Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

By Thomas R.Mockaitis; Paul B.Rich | Go to book overview

Al Qaeda and the Radical Islamic Challenge to Western Strategy

PAUL RICH

The 11 September 2001 global crisis prompted by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon raises major questions concerning the nature and trajectory of terrorism in the post-Cold War global order. Hitherto, terrorism has been largely debated by analysts at the level of nation states. Terrorist and insurgent movements have also been largely anchored in nationalist and ethnic power bases even when they have sought to mobilise a trans-national ideological appeal on religious or class grounds. There have been a few exceptions to this pattern such as the alliance between the German Baader-Meinhof group and the Japanese Red Army Faction, but even such international alliances as this did not, until at least the 1980s, presage anything like a global terrorist network necessitating a global strategic response.

Counter-terrorist strategies have thus been largely formulated at the nation state level. 1 During the Cold War from the late 1940s to the early 1980s, the debate on terrorism was heavily influenced in the West over political ideology given that many of the insurgent formations were dominated by a Marxist programme of 'national liberation' and a global war against 'Western imperialism'. Counter-terrorist responses by Western states such as Britain, France and the US was largely at the nation state level. While there was widespread swapping of intelligence information between states, nothing like a common global or international response to terrorism emerged given the basic ideological divisions of the Cold War.

Most democratic states have thus resisted the internationalisation of insurgent issues, evidenced by the considerable opposition in Britain to UN or US involvement in Northern Ireland. One of the strongest regional response to terrorism has been that of the European Union in the form of moves to establish a common data base among EU members of known members of terrorist organisations and moves to establish a common EU-wide police force. However, even this still remains in relatively early stages of development and it is not clear how it will work with continuing EU expansion.

Given this largely national response to terrorism-together with some developing regionally-based initiatives like those of the European Union-

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