As any historian will tell you ten years is hardly enough time to reach any sort of historical analysis - certainly in the realms of sociology and political science, perhaps even theology, significant conclusions emerge, but the true historical impact of September 11, 2001 will be elusive for quite some time. I would argue that we will need to wait at least a full generation if not longer to understand how the initial attack as well as ensuing events fit into the broader ever-changing picture of world history. So too with respect the events of ten years ago had on shaping the outlook of a generation raised in its shadow. It is easy to say refer to today's youth as the 9/11 generation, especially in light of all of the public attention given to commemorating the date ten years on, but I seriously question the extent to which that tragedy, compared to other changes in American society, impact the world outlook and social/political ideologies of those who have lived in the aftermath.
In hindsight it may be that 9/11 represents an early period of a broader historical era in which we find ourselves, in which the (predominantly) Christian West confronts Muslim civilization on a scale unknown since the days of the Crusades - with an important difference between now and the conflict of a thousand years ago.
In the Crusader era the nature of the war, while in some ways bound up in conventional geopolitical terms of land and power, was consistently and accurately framed in religious terms. Indeed the catchphrase for the Christian forces was a Crusade to liberate the holy land from infidels (in this case Moslems). For its part the forces of Islam were at their height of expansionism aggressively and undeniably seeking to bring greater numbers of people and lands under the authority of the Moslem Caliphate. Arguably both sides shared a common religious outlook of spreading religious truth, as they knew it, at the point of the sword. From a historical perspective for the Christian west this period represented the heart of the so-called dark ages, centuries prior to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment which would characterize Western modernity. Conversely, for the Moslem world, the Crusades came at a point of widespread geopolitical expansion and maximal intellectual and cultural creativity, soon to be overshadowed by the changes that emerged from European society.
The East vs. West conflicts embodied by the 9/11 attacks, but clearly characteristic of a broader period of time that started decades ago and will continue into the future, do not offer the clear parallel structures of the Crusader era, simply presented as Christianity vs. Islam. The west, while still arguably Christian in its cultural orientation, hardly operates from the basis of theological fealty and Missionary activity - perhaps the ultimate embodiment of western European civilization are those northern European states which have gone farthest in eliminating the role of religion in the political and legislative processes. The United States, which hardly is extreme in its removal of religion as a factor in public life, is arguably representative of this challenge by its use of military and economic prowess to expand a culture of modernity. The Moslem world, on the other hand, for the most part, has not embraced the ideological underpinnings of modern society in the political and social spheres, and certainly those individuals and groups most aggressively confronting the West explicitly call for social and political structures more akin to what we might call a pre-modern era.
Perhaps the lesson from history in this case is that even though the situations are not entirely analogous because we do not see ourselves engaged in religious conflict, viewing today's East vs. West battles in religious terms may be useful - at least in so far as wars of religion, while indeed about power, are also conflicts of ideology - and thus empower the combatants to fight for causes not limited to conventional models of land and sovereignty. While history demonstrates that states and their armies can be easily defeated, wars of ideas often take longer to conclude, and often turn more on the ability to defeat the idea with more powerful ideas, rather than with swords and bullets.