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American Foreign Policy: What was driving the war on terror?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The neocons or the crusade for democracy
  3. A not so interest fulfilling war
  4. Conclusion

The violence and the impact of the 9/11 attacks led the Bush government to act strongly in order to reassure the American people. Acting strongly at the time meant that the US would have to fight "the war on terror". This expression, although vague, highlighted a struggle against terrorism - which is warfare not an enemy ? and therefore designs new conflicts to which classic warfare seem undermined.

To further the notion of terrorism, we can focus on Wardlaw's definition : "political terrorism is the use, or threat of use, of violence by an individual or group, whether acting for or in opposition to established authority, when such action 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" (Cox & Stokes, 2008).

Therefore a war against terrorism, understood as substate terrorism (organizations as al-Qaeda for example), is a drastically change from a classic war: there is no state-to-state conflict, as terrorism is a spread-out movement that is not necessary linked to a territory, thus there are several problems in terms of international law as a war on terror involves a participation from the international community and the implement of a certain interference with the countries' sovereignty.

Moreover, classic actions that can weaken an enemy without sending troops (economic embargo for example) are undermined by the informal nature of terrorism (in al-Qaeda's case for example, its revenues were developed throughout the opium black production). Therefore, the war on terror seems to be almost in-winnable in our Westphalian structures, or at least very difficult to apprehend, and represents a serious cost without exactly protecting a country's interest.

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