Term Paper: Political Science - Federal

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Political Science - Federal

Political Science

In what ways did the events of 9/11 and the measures taken as a result of the tragedy affect the way in which America viewed itself in terms of its own might, its ability to secure its own citizens and detect new kinds of enemies?

Prior to the bloody and vicious attacks against the United States on that bright September morning in 2001 the American self-view of superiority, might and some may even say invincibility, were as solid and as unshakable as the World Trade Towers themselves. Americans saw their own might in the context of previous victories during the prior century and in the light that that was naturally cast by the sole super power in the world. Hence, the Americans viewed their own status as nearly incapable of being challenged let alone defeated. Symptomatic of this self-aggrandizing view was the almost complete ignorance and utter lack of understanding regarding the hate that was directed at the West and in particular directed at the United States. Indeed, the sleeping giant seemed wholly unaware of the growing anger and resentment toward the country. However, with the destruction of the Twin Towers and the resulting actions that were taken after the terrible events of that day, it has been incumbent on the American people to compulsorily revaluate themselves and to make serious changes in the way the nation viewed its own levels of strength that had clearly been at least partially complicit in facilitating the terrorist attacks against the U.S.

In order to understand how and why these events changed the views of the American people it is necessary to provide a clear structure of what factors led to the American view of its own dominance. This revelation will provide the background necessary for understanding how and why America had come to believe in its own might and shed some light on what might be the possible vulnerabilities that the terrorists exploited enabling them to carry out their plot. Once that framework is established it is useful to examine in which ways the attacks challenged the prevailing beliefs that America had developed and chipped away at the self-image of the country causing it to begin a metamorphosis. It is worthy of note that this metamorphosis is not complete but is well underway. To understand how both the self-image and the way in which the attacks changed that self-image and have had a lasting impact on the U.S., it is useful to examine some of the changes that have taken place post 9/11 and to discuss how those changes affected a more modest and humble self-view of the United States.

American Dominance

America's view of itself as virtually impervious to attack was not developed without merit or out of simple arrogance. "[P]opular stories of American culture produce a mythology that helps shape subsequent behavior...which continues in movies, television, comics, and video games, and the ideals of both democracy and the Judeo-Christian tradition."

Instead of being unworthily arrogant or of being guilty of megalomania, the nation had a long and prestigious track record of major accomplishments that allowed the United States to almost ignore its failures which were present in the nation's history. To be sure, the U.S. had suffered defeats in Korea and in Vietnam against substantially inferior military opponents which in the minds of some should have had a dampening effect on the nation's view of itself in terms security. However, the victories that had been achieved previous to Vietnam and Korea and the victories that came after those wars simply cast an eclipsing shadow over the losing efforts and prevented the Americans from keeping their might in the proper context.

America prior to 9/11 and indeed subsequent to 9/11 remains the world's only superpower. This status has been achieved through continuous effort to build up arms, develop important strategic alliances and through creating the most powerful economic engine in world history. These accomplishments have been possible in part because of what America means. "Americanism, as different people have pointed out, is an 'ism' or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms." (Lipset 31) Americanism, however, unlike many other of the dominant isms has served as an explosive force in terms of productivity but has had an unfortunate side effect of creating a sense of overconfidence among those who ascribe to its tenets. As a function of this point-of-view, Americans tended to see things in their own peculiar light which necessarily obstructed their ability to appreciate the events being planned against the country that would change the nation and the world forever on September 11, 2001.

Illustrative of Americanism is the view that many in the U.S. hold with respect to the country's contributions to world history. It is the belief in self-reliance and in American superiority that confirms to its citizens that the U.S. that saved the world from the tyranny of Hitler and Hirohito and without such contributions the rest of the world would certainly have fallen. Americans even refer to those that served in World War II as the "greatest generation" from whom they are the progeny which both acknowledges the important contributions of the individuals that fought but signifies that the greatness has been passed down on a genetic level to the posterity of those soldiers. These events and perceptions of Americans about their contributions on the world stage loomed large in the collective mind of the country prior to 9/11 giving it cause to overlook the failures in Korea and Vietnam and focus more on the nation's next great achievement which would undoubtedly come.

As the victor of the Cold War, the Americans derived an enhanced sense of importance. In fact, the view that Americans held of the mighty Soviet Union helped to further reinforce the image of grandeur that was assumed by the people once the communist empire had been toppled. Thus the fears and exaggerations about the Soviets actually helped the U.S. To construct a greater image of their own power once the Cold War had concluded. Like World War II, the Cold War further established the supremacy of the U.S. At least as far as the nation was concerned and in terms of how secure the country actually was.

With the attack of Saddam Hussein on Kuwait, the Americans had the chance to illustrate global hegemony once again. Memories of the war in Vietnam gave many in the world pause about the outcome of U.S. involvement but in many ways it was essential for the Americans to demonstrate to the world that the war in Vietnam was actually lost as a result of misinformed political gambits rather than as a function of U.S. weakness. Once the U.S. had crushed the Iraqi menace, the self-image of the Americans was unwilling to even entertain suggestions that the nation was anything other than unbeatable.

The combination of these factors created an American security situation that was essentially focused on threats that would come from the sea or more likely from the air. This fostered efforts in the U.S. To protect against encroaching submarines, missiles from rogue nations and other threats that were tied to aggressive states. It did not seem probable that a group of individuals that embraced a specific ideology would present a significant threat to the country and therefore a blind spot for the kind of terrorists that attacked on 9/11 grew more substantial with each passing year.

Attacking the Image

With the attack of the World Trade Towers by the 9/11 hijackers not only were buildings destroyed and lives lost but the very image and prestige of the U.S. was assaulted. "Jet planes pierced and exploded gigantic phallic towers that were icons of a culture (America), of modernism and of globalization, and they likewise pierced and exploded into that nation's military hub." (Stein) No longer could the U.S. proclaim its invulnerability or even its capability to deal with threats in any kind of absolute manner. The nation could not even immediately determine exactly what had happened having been caught so completely off guard that it was unclear who had been responsible for the attack. In many ways, the U.S. seemed to stagger and flail as it recoiled from the attack and showed its embarrassment at having failed to live up to its own self-image. The image of the United States had been struck in multiple ways with the destruction of the chosen targets. Specifically, the image of the U.S. As an economic giant had been battered as not just the buildings fell but so did the value of the U.S. stock market and other related financial indicators. An attack of this nature struck at the heart of Americanism and American dominance and threatened to throw not just the U.S. But the world into recession.

As the great protector of its people, the U.S. government had assumed that the systems it had devised to protect and shield the public from attack were… [END OF PREVIEW]

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