The War on Terror is tough to define. It is considered a war, but not in the traditional sense. When one thinks of war they think of enemies, a battlefield, weapons, and death. However, the war on terror is slightly different. The lines that define enemies and allies are blurred, there is no battlefield, and the weapons come in all shapes and sizes. Nonetheless, there has still been death.
Starting on September 11, 2001, the War on Terror has been waged for many years and has included many groups of people. On September 11, 2001, hijacked planes crashed in to the World Trade Center in New York City. Known as the Twin Towers, the World Trade Center is symbolic of the United State’s “economic power and military might” (Rahman). Immediately following the attacks, President Bush named Osama Bin Laden at fault and declared the War Against Terrorism. United States Congress had allocated billions of dollars and authorized President Bush to take any measures necessary (Moore). This war, however, is different from a typical war. President Bush told people to “go about their daily lives” unlike during World War II where 90% of Americans helped the war effort in some way. The war on terror is a war “without boundaries…directed against multiple enemies, not just one adversary” (Raz). The United States government has defined the war on terrorism against those who are declared “terrorists” or anyone accused of “harboring terrorists” (Rahman).
Once declared, the war on terror has led to many policies, actions, and governmental bodies to help fight the cause. The Bush administration asked states to join the fight against the terrorists and stated that they were “either with [the U.S.], or with the terrorists” (Moore). The causes of this war on terrorism, however, are unclear. The causes are being ignored which can aggravate the situation instead of helping it. Retaliations and reactions would become harsher and with the introduction of nuclear weapons, a war without boundaries could lead to a threat to the entirety of existence (Rahman). Post-September 11th, President Bush persuaded NATO to declare the attack on the U.S. an attack on all. Bush also had $40 billion to do whatever was needed to help the war effort (Moore). Immediately following the events of September 11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in order to defeat Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden founded al-Qaeda and he was accused of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (Vertigans). Another act taken by the Bush administration after 9/11 was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for responding to terrorist attacks, man-made accidents, and natural disasters. Homeland Security is focused at airports and is in charge of the screening at customs. Their main job is to make sure that potential terrorists and their weapons do not infiltrate into the United States and they gather intelligence on known terrorists outside of the U.S. (Vertigans). Congress also wrote and signed the USA Patriot Act. The USA Patriot Act stands for: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. In May of 2011, Barack Obama signed the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, which is a four-year extension of the three key provisions in the original act. The three key provisions are roving wiretaps, searches of business records, and conducting of surveillance of individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups (Raz). The United States has men in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in the home front in order to combat the terrorism that is occurring. Overseas, troops invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in order to take over their regime and create a democracy. In Iraq, the U.S. military took over Saddam Hussein and is trying to implement a democracy. This is a challenge, however, because these countries have never had self-government before and thus does not know how it works (Chang). In America, the Department of Homeland Security works hard to find and watch potential terrorists or anyone affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. This War on Terror doesn’t come without risks to the American government or society. Because of this War on Terror, many civilians are giving up their right of privacy. Phones are being wiretapped, emails read, and even innocent people are being watched. Some Americans are giving up civil liberties because of the potential threat of terrorism. Also, many big events, such as the Boston marathon, are not enjoyable for many because of the threat of injury or harm that began with the September 11th attacks (Raz).
There are many risks to the American people while pursuing this war. Many Americans are upset that their privacy is being taken away from them. Also, the idea that terrorists are in the United States and could possibly hurt them or their children is also very unsettling for the American public. The War on Terror is a war without a clear ending because the “enemies” are not easily defeated. “The endless possibility means the war on terror is, in theory, an endless war – a war that approaches something closer to a way of life” (Raz). Terror is a tactic; it cannot be conclusively defeated. Because of this, the United States is looking at a long time in war with not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but also with religious groups and anyone who has any motive to hurt the US in any way. In other countries, American troops are also at risk. Along with the normal threats that being a member of the military entails, the American troops are also at risk of terrorism while invading other countries. Although they are trying to create democracies in these normally totalitarian or authoritarian societies, many of the people in those countries are against the idea. Thus, they are most likely to react negatively toward the American troops and lash out at them (Vertigans).
The War on Terror only creates more enemies and promotes more violence instead of mitigating acts of terrorism and strengthening security. The government has begun to just repress groups and disregard international law and civil liberties (Vertigans). To fix this, the government needs to approach terrorism with international cooperation with laws and respecting civil liberties and human rights. The government needs to focus on the causes of terrorism instead of just accusing innocent people and interrupting people’s civil liberties (Moore). The United States needs to extend cooperation with allies and improve its defenses using military force to contain terrorists overseas (Byman).
The United States needs to strengthen several areas in order to be able to continue fighting this war on terrorism successfully. Those are: intelligence, the military, diplomacy, homeland defense, democratic reform, war of ideas, and Iraq (Byman). Although the United States has a strong hold on intelligence within the US, it needs to become stronger overseas. Most valuable will be gathering intelligence in the Muslim world in the Middle East. This information gathered would be helpful in gaining and strengthening allies as well as understand what the other countries next moves will be (Byman). Terrorist countries are gathering resources to find our weak areas and infiltrate from there. This is a prime example of what happened on September 11, 2001 (Raz). Secondly, the United States needs to strengthen the military forces in order to prevent another leader of the Taliban to rise and wage war upon America. With the rumors of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, the world cannot afford a nuclear war; it will most definitely lead to the extinction of mankind. Because of the unclear enemies in the war on terror, enough intelligence must be gathered to condemn a terrorist and a targeted killing should take place. This is will deplete the number of random killings that are happening and lower the death count in this war. Lastly, if the military were to invade another country, the troops must be large and heavily trained in order to successfully take over the country or city. Limited military strikes often fail and lead to mass killing of both American troops and those fighting against them (Byman).
The third area that should be improved upon is diplomacy. Allies are extremely important in the War on Terror, however they are not the traditional allies the United States would have in a normal war. “The most purposeful allies for this war are India, Indonesia, and Pakistan” (Byman). These countries are the best allies because they are in the heart of the Middle East and they are on the same side as the U.S. to combat terrorism. The United States should spend some time with these allies and help them strengthen their local regimes’ counterterrorism capacities as well (Chang). Next, the homeland defense should be reinforced. At the moment, it is poorly coordinated internally and is not functioning at the right capacity to be as strong as it needs to be. Homeland Security needs to target specific people instead of condemning people based on their race or religion. Also, a strategy needs to be created soon or an economic downturn will occur and damage will be done in reaction to an attack (Byman). Fifthly, current democratic reform for counterterrorism is weakening regimes and empowering the anti-U.S. forces. The U.S. needs to focus on building allies and strengthening the U.S. voice throughout the world. As the United States sets up democracies in other countries, they need to support it 100% of the way or it will likely fail (Chang).
The War of Ideas is otherwise known as the U.S. effort to win over Muslim and Arab peoples; this has failed (Byman). The United States government needs to focus more on tearing down the terrorist groups instead of building up America’s image in the eyes of the world. The U.S. also needs to specify certain strategies to use in each country they are in; “what works in Morocco may not work in Indonesia” (Byman). The final thing the United States needs to do to successfully pursue this War on Terror is to withdraw from Iraq. This is because the government believes that the longer they are in Iraq, the more it diverts terrorists from attacking the U.S. homeland. Although this is a great theory, it is wrong. The longer the U.S. is on Iraq soil, the more al-Qaeda is benefiting. They are stronger in their own homeland than if they were to attack across the ocean. Complete withdrawal from Iraq is not completely feasible. In order to compromise, a small conventional force should be present in Iraq with training. This small force should be enough to retaliate if anything happens as well as inform the terrorists that the U.S. is still in control (Byman). The troops in Iraq would be focused on containing the terrorists within Iraq yet not start a complete bloodshed between the two countries.
Strengthening these areas will help the United States become stronger in this War on Terror. Although this war will never end, these compromises will help decrease the bloodshed. This is an unavoidable war since it began and it cannot just end in an agreement. There will always be a threat of terrorism in the U.S. as well as from other countries. The best option is to strengthen intelligence, the military, diplomacy overseas, homeland defense, democratic reform in other countries, the ideas about the war, as well as withdrawing from Iraq.
Byman, Dan. "Fighting the War on Terrorism: A Better Approach." Www.tobinproject.org. N.p., 2006. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Chang, Andrew. "What's Involved in a 'War on Terrorism'" ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Moore, Richard K. "War on Terror: The Police State Agenda." New Dawn Magazine n.d.: n. pag. Web. .
Rahman, K. "Conflict and Security." Www.eldis.org. Institute of Policy Studies, Pakistan, 2001. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Raz, Guy, and Melody Joy Kramer. "Defining the War on Terror." NPR. NPR, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Vertigans, S. "Culture, Crisis and America's War on Terror." Crime, Media, Culture 3.2 (2007): 247-49. Print.