Archives: Top Stories of the Decade 2000-2009

Originally published in December 2009
Simon Nguyen

The first decade of the new millennium has been, without a doubt, one of the most significant decades in history. We have had to endure catastrophic terrorist attacks, bloody wars, major natural disasters, financial/economic crises, and deadly virus outbreaks. In this article, I will present my list of the top stories of the decade (2000-2009) and their significance.

1. The 9/11 Terrorist Attack

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the world awoke to major terrorist attacks on two of America’s most symbolic institutions—the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Terrorists hijacked several passenger planes and drove them into the two buildings, causing nearly 3000 deaths and injuring over 6000 people.

The attacks left an undeletable stamp on America. The event altered the mindset of Americans and famously coined the term “War on Terror”. Following the attacks, the U.S. priorities swiftly shifted from the economy and other domestic matters to national defense and security. This new mindset led the United States to two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and controversial suspension of key protections for civil liberties.

2. Financial/Economic Crises

Historically, each decade has produced at least one major economic crisis. In the 1970s, we had the Oil Crisis and subsequent Stagflation (combined high inflation and unemployment). In the 1980s, we had the Debt Crisis, a stock market crash, and the Savings and Loan Crisis. In the 1990s, we had the Asian Financial Crisis. In this decade, we have had to endure the Dot Com Crash (started in the late 1990s) and the Subprime Mortgage Crisis. The impacts of these two events on the world economy were quite severe. The Dot Com Crash caused tech-focused NASDAQ Composite to lose almost 80% of its value in just one year, effectively wiping out trillions of dollars in asset value. The Subprime Crisis has been just as unforgiving. The world financial system nearly crashed as a result of the housing bust, and the U.S. economy has lost millions of jobs during the current recession.

What has been the cause of all these financial and economic crises? The answer is human greed. As long as greed still exists, we will continue to suffer from more of these crises in the future.

3. War in Iraq and Afghanistan

There is an old adage that states, “Don’t play with fire, but don’t let it extinguished.” The same lesson can be applied to war. We should avoid war as much as possible; but if used properly, it can also be an instrument of peace. It is still debatable whether the War on Terror has been such an instrument. The toll from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, on both sides of the conflict, has been awful. Most reliable estimates put the number of civilian deaths (Iraq only) at around 100,000 to 300,000. The number of combined combat deaths (coalition & insurgents) is estimated to be around 40,000. The toll from the Afghanistan conflict is also severe, though no reliable statistics are found.

The bad thing about these wars is that they are still ongoing, as key objectives have not yet been achieved. We should not be surprised if more bloodshed is on the horizon.

4. 2004 Tsunami

Natural disasters are normal events in everyday life. However, a natural disaster in the scale of the 2004 Tsunami probably only happens once every century. Indeed, what took place on December 26, 2004 was one of historic proportions. According to the UN, the tsunami killed nearly 250,000 people and displaced almost 2 millions more. The scale of destructions on the countries affected was enormous and unprecedented.

One good thing that came out from this devastating event was the extraordinary compassion shown by people around the world. Billions of dollars were raised for the recovery effort. And thousands of volunteers from around the world had spent time in the affected areas to help the people there rebuilding their lives. It was a wonderful gesture of goodwill and offered hope for humanity.

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