America's War on Terror Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1532 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

¶ … War on Terror

We need to go back to work tomorrow and we will. But we need to be alert to the fact that these evil-doers still exist. We haven't seen this kind of barbarism in a long period of time…This is a new kind of -- a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. (Bush, 2001)

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Five days after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. The nation was deeply traumatized by these attacks and was looking to the President for leadership, strength, and a response to those who had brought death and destruction to the American homeland. The above quotation, in response to a question from a reporter about civil rights in the aftermath of 9/11, was the first time the phrase "war on terror" was used in reference to the emerging policy of the United States toward the terrorist threat. The President's response was essential in framing the terms of the debate going forward; this was to be a struggle of good vs. evil, barbarism vs. civilization, and in a moment of unintended clarity, a crusade. The religious imagery of a battle of Christians against Muslims implied by the term "Crusade" was quickly dispensed with, but the important point was made -- this would be a war against evil, as defined by the President, and initially at least, the majority of Americans. Bush (2001) promised to see the fight "all the way through," and to "do what it takes to rout terrorism out of the world."

On September 20, 2001, the President addressed a joint session of Congress and the American people to more fully elaborate the response of the nation to the terrorist attacks. President Bush continued using the rhetoric of the war on terror in an attempt to define its reach, its goals, and the reason it had to be fought. He said,

Research Paper on America's War on Terror Assignment

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other. (Bush, 2001)

Although this was arguably an unrealistic goal to set for the country, Bush captured the angry, fearful, and aggressive mood of the nation in his speech that night. America was spoiling for a fight after the size and scope of the terrorist attacks, and the concept of a "war on terror" encapsulated this desire.

The first major operation of the war on terror was Operation Enduring Freedom. This was the war in Afghanistan with the objective of removing the Taliban from power along with the safe haven for Al Qaeda and their leader, Osama bin Laden. The fighting commenced officially on October 7th, 2001 and the U.S. And their allies quickly defeated their adversaries. This opening salvo in the war on terror had broad support in the United States and around the world and was seen as a justifiable act in light of the September 11th attacks and the fact that most of the Al Qaeda operatives responsible had been trained in Afghanistan. This campaign was successful in the short-term, but bin Laden remained at large, and Afghan political, social, and economic life were never fully stabilized.

This war would require more armed conflict, as well as changes to domestic law in order to combat the threat at home. The most important, and controversial, law passed in the war on terror was the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act which passed Congress in October 2001. The Patriot Act (2001) dealt with surveillance procedures, border security, financial records, habeas corpus, "removing obstacles to preventing terrorism," and strengthening criminal law. Passed relatively quickly in the month after September 11th, the Patriot Act certainly curtailed some civil rights and freedoms, but lawmakers, and most of the public, felt it was a necessary response to the situation. In the State of the Union the following year, the scope of the war on terror was broadened to include Iraq, Iran, and North Korea -- the infamous "axis of evil." (Bush, 2002) Saying "our war on terror is well begun," and "it costs a lot to fight this war," Bush (2002) made it clear that the narrative of a war, rather than a police action or law enforcement approach, would be the way the government viewed the action against terrorists.

The rest of the year was spent convincing the American public of the necessity of a pre-emptive strike against the country of Iraq, which was labeled a state sponsor of terrorism. Most importantly, the U.S. argued that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and must be stopped because, as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stated, "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." (Blitzer, 2003) This effort culminated in Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 where he argued that Iraq most certainly had weapons of mass destruction, and as part of the war on terror policy, state sponsors of terror must be stopped, pre-emptively if necessary. The U.S. was engaged in a global war, a war of ideology, and regime change in Iraq could help establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

The invasion of Iraq by the United States and the "Coalition of the Willing" began in March 2003. This battlefield was to be the central front in the war on terror and the centerpiece of the Bush doctrine (National Security Council, 2002) of pre-emptive war and promoting democracy across the globe. This strategy was not without critics at home and abroad, but the Bush Administration received high levels of support from the American public at the outset of fighting. The war on terror fed into the desire to get even with the terrorists and take the fight to them, away from our shores. Although major combat operations ended fairly quickly, the U.S. involvement in Iraq continues to the present-day. After a "surge" of combat troops and operations in 2006, the American armed forces have scaled back their efforts in an attempt to give more control to the Iraqi government. This drawdown in Iraq was also made necessary by the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, which required its own "surge" in 2009.

Due to the negative aspects of the war on terror -- the pre-mature declaration of "mission accomplished," the abuses at Abu Gharib, the questionable legality of Guantanamo Bay, the warrantless wiretaps at home, and the difficulty in beating down the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan -- by Bush's second term, the idea of the war on terror was losing some of its luster in the United States. In the presidential election year of 2008, the Democratic candidate Barack Obama refused to refer to the campaign against terrorists as the "war on terror" because the term had become so weighted down with negative connotations, and by not using it, he was signaling a change in approach. Once elected, Obama referred to the ongoing struggle as the "Overseas Contingency Operation."

In a very interesting article in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, David S. Meyer (2009) argues that the idea of a war on terror was not inevitable, and an alternative response could have been fashioned around so-called "soft power" measures. These could have included "expanded funding for language instruction and comparative religion in American schools, improved training for first responders in medical emergencies, and an overhaul of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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