Grand Strategy in the War Against Terrorism


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Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. Yet despite its importance in shaping US policy choices, there has been considerable confusion over how the war on terror relates to foreign policy goals. This article attempts to locate the war on terror within American grand strategy and makes three claims.

First, it argues that the Bush administration's approach to the war on terror rests on a false analogy between terrorism and fascism or communism. This has led to misinterpretations of the goals of the war on terror and to a persistent misuse of American power. Volume 84 , Issue 2. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username.

International Affairs Volume 84, Issue 2.


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Alternatively, explanations focus on how neoconservative thinkers shaped the intellectual climate after September 11, in a receptive media climate. They conferred with scholars such as Bernard Lewis, Samuel P. Huntington and Victor Davis Hanson to construct classicist historical narratives and to explain cultural differences. However, the history of the decade after September 11 also contains mis-steps and mistakes which make it a series of contingent decisions Ferguson; Bergen.

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For instance, what if September 11 had been a chemical and biological weapons attack? Mann Collectively, these counterfactuals suggest the role of agency, chance, luck, and the juxtaposition of better and worse outcomes.

The war on terror in American grand strategy

Although successful in initiating the Iraq War this civilian control created a deeper crisis in US civil-military relations Stevenson; Morgan. For instance, the US Department of Energy had expressed doubts about claims that Iraq had approached Niger for uranium, and was using aluminium tubes for biological and chemical weapons development. The two-track process converged on two now infamous speeches. Powell claimed that Iraq had mobile biological weapons facilities, linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

However, they had the intended effect on decision makers. In the short term the two track process worked in heading off doubt.

A Grand Strategy of Transformation

This combination of private and public processes meant that although doubts were expressed, they could be contained through the dual echo chambers of neoconservative policymaking and the post-September 11 media. Many experts and institutions expressed doubt about specific claims the Bush Administration made to support the Iraq War. This doubt came from three different and sometimes overlapping groups. Others could challenge misleading historical analogies between insurgent Iraq and Nazi Germany, and yet not change the broader outcomes Benjamin.

Independent journalists one group who gained new information during the Gulf War: some entered Iraq from Kuwait and documented a more humanitarian side of the war to journalists embedded with US military units Uyarra.

Finally, there were dissenters from bureaucratic and institutional processes. In some cases, all three overlapped. This overshadowed a more important fact: both Howard and Wilkie knew that due to Australian legislation, Wilkie could not publicly comment on ONA intelligence, despite the invitation to do so. However, analysts are trained not to interfere with policymakers, even when there are significant civil-military irregularities. The intelligence community usually tries to pre-empt such outcomes via contestation exercises and similar processes.

This was the goal of the NIE on Iraq, despite the fact that the US Department of Energy which had the expertise was overruled by other agencies who expressed opinions not necessarily based on rigorous scientific and technical analysis Prados; Vogel. Disinformation also arose regarding nuclear weapons proliferation to non-state actors in the s Stern. The neoconservatives adopted these same tactics to reframe the NIE from its position of caution, expressed by several intelligence agencies and experts, to belief that Iraq possessed a current, covert program to develop weapons of mass destruction Prados.

Alternatively, information may be leaked to the media to express doubt.

The emergence of sites such as Wikileaks, and networks like Al Jazeera English and Al-Arabiya, are a response to the politics of the past decade. Whilst this prematurely closed off other possibilities, it has also unleashed a series of dynamics which have undermined the neoconservative agenda. Perhaps the enduring lesson of the post-September 11 debates, though, is that doubt alone is not enough. What is needed are individuals and institutions that understand the strategies which the neoconservatives and others have used, and who also have the soft power skills during crises to influence critical decision-makers to choose alternatives.

Counterfactual 1 : Al Gore decisively wins the U. Bush v.

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Gore never occurs. After the September 11 attacks, Gore focuses on international alliance-building and gains widespread diplomatic support rather than a neoconservative agenda.


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  6. Fact : U. Counterfactual 2 : U. Ayman al-Zawahiri is critically wounded, captured, and imprisoned. The rest of Al Qaeda is scattered. Fact : L. Barker, Greg. PBS Frontline. Boston, MA: Benjamin, Daniel. Bergen, Peter L. No one seems to have planned, in the run-up to war, for the UN to assume a political role after hostilities ceased. In the war on terrorism itself, according to Mann, things have also gone astray. Here again, Washington has failed to keep focused on the real threat, extending its war to a whole series of terrorist groups who had nothing to do with 11 September.

    While the former are numerous and very difficult to overcome, the latter are few and somewhat easier to defeat. On 11 September, the US was attacked by international terrorists. But instead of focusing on those responsible, the government declared war indiscriminately on all terrorists, lumping together those who attacked the US and those who did not.

    Their power has been exaggerated only because a handful of them managed successfully to attack the United States. The US will continue to capture or kill al-Qaida operatives, who are living on the lam, in pinpoint law-enforcement operations, and can do this without slaughtering village-loads of innocent bystanders. This is a notable advantage, because the indiscriminate killing and crippling of bystanders is how counter-insurgencies propel new recruits into terrorist conspiracies.

    Unfortunately, Bush has all but squandered this advantage. Instead of keeping aloof from unwinnable guerrilla wars, he has rushed to join them, as when he sent American soldiers to help crush Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic secessionist movement in the southern Philippines. Mann is well aware that the Bush administration could not conduct such a foolhardy foreign policy without significant public support.

    Since the US public was poorly informed about political turmoil in, say, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it had the impression that, on 11 September, the US was hit from nowhere.

    Wanted: European Grand Strategy for War Against the Islamic State

    As a result, Americans were widely supportive of purportedly retaliatory attacks anywhere the government desired. First, Mann does not distinguish clearly enough between the passing sins of the Bush administration and deeply entrenched patterns of US behaviour that will change little if a Democrat is elected later this year. He also oscillates confusingly between the claim that the US lacks important powers and the allegation that the present government, for ideological reasons, refuses to use these powers. After explaining at great length that the US is doomed to fail in its imperial ambitions because it has neither the resources nor the favourable conditions enjoyed by the British when they established and maintained their empire, he flips around and argues with equal confidence that the US is not seeking a territorial empire on the British model.

    And so forth. At various points he endorses the ancient notion that the hubris of the great inevitably precipitates their downfall. In a few passages, strangely enough, this prognosis sounds like wishful thinking.

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