Ten years out, the world as seen from the perspective of the United States continues to look like a scary place. Indeed, the 9/11 attacks were ‘more like a bolt of lightning that illuminated essential contours of the international landscape than an earthquake that reconfigured it’. Countering terrorism and other global threats had occupied the United States during the final decades of the twentieth century, yet 9/11 showed their novel and more potent dimensions and signalled an especially combustible combination of threats and challenges that the United States would have to face in the years ahead. Although the threat posed by al-Qaeda and related groups is less severe than that highlighted by the 9/11 attacks, the threats have become more complex and more amorphous than at any time in the past decade. More US citizens and residents have played important roles in planning and carrying out terrorist attacks on behalf of al-Qaeda and its allies, and a diverse range of domestic-based jihadist groups have proliferated during the same period. Over the last decade, instead of the time-tested strategy of using its overwhelming military might to respond to conventional foes, the United States has been confronted with a mismatch between its power and a range of asymmetric threats. In response, new laws and policies created after 9/11 marked radical changes for the United States. Considerable controversy surrounded several of the new initiatives, at home and abroad. Now, a decade out from that defining moment, it is possible to assess the ways that the United States has attempted to counter the threat of terrorism. Treating the response to the 9/11 attacks as war was a deliberate choice made by the Bush Administration and was endorsed by Congress a few days after 9/11. The war paradigm made sense to most observers at the time and it helped mobilise support for a military invasion of Afghanistan. In the major military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the more episodic uses of force by the United States in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, among other places, since 9/11, the United States has sought to win battles and gain the tactical advantage over an elusive, amorphous, and non-state enemy.
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- Social Sciences(all)