Terrorism & The 21st Century
By Shauna Gillooly • July 9, 2014 • International
The title that this era has ushered in, that of the United States being in a “Global War on Terrorism” is misleading and generally incorrect. Yes, the United States should be involved in battling terrorism, both at home and abroad, but this is not a war that can be fought in the conventional tradition of wars, nor can it be resolved as so many wars have been in the past: with armies facing off and treaties being signed, with the terms determined by the victor. The days of conventional warfare are long gone. The enemy is now ever-changing: multiple terrorist organizations, controlled largely by a few individual masterminds, with vastly different motivations for their actions. The effect is equivalent to that of flies biting a giant as the United States tries to clumsily swat them away with military might.
This is a war that must be fought covertly, with the usage of intelligence groups, special operations forces, and even perhaps the morally ambiguous targeted killings and drone strikes. But it must be fought. It is no longer sufficient for the United States to defend only its direct interests. The world today is too global, too interdependent for the policy of isolationism that was deemed acceptable in previous centuries. Alliances have been made, billions of dollars in capital trade is being done constantly worldwide, and these interactions must be defended for the fragile stability of the international system to prevail. Interests no longer have a tangible border due to the global, technological world that exists today, and this must be addressed in security measures.
For the first time since 1964, over half of Americans believe that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own (1).” The American people are tired of combat, especially after the drawn-out disaster that was the Iraq War. The title coined by Bush to rally the American people to the cause of war after the 9/11 attack, The Global War on Terrorism, is now a tired and unwelcome phrase to American ears. This was made clear by the enormous public and congressional outcry against Obama’s plans for limited military strikes against Syria in August of 2013, which ultimately resulted in no action taken by the United States’ military.
There is no precedent for the situation that the United States finds itself in today, with interests spread out in every corner of the globe, and smaller, mobile enemies fighting not for something tangible, but for ideology. It is nearly impossible to negotiate diplomatically with groups who fight for ideology. In an address to the nation during the panic surrounding terrorist attacks, George W. Bush firmly invoked the age-old American foreign policy line, “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” This is a phrase that has been parroted by government and law enforcement officials for decades, but the question that remains today is; we don’t negotiate with terrorists, or we can’t negotiate with terrorists? The moral frame indoctrinated into new recruits through the processes of moral engagement and cognitive reconstrual skews the individual values and beliefs and changes them to radical views that are irreconcilable with the values and beliefs of the rest of society (2). This ideological extremism makes negotiation and peaceful diplomacy a less viable option for dealing with terrorism. To a certain degree, it forces countries to display “vicious diplomacy” in defense (3).
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