade Centre in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington, twin symbols of what President Eisenhower once called "the military-industrial complex". This has had a terrific impact on the national psyche, even more so than the surprise Japanese attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941.
After all, in 1941 we knew who the enemy was. The Japanese attack took place on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far from American shores. The target was American naval power, not innocent civilians going about their daily business. Today the enemies are stateless; they strike in cities well know to every American; they blow themselves up or retreat into the shadows; they turn a familiar convenience - the aeroplane - into a vicious weapon; and ordinary people are the target.
The second world war was a far more menacing conflict with far more dangerous foes. But it did not threaten Americans in the daily rounds of their lives. Today many feel an intense personal vulnerability they have never felt before. Of course, Europeans have grown accustomed to local terrorism - ETA Basques in Spain, Red gangs in Italy and Germany, Corsicans in France, and the old IRA in Britain. For Americans terrorism is a novel and horrid experience.
This mysterious new threat led a new administration in Washington to change the basis of US foreign policy. That basis had been containment and deterrence, a combination that won us the cold war. The new basis of US foreign policy is preventive war, which cold war American presidents had abhorred and vetoed. The Bush doctrine is to attack an enemy, unilaterally if necessary, before it has a chance to attack us, a right reserved to the US. This casts the US as the world's judge, jury and executioner. Hardly a popular position.
Most Americans had supported the war in Afghanistan against al-Qaida, which committed an act of monstrous aggression, and against the Taliban, which protected the terrorists. The second, and separate, war against Iraq was an optional war, a war of presidential choice. That war was fought on two false premises - the alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged partnership between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
The case for preventive war rests on the assumption that we have near-perfect intelligence about the enemy's intentions and capabilities. Post-mortem inquiries into our intelligence agencies show how imperfect our knowledge of Iraq was.
In the meantime, "homeland security" anxieties abide in many American households. People in the age of terrorism are willing to pay a price for the protection of their families. As all wars do, the Iraq war has expanded presidential power. More than 30 years ago, I wrote a book called The Imperial Presidency, and an imperial presidency has been born again in Washington today.
A so-called Patriot Act, rushed through in the wake of 9/11 by an imperial attorney general, it imposes restrictions on civil liberties of American citizens. The Supreme Court has condemned the presidential suspensions of due process for detainees held for many months without access to counsel at Guantanamo Bay, the American base in Cuba.
The Bush administration is the most secretive within memory and grows more secretive every day. The attorney general has done his best to sabotage the Freedom of Information Act. There has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of classified documents from 2001 to 2003. The administration of Richard Nixon had held the record for secrecy heretofore, but now Nixon's counsel, John Dean, has written a bestseller called Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W Bush.
Such restrictions trouble many Americans. It must not be supposed that a majority of voters elected George W Bush. He was a minority president, elected by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. If the votes cast for Al Gore and Ralph Nader are combined, Bush lost the popular vote by three million. Opinion polls suggest that 45 per cent of the electorate love Bush, another 45 per cent loathe him.
It is not likely that many people in the two opposing camps will change their minds between today and November 2, election day. The battle is for the undecided 10 per cent. The Democratic candidate, Senator John F Kerry of Massachusetts, is in the school of FDR and JFK. His campaign has faltered momentarily but in the past he has shown himself to be a hard fighter and a strong finisher.
Immediately after 9/11 a wave of worldwide sympathy engulfed America. Three years later, America is regarded with hostility around the world. Never in American history has the US been so unpopular abroad. That is not lost on the American voter. And the great strength, the great virtue, of democracy is its capacity for self-correction. So my European friends, do not despair!
Timothy Garton Ash:
We have not forgotten. We will never forget. We all know where we were the moment we learned the news of the assault on the twin towers. I heard it first from a Frenchwoman. I remember her stumbling words of bewilderment and instant solidarity. That solidarity between Europe and America - the twin towers of the historic West - lasted about three months, through the rout of Al Qaida in Afghanistan. But where is it now, three years after 9/11?
Not lost and gone for ever, but waiting to re-emerge. Waiting for the America that will enable it to re-emerge. The America evoked by Arthur Schlesinger. The America whose best hope is the rather wooden yet statesmanlike John Kerry.
A recent international poll shows that most of the world overwhelmingly wants Kerry to win. If any American thinks that counts against the Democrats' candidate I can only conclude that the shock of the 9/11 attacks has led them to stop thinking straight. And that's a result that Osama bin Laden, if he's still alive, will be celebrating today.
This great argument inside the West is about how, not whether, we should defeat the human evil that showed itself in New York on September 11 2001, in the bombing of Madrid on March 11 2004, and in the massacre of the innocents in Beslan last week. Three years on, the West is divided roughly thus: half of the Americans are with about four fifths of the Europeans against perhaps one fifth of the Europeans who line up with the other half of the Americans. In this case, the majority is right.
Let me, however, make one big European self-criticism. Sometimes it's not enough to be clever, subtle, cultured, tolerant, reasonable and understanding. Sometimes, if we are to defend tolerance, reason, culture and understanding, we have to be fierce, militant and downright bloody-minded. We have to fight. For we face enemies who love death and will not be deterred by sweet reason. I think more Americans than Europeans understand this.
The conduct of the Bush administration in the war against terrorism has been strong. But it has not been wise: unconditional backing for Ariel Sharon in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Washington's war of choice on Iraq, in claimed pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and with wholly inadequate preparation for the postwar occupation. These foolish policies have alienated moderate Muslim opinion everywhere, set Europe against America, increased the threat of terrorism, and made the US resented in almost every corner of the globe.
To win this struggle together, we need to be both strong and wise. That means recognising that this is a war that war can't win. Because Washington has such a giant hammer, it tends to see every problem shaped like a nail. Unfortunately, terrorism is not a nail; it's more like an underground fungus, spreading invisibly for miles before suddenly reappearing above ground in a different place.
I am alarmed by the militarisation of political rhetoric in the US over the three years since this century's Pearl Harbor. Too often, the country seems to be engrossed in a mythic, heroic narrative of patriotic, martial prowess. This extends to the heroic pleasure of standing not just tall but alone, like Gary Cooper in High Noon. In real life, it helps to have a few friends.
Terrorism is never excusable, but it is often explicable. Explanations point to causes. Only if we address the political and economic causes of terrorism, as well as the thing itself, will we ever have a chance of winning this war. There is not just "terror" or "terrorism"; there are terrorisms, and they differ greatly. What the Chechen terrorists did to those children in Beslan was among the most evil acts that any human being can perpetrate against another. But it had causes, and some of them lie in the brutality and stupidity of Russian policy towards Chechnya over the last decade.
To reflect on the political causes and how they can be removed is not weakness or appeasement, as the American right insists. It's the kind of common sense that the US itself showed when it encouraged political negotiations with representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army, the Albanian-Macedonian National Liberation Army and the Irish Republican Army, all of which used the methods of terrorism to achieve their political goals.
Equally, nothing can justify Palestinian suicide bombers killing innocent Israeli civilians. Nothing. Ever. But their acts have causes, and if we are to win the war against terrorism, we have to remove those causes. We have to be strong, but also wise. At the moment, Europe needs a bit more strength and America a bit more wisdom. So, my American friends, we're in this together and we look to you. We have not forgotten; we will never forget.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr is a former adviser to President Kennedy and the author, most recently, of War and the American Presidency; Timothy Garton Ash's latest book is Free World: Why a Crisis of the West Reveals the Opportunity of Our Time
© 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited