Critically examine how Terrorism impacts upon world Politics in the Post-Cold War era Essay

Terrorism can best be defined by Warlaw who describes it as the 1″use, or threat of use, of violence by an individual or a group, whether acting for or in opposition to established authority, when such an act is designed to create extreme anxiety and/or fear- inducing effects in a target group larger than the immediate victims with the purpose of coercing that group into acceding to the political demands of the perpetrators”. During this essay I will briefly look at the role of terrorism before September 11th and then how it changed from then on. I will then look at the effects it has had on international politics and the role of London but more importantly Washington; are all changes down to terrorism or the personality of the man everyone loves to hate, President Bush?

In the past 10 years there have been 5,431 ‘terrorist’ incidents compared to 3,824 in the 1990’s. This doesn’t mean that terrorism is a global threat-post 9/11 terrorist acts have been against Westerners in Western areas within other regions-the bombing in Istanbul was targeted at a British embassy, the Bali bombing was targeting predominantly Australians and other Western peoples. Terrorism is a global concern but not a global threat. Today, anything that is against the grain is regarded as an act of terrorism.

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Terrorism is nothing new. 2It was prominently used by Sicarii and the Zealots against the Roman occupation in Palestine and in the 11th and 12th century it was the weapon of choice for the radical Islamist sect, ‘the Assassins’, in their effort to overthrow the existing Muslim authorities. It reared its ugly head again in the anti-colonial struggles post World War 2, especially by the Jews against the British mandate in Palestine, by the EOKA again against the British and their colonial rule in Cyprus, and by the FLN against France in Algeria. However, these were examples of groups using terror as a primary weapon-it doesn’t mean they were terrorists-there political objective was freedom so ultimately they were freedom fighters using terrorist methods.

3The U.S have experienced political violence over the past 2 decades, pre-9/11, from the Bierut bombing of the U.S embassy and marine barracks in 1983, the Khobar Towers and U.S.S Cole bombings the following decade as well as the attacks on its embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. However, the most significant was the attempted destruction of the World Trade Centre in 1993 which, if successful, would have killed up to 10 times as many as 9/11. There has therefore been action by radical groups to achieve their political goals. Worldwide growth of technology has been a catalyst for an increase of terrorism.

The development of civil aviation has created new vulnerabilities for the West to deal with and increased the number of targets for terrorists to exploit, as shown by 9/11. Airliners have substantially increased security measures for flights with many Western governments threatening legislation to be passed this year, such as armed personnel on our flights. The advancement of the media can help terrorists gain the instant worldwide publicity they crave, therefore magnifying the terror and gaining awareness for the cause. Modern weapons technology has allowed terrorist to be more efficient, using modern plastic explosives such as Semtex, and lightweight firearms such as the Uzi sub-machine gun.

4Political consequences have arisen from the Inter-communal conflicts and polarization which has resulted from terrorism, best shown in Colombia, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka. It has crippled the law institutions and orderly governments and threatened to destroy their economies by damaging trade, vital resources, and discouraging investors. In parts of Lebanon and Sri Lanka whole areas have been labelled ‘ungovernable’. This is one of the key problems for Western countries in their quest against terrorism; improvements in primary education, literacy, and communications has resulted in many more people becoming aware of their marginalisation, leading to a potential revolution of frustrated masses.

There has become increased pressure to migrate, increasing criminal activity, and in some areas anti-elite feeling and occasionally rebellions, developed from the increases of radical social movements. 5This can be seen by the Zapista rebellion in Mexico, the Shining Path in Peru, and FARC in Colombia. This is a prime example of terrorism shaping political systems and we can expect such trends to continue. The only likely way to defeat terrorism is to end its support. A common problem for the U.S and Britain in Iraq at the moment is that the rebels are supported by local communities. 6Another problem for Bush is Washington’s over-commitment in supporting Israel. Ariel Sharon has used America’s ‘war on terrorism’ to increase his aggressive policy on Palestine, helping to ensure a Palestinian state will never come into being.

The attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon have shaped the political agenda of Western governments like no other terrorist act in history and that is why I have decided to focus on US policy since 9/11 because of its huge global political ramifications. 7September 11th transformed American politics from a traditionally isolationist population into one that wanted their President to act quickly and decisively on the world stage. 8The unilateralist view of the Republican right was that the latter part of Clinton’s 2nd term didn’t fulfil its role of enhancing U.S interests abroad. The events of September 11th and the resulting ‘war on terror’ have reinforced this unilateralist stance.

This has included opposition to any multilateral negotiations to strengthen the Bio weapons Convention, the establishment of secret military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, and the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. For the U.S their right wing administration, especially in terms of security, combined with the effects of 9/11, has enhanced the craving for maintaining control and quashing any possible threats. 9America has a closely divided electorate; therefore the ‘war on terror’ has helped Bush and the Republican Party politically. His advisors wouldn’t want to see anything that could be labelled as a failure or weakness to push central voters back to the Democrats and alienate some of his right wing supporters.

Since 9/11 the US has adopted protectionism via its tariffs on steel, which have virtually ended the role of the WTO. Although the steel tariffs have just ended after 23 months of protectionism Bush has deliberately alienated Europe by exempted Canada and Mexico from these tariffs. 10They had political as well as economic motives. He didn’t raise the tariffs to win him votes in some crucial states within the U.S but to tell Europe to toe the line. Europe just about settled for an allied invasion of Iraq but it remains to be seen whether they will tolerate a decline in their own living standards, turning the global political system even more anti-US.

The tariffs only ended when it suited Bush, not due to European pressure. The steel industry has recovered enough for the tariffs to end. 11During Bush’s first 8 months in office he demonstrated a major shift in US foreign policy by rejecting the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a convention on the sale of small arms and a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. New alliances have been forged with illiberal regimes in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, reversing years of effort to promote human rights. Bush has deliberately disregarded international opinion and the laws for war.

12Bush has built upon this by adopting the same basic principles of the 2nd Reagan administration; both were unilateralist, drawing clear distinctions between good and evil, claiming extended rights, promoting missile defence, and relying on the threat of terrorism to justify it all. Powerful countries have always tried to shape the international system to help them and the U.S is no different. The widespread sympathy gained from 9/11 has allowed Washington to gain the extension of self-defence to include a military response against all states that harbour or support terrorist groups who have already attacked the responding state. This change to international law will have considerable influence on world politics in the future. Using it the U.S will be able to invoke it again when the circumstances aren’t so bad. They may even be trying to include the right to anticipatory self-defence. Bush has adopted Machiavellianism and taken it to another level, believing the end-security of the state-to justify any means necessary to achieve those ends.

13Resulting from the extension of self-defence the US has ignored the resolutions and declarations of the U.N General Assembly and pays little attention to the decisions of the International Court of Justice. Therefore, international law applied by the U.S is further showing little resemblance to international law understood by everyone else. The U.S is attempting to create a new rule book for itself alone with development of these exceptional rules depending on the responses of other countries to the exceptional claims. Given the potential military, political, and economic costs of opposing the U.S, it is likely that agreement would occur.

In this sense, Bush has adopted the Realist ‘self-help’ approach to their security by claiming the right to use lethal force to achieve their objectives. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Geneva Convention have been labelled as ‘outdated’ by the U.S who claim it is no longer bound to treaties it entered before the end of the Cold War. This disregard for International treaties is another example of Bush following a Realist example by rejecting them as soon as their interests are threatened. There is very little stopping them. The Bush administration is heavily funded by the oil industry and has thereby rejected the development of the International regulatory system on the emission of greenhouse gases. It is my view that the ‘war on terrorism’ is good, if not impossible, but can also be used as a thick smokescreen for the pursuit of other, less important political goals.

Are Bush and Blair even following a ‘war on terrorism’? The fact is crusades aren’t often profitable or practical. They aren’t concerned with waging a ‘war on terror’ but merely trying to restore national pride after the humiliation of 9/11. As Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent, claims, 14″We are not fighting international terrorism, we are fighting America’s enemies…” Contrary to what many historians argue, 9/11 didn’t change everything-the map of the world remains the same, economic and military power is still the same shape, and the geography of democratic, semi-authoritarian, and tyrannical states, excluding Afghanistan and Iraq, remains the same. Issues such as the environment, drugs, and the AIDS crisis all predated 9/11.

The attacks on the U.S threaten to reshape the world yet it is arguable that these changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary. 15As Fred Halliday notes, there are 6 key reasons as to why the world is different since September 11th 2001. Firstly there has been an increase in U.S power. The Bush administration was forced to change policy decisions such as increase his defence spending by $50 billion. His policy of missile defence will be hugely expensive without being very effective. Secondly, 9/11 has made countries work in closer unison yet some U.S allies have distanced themselves, most notably Saudi Arabia, but the general balance has worked in favour of the U.S. Bush has alarmed Russia by stationing forces in central Asia and failing to grant Moscow the collaboration they wanted with Washington.

Third, there has been a global feeling against the U.S, although it could be argued that this would have happened with Bush at the helm, with or without 9/11. Historically, if one state becomes too strong then the others turn against it as can be seen in response to Napoleon in the 1800’s and Hitler in the 1940’s. This didn’t occur during the period after the Cold War when everyone wanted to join the U.S and its international institutions, for example NATO and the WTO. Fourth, 9/11 has deflated certain important areas of the global economy such as tourism, airlines, and oil industries and spread a lack of confidence on behalf of investors.

This is the catalyst towards possible recession. The fall in oil prices has led to a price war between OPEC and the non-OPEC nations such as Russia, Norway, and Mexico. Now there is a surplus of 3 million barrels of oil a day. Fifth, is the fact that West Asia has become the area most affected. Pakistan has managed to worm its way out of isolationism as well as hundreds of millions of U.S dollars of debt by joining the U.S. From now it will be able to gain the benefits of improved relations with the West. Finally, globalisation has been challenged by 9/11. Global optimism in economics has been halted and global finance will expect a greater in-surge of political support. This has had, and will continue, to have global political repercussions.

Despite all the negatives that have been projected across the media about the ‘war on terror’ it hasn’t been quite the calamity that some critics would like us to believe. 16As Con Coughlin argues, the Taliban regime, which harboured terrorists such as Bin Laden and his followers, has been decisively defeated, however big or small a success you believe it to be it is still an achievement. Many of Bin Laden’s right hand men have been killed, such as Al-Qaeda’s military commander Muhammad Atef and their Director of external operations Abu Zubaydah, or are in U.S custody. Bases such as Guantanamo where they are being held has resulted in many terrorist attacks being foiled, including a planned attack on the U.S Embassy in Yemen and a repeat of 9/11 via a hijacking of a civilian airliner to crash into Las Vegas over Christmas.

As Coughlin points out Saddam has been successfully overthrown and then captured on 14th December 2003. He had been working with terrorists for over 30 years. When the Iraqi Survey Group reports within the next few months, Coughlin is adamant that at the very least it will conclude that Saddam had the infrastructure to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. As the Kurds would tell us, he wouldn’t have had any qualms about using these. However, contrary to Coughlin’s belief Dr. David Kay, the man who until 23rd January, headed the Iraqi Survey Group remarked how he believed Iraq hadn’t been developing weapons of mass destruction since the 1st Gulf War, which has come as a major embarrassment to Washington and London.

The next few months will be crucial as to whether the allies’ key reason for invading Iraq was ill-founded. This could have huge political repercussions across the globe and for Bush’s election campaign. December was a very profitable month for Bush and Blair when Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi announced he was to give up his chemical and nuclear weapons which he had previously denied even existed. This decision by Gaddafi has been one of the largest successes for the allies in their ‘war on terror’, clearly showing his anxiety that he may be the next country on Bush’s list. Just 2 years ago it would have seemed impossible that Gaddafi would disarm unilaterally.

Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ has become more prominent since 9/11. 17Many now argue that his theory of ‘a new phase’ in world politics after the Cold War has now proved itself correct. The ‘war on terrorism’ has been perceived by many Muslims as a war of Christians against Muslims and thus a clash of civilisations although Bush interprets this as democracy fighting terrorism. With America becoming the global hegemon and the lack of any near competition for at least 20 years the bipolar system looks to be being replaced by a possible clash of civilisations.

This change can be shown by the ‘Iron Curtain’ which was the dividing line across Europe for 45 years but has now moved several hundred miles east, separating the peoples of Western Christianity from Muslim and Orthodox peoples. The re-emergence of religion throughout most of the world has reinforced these cultural differences. It is Huntington’s claim that global politics has become multicivilizational and, for the time being, this seems more and more likely to continue. 18This greatly contradicts the ever outdating Realist perspective who argue International relations is still, and will remain a struggle amongst states for power.

The fact remains terrorist groups remain. Their behaviour has adapted in order to survive and function properly in the post-Cold War era. Rather than resisting globalisation terrorist groups have taken it on board and tried to use it to their advantage. Post Cold War terrorist groups now share ideologies, exchange technologies and personnel, and conduct joint operations which have made it all the more harder for the Western allies. If terrorism is to be stopped then there must be cooperation in terms of intelligence, judicial, and security between countries. If Al-Qaeda can be destroyed, it will show other terrorists groups the consequences of carrying out a mass casualty attack.

However, if it continues to survive then more groups will follow its path. The U.S hasn’t been able to dismantle Al-Qaeda; it isn’t even sure if it has caused much damage to it. There is no obvious way to appease Al-Qaeda and for that Al-Qaeda has no obvious way to appease the U.S. In the present state of world affairs it is probable that Syria, Iran, and/or North Korea may be the next countries to feel the wrath of President Bush’s ‘war on terror’, as mentioned in his ‘axis of evil’ speech. All 3 have much to do to comply with the requirements of international nuclear weapons monitors. However, it is hard to see it possible to win such a ‘war on terror’. 19Britain has never ended the IRA, Spain hasn’t defeated ETA, and Israel hasn’t wiped out Hamas or Hezbollah. The same can be said for the Russians against the Chechens or the Colombians against FARC. The Viet Minh defeated the U.S armed forces when they were supposed to be near invincible.

20Despite the claims of Colin Gray, it is impossible to claim statecraft hasn’t changed in the face of terrorism. The old rules of statecraft, diplomacy, and warfare have been discredited for the 21st century. However, the terrorist cannot take all the credit for this. President Bush has used the ‘war on terrorism’ to achieve the two things he desired most-to stamp his name in history and to strengthen the U.S from it, which he has so far achieved. The President had already withdrawn the U.S from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Kyoto, and the Biological Weapons Convention within this first 8 months in office and thereby before 9/11, firmly setting his intentions clear. His desire to protect America is extreme, his extension to the right of self-defence will have severe consequences for millions of innocent civilians of what he labels ‘rogue countries’. The only way for Washington to achieve global security and peace is not to address the symptoms, but rather the causes of terrorism.

The terrorist impact on world politics has only been so substantial due to Bush’s decisive victory in the war of propaganda in the West; he has managed to turn a more realistic view of the largest nation in the world bullying two of the most wretched into a projected view of the U.S fighting back against the evils of terrorism and rescuing the masses from the horrors of the rogue states that harbour these terrorists. International security, which has been so heavily shaped by the Bush administration, will determine the extent of conflict, political and non-political, for the next 20 years. Terrorism is not yet a global threat but the results from it have had global political consequences. The likelihood for the time being has to be continuous war and large risk of political violence, both by elites and against elites.

Notes:

1. Paul Rogers, ‘Political Violence and Global Order’, in ‘Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers, 2002. p.215

2. Ibid., p.217

3. Ibid., p.219

4. Ibid., p.217

5. Ibid., p.217

6. Immanuel Wellerstein, ‘Mr Bush’s War on Terrorism: How certain is the outcome?’, in ‘Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. p.97

7. Lawrence Freedman, ‘A New Type of War’, in ‘Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. pp.38-46

8. Paul Rogers, ‘Political Violence and Global Order’, pp.220-221

9. Immanuel Wellerstein, Mr Bush’s War on Terrorism: How certain is the outcome?’, p.98

10. Ibid., p.99

11. Michael Byers, ‘Terror and the future of International Law’, in Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. pp.119

12. Ibid., pp.119-124

13. Ibid., p.119

14. Sharif M. Shuja, ‘The September 11 tragedy and the future World Order’, 2002, www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2242/1635_280/85532641.jhtml , p.4

15. Fred Halliday, ‘A New Global Configuration’, in ‘Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. pp.235-239

16. Con Coughlin, ‘The Terrorists lost in 2003- and will go on losing’, 2003, www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fopinion%2F2003%2F , pp.2-3

17. Samuel P. Huntington, ‘The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order’, London: Touchstone Publishers, 1998. pp.19-29

18. James Baylis, James Wirtz, Eliot Cohen, and Colin S. Gray, ‘Strategy in the Contemporary World’, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. p.7

19. Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘Mr Bush’s War on Terrorism: How certain is the outcome?’, p.99

20. James Der Derian, ‘In Terrorem: Before and after 9/11’, in ‘Worlds in Collision-Terror and the future of Global Order’, Edited by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. p.101