The al-Qaeda attack on New York’s World Trade Center buildings on September 11 was one of the largest attacks in history. Since that tragedy, terrorism in the United States and around the world has greatly changed its characteristics. Today’s terrorists are no longer necessarily fighters of Al-Qaeda or any other Islamist groups, and the means of destruction have become more diverse. The means of counteracting such crimes are also not the same as before. The event led to global changes in world politics, in the field of security, and in people’s minds. However, terrorism has not been conquered, and new adherents of this struggle continue to make strides in various parts of the world; moreover, terrorist attacks have increased since 9/11 globally. If the separation of the period is divided into two parts – before and after the terrorist attacks in New York, it will be clear that most of them took place after 2001 (Thrall and Goepner, 2017). The spread of radical ideas, in particular, is facilitated by the Internet, which was not the case in 2001.
After the terrorist attack, Congress passed a whole package of “emergency” laws that dramatically expanded the powers of the special services. In particular, the authorities legitimized advanced interrogations and the conduct of total surveillance of foreigners and their own population. The American anti-terrorism strategy has even become the basis for counter-terrorism policies in other countries, including Italy (Caffarena anf Gabusi, 2017). The intelligence capabilities of the United States were strengthening at an accelerated pace (Thrall and Goepner, 2017). Defense spending was skyrocketing; counter-insurgency initiatives expanded; new bases appeared in Central and Southwest Asia; a military command was established in Africa. The war on terrorism has become a national security priority.
At the same time, the administration supported free markets, trade liberalization, and economic development; it revised and significantly increased US foreign aid commitments. The US administration has been negotiating with Russia on reducing strategic nuclear weapons, rebuilding relations with India, and smoothing out tensions in relations with China. In addition, it continued with attempts to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction without stopping the creation of a missile defense system.
In 2002, by order of President George W. Bush, a camp was being set up at the American military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for persons suspected of involvement in terrorism. At first, the prisoners were kept in cages in hastily constructed barracks; in total, there were more than a thousand people from 40 countries. They were arrested without trial and they were even deprived of the prisoners of war status. Borders were sealed; immigration and visa regimes were tightened. The authorities introduced a color code to assess the level of threats and, willingly or unwillingly, increased the nervousness.
The attacks took the US authorities by surprise; they reformed and strengthened their intelligence and state security services. The results of these efforts are ambiguous; on the one hand, there have been no new catastrophic terrorist attacks since then in the United States. For example, the American military service in May 2011, without the consent of the Pakistani authorities, killed the leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Osama bin Laden (The Economic Times, 2021). On the other hand, US intelligence has since made many mistakes in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Georgia and Ukraine. Moreover, Jordan’s refusal to join the United States-led coalition against Iraq severed Jordanian-American ties (Alkhawaldeh and Ladiqi, 2021). While the special services
Jordan and Morocco have warned the US authorities about the upcoming terrorist attacks using aircraft. In addition, the transboundary nature of modern terrorism does not allow us to consider the countries of Latin America as being at a safe distance from potential impact from the outside (Milani, 2021). It is especially true since the manifestations of their activities have already taken place in the region.
After the terrorist attacks, it became clear that not only were the states but also international companies and relatively small groups of well-funded, technically equipped armed followers can manage politics. Using fear and violence, they provoke wars, change the balance of power globally, and influence the ‘domestic countries as well external policies. Fear catalyzed action, as did confidence in the power of the United States, pride in national institutions and values, a sense of responsibility for the safety of society, and a sense of guilt over the attacks. The essence of terrorism has not changed after the attack on New York because it is still an ideology of violence and a means of achieving political goals. However, after September 11, this phenomenon began to be effectively used to work with people’s mass consciousness and behavior.
The most important thing is that the war, declared by the extremists on America on September 11, 2001, continues on the conditions imposed by the terrorists themselves. Lacking a regular army, they originally intended to lead it through terror. And indeed, they are terrorizing now both the United States and Europe. The latter is being overwhelmed by the flows of refugees. It is being done without coordinated massive attacks but through the efforts of lone terrorists. What is happening is carried out non-stop, mercilessly, and indiscriminately in terms of the direction of the blows. The US authorities do not admit that America and Europe are intimidated by jihadists, but they do not deny that they are at war.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States, NATO agreed on the use of Art. 5 of the 1949 Washington Cooperation Protocol for the first time in history. Thus, they effectively provided the United States with carte blanche to conduct military operations against the Taliban regime and the al-Qaeda group. Ultimately, fears for their security forced the overseas US allies to side with Washington in the anti-terrorist struggle (Ryan, 2017). By doing this, they effectively signified their agreement to long-term support for the US anti-terrorist initiatives. The resulting agreement of the Allies to directly or indirectly involve the Alliance in the military operation in Afghanistan was strategically important. However, they did not perceive it as a kind of precedent, allowing to extrapolate the American methods of war on terrorism on a global scale using NATO’s potential for these purposes.
A unilateral policy based on direct pressure and military force has become a defining feature of the Bush Doctrine. Even at the stage of the election campaign, the Bush team criticized Bill Clinton for excessive attention to the problems and interests of other states and regions to the detriment of American interests (Ryan, 2017). Foreign policy slogans of the Republican President included, on the one hand, a call to bring American foreign policy in line with new realities of the beginning of the XXI century (Tama, 2018). While Bush only needed to focus specifically on US interests.
Iraq has become the main enemy for the Bush administration after the terrorist attack. The United States sought the UN to adopt a resolution providing for sanctions against Iraq if Baghdad refused to cooperate with the world community. The famous Resolution 1441, adopted by the UN Security Council, is interpreted by Washington as a mandate to invade Iraq with the support of the so-called coalition of consent.
The attitude towards American foreign policy strategy changed only in March 2003. The Bush administration’s policies have often run counter to the values of the Catholic Church and ethics in general (Layada, 2020). The Bible says that people are supposed to not repay anyone evil for evil (Romans 12:17-21 NIV). Therefore, these factors cannot be ignored in the context of the country’s foreign policy. On May 1, Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, an Iraqi court later executed the dictator himself, but the country fell into chaos. It happened that when it acquired tangible features in the form of an invasion of Iraq, bypassing the current norms of international law, the UN Charter, and even NATO’s Washington Collective Defense Treaty.
The image of America as a victim in the eyes of the allies has been replaced by the image of an aggressor trying to pursue a policy of expansionism. Specific signs that the wave of American unilateralism began to decline appeared only in mid-2004 when the critical situation in Iraq was no longer possible to hide (Thrall and Goepner, 2018). At that time, the organizational resource of the United States for Iraq’s settlement was insufficient due to the lack of the necessary political support from the world community. However, more specific symptoms of the return of the United States to the path of multilateralism were not evident until early 2005.
There is a perception that post-9/11 Democrats would have acted differently and may well have worked more closely with their allies in Europe. However, the Bush administration’s decision to use force to bring about regime change in countries perceived as a threat after 9/11 was in line with the wishes of most Americans at the time. However, the military buildup undertaken by the administration was not radical or unprecedented. Its desire to avoid clashing with competitors was reminiscent of US efforts to maintain the atomic monopoly after World War II. Similarly, the United States achieved military superiority at the beginning of the Korean War while maintaining military supremacy during Kennedy’s rule.
The United States de facto abandoned the forcible export of democracy during the Donald Trump administration, and Biden only consolidated this change. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan draws a line under the previous period of American foreign policy when the US tried to spread democracy through military intervention, state-building, and prolonged occupations. In principle, in conditions when the moment of American hegemony has ended and the relative and absolute resources of the United States have significantly decreased, the continuation of this policy is impossible.
After the September 11 attacks, the development of the situation in the United States and beyond its borders went according to the most unfavorable of possible scenarios. The events of the September 11 attacks largely determined the further development of the domestic and foreign policy of the White House. In particular, Washington has significantly expanded the powers of the intelligence services within the country, which has led to massive surveillance of US citizens. Moreover, Afghanistan and Iraq came under the influence of the United States, and this was justified by the government’s anti-terrorism policy. Campaigns in the Middle East have led to the strongest destabilization in the region. Objective assessments of the geopolitical consequences of American foreign policy of the past 20 years have yet to be formed.
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Tama, Jordan. “The Multiple Forms of Bipartisanship: Political Alignments in U.S. Foreign Policy.” Social Science Research Council, 2018.
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Thrall, A. Trevor, & Goepner, Erik. 2017. Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror. Policy Analysis 814: 1-28.