US Politics Before and After September 11
The complete alteration of the US politics was feedback to the acts of terrorism that took place in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. It is enough therein to recall the war in Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq, the Bush Doctrine, detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, and the Patriot Act. The USA declared a war on international terrorism in the aftermath of the September attacks.
Terrorist attacks of September 11 stalemated the US citizens. The administration of former President George W. Bush after a few days of discomfiture declared war on international terrorism. Here is the chronology of events that influenced the whole world:
October 7, 2001: the beginning of war in Afghanistan.
The USA was persuaded that Osama bin Laden and his militant organization, al-Qaeda, were responsible for the acts of terrorism in New York and Washington. At the end of September, President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban regime extradite bin Laden and dismantle all bases that specialize in training terrorists and suicide bombers. The Taliban categorically rejected the ultimatum and suggested holding bin Laden for Islamic court instead. The President's response followed immediately. He allowed the US Air Force to bombard the al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and the Taliban's military bases in Afghanistan.
Overland operations against the Taliban were conducted primarily by the Afghan Northern Alliance troops, which controlled only a small amount of territory in recent years. On November 12, the Taliban leaves Kabul. The Afghanistan War death toll is hard to estimate. According to the UN, during the mission in Afghanistan in 2008, more than 2100 people have perished.
October 25, 2001: Congress signs the USA Patriot Act into law.
The anti-terrorism legislation, which is widely known under the appellation of the Patriot Act, temporarily circumscribed civic rights and liberties in the US. Libraries, in particular, were obliged to notify the authorities of what books the readers take and what websites they visit. Imprisonment for an indefinite period threatened foreigners that were suspected of involvement in the activities of terrorist organizations. It significantly curtailed the law enforcement agencies restrictions to gather intelligence within the US. Groups of civil liberties advocates severely animadverted the Patriot Act, claiming that it allowed law enforcement agencies to encroach on the privacy of citizens and eradicated judicial oversight of the police and intelligence services. January 11, 2002: the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
After September 11, about 80,000 Arabs and other Muslim immigrants were subjected to fingerprinting and registration in accordance with The Alien Registration Act of 1940 (Smith Act). About 8,000 Arabs and Muslims have been interrogated, and about 5,000 foreigners have been arrested.
The Bush administration used September 11 as a rationale to launch a secret operation of the National Security Agency, which was aimed at a wiretapping and studying e-mail correspondence between the citizens of the US and other countries without a warrant.
President George W. Bush issued an executive order that stipulated the foundation of the facility for persons who were convicted of participation in acts of terrorism. Initially, inmates were kept in cages but were removed to hastily constructed barracks in April. There were more than 1000 prisoners from 40 countries. They were imprisoned without trial and denied even the status of prisoners of war. The media were inundated with leaked reports of brutality and interrogation techniques tantamount to torture. The alleged terrorists were tried by the courts-martial. Lawyers of the prisoners complained about the violations of law.
It was Barack Obama who made the decision on liquidation of the detention camp.
June 1, 2002: the Bush Doctrine.
In bare outlines, President Bush formulated his doctrine in a speech at the Military Academy at West Point. In compliance with this doctrine, the US preserved the right to wage preventive wars on foreign soil to overthrow dictatorial regimes if they compromised the security of the US or its allies. The doctrine also characterized the maintenance of democracy in the Middle East, as an integral part of the fight against terrorism, and stipulated the protection of military interests in a unilateral manner. The US National Security Council adopted this doctrine on September 20.
It was premised on one axiom and two lemmas. Unrivaled American military superiority, which allows the US to act accordingly to the concept of preventive war, was the axiom. It empowered the US to take military action before the US itself or its allies have been attacked. This also allowed the U.S. to ignore the opinion of the international community if multilateral cooperation to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals was impossible to attain.
The United States herewith refused to negotiate with terrorist organizations and states that harbored or helped them. In addition, the U.S. made the list of these countries by using its own, not the international criteria. Countries that were supporting terrorists had to be identified and isolated, while the United States had to take all efforts for this, including military action and covert operations that were aimed at changing the regimes.
Nowadays, many analysts argue that if September 11 had not occurred, the US would have had to invent it because the American foreign policy of the XXI century is predominantly based on the Bush Doctrine.
In 2006, the White House issued an official certificate that summed up the five-year implementation of the Bush Doctrine. The main achievements in this field were the following:
- The military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq allowed the release of more than 50 million people from the captivity of violent and aggressive regimes that have made their country a base for terrorists.
- Elections were held in both countries, and the legitimate governments came to power.
- More than 75 percent of the al-Qaeda known leaders were arrested or decimated.
- The overwhelming majority of the countries around the world have frozen the financial assets of terrorist organizations for a total of $140 million.
November 25, 2002: the US enacts the Homeland Security Act.
This act declared the establishment of The United States Department of Homeland Security, which was the largest reorganization of the US government in contemporary history.
March 20, 2003: the invasion of Iraq.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration stated that Iraq posed a grave threat to US security. According to Washington the Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and could hand it over to terrorists.
The USA made every effort to make the UN adopt a resolution providing for sanctions against Iraq in the event Baghdad failed to cooperate with the international community. Washington interpreted notorious Resolution 1441 that was adopted by the UN Security Council as a mandate for the invasion of Iraq with the support of the so-called "coalition of the willing."
Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown on May 1; the dictator himself was later executed by the decision of the Iraqi court. Nevertheless, the country has been moving towards chaos. In 2009, the US started withdrawing the troops from Iraq. A weapon of mass destruction, the alleged existence of which served as a pretext for war, has not been found.
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August 10, 2009: the war in Afghanistan has no end.
The new commander of the ISAF stabilization force in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, had to admit that the situation in the country had worsened as compared to that of 2001 and that the Taliban had greatly expanded its reach.
Concerning the future of American politics, it is worth saying that it is fashionable nowadays to juxtapose the US domination with that of Great Britain a century ago and predict a similar decline of hegemony. Some Americans react very emotionally to the idea of decadence, but it would be illogical and ahistorical to believe that the United States will always have a dominant share in the power resources. The word decline can mean two different concepts: the absolute decline, that is the destruction, and the relative decline, when power resources of other countries are growing or are used more effectively.
A comparison with the decline of the United Kingdom would be unfair or wrong. Britain had naval supremacy before WWI, but in terms of macroeconomic indicators and military expenditures, it was surpassed by many nations. With the growing nationalism, the protection of the empire transformed from a prerogative into a burden. Despite all the talk about the American empire, the United States has more freedom of action than the UK at the time.
Despite these differences, Americans tend to think about their decline from time to time. Over the past half-century, the belief in the decline of the United States was strengthened after the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the economic regulation of Nixon, the oil shock in the 1970s, closures of industrial belts, and budget deficits in the Reagan era. 10 years later, Americans believed that the U.S. is the sole superpower, but September 11 put the US hegemony into question. Unfortunately, the erroneous belief in decline - at home and abroad - can lead to dangerous mistakes in politics.
Among the variety of scenarios for the future, the ones where China is competing with the United States in the field of finance but is not superior to it in total power in the first half of this century are the most likely.
As the largest power, the US will remain an important player in global politics, but it is unfair to judge twenty first century as a period of American dominance or decline while determining the type of necessary approaches. In the coming decades, one is unlikely to see the post-American world, but the United States will require a smart strategy that combines the resources of hard and soft power. Special attention should be paid to alliances and networks that are responsive to the new context of the global information age.