11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview

Preface

It might have been possible for the atrocities of 11 September 2001 to have resulted in a serious re-assessment of the western security paradigm. A remarkably powerful state had been shown to be vulnerable to a simple if carefully organized attack, demonstrating that there were significant forces at work that did not accept the diffuse western hegemony that had increasingly evolved after the ending of the Cold War. In practice, this reassessment of vulnerabilities and consequences did not happen, and an almost immediate effort was made to terminate the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, putative supporters of the al-Qaida network that was considered to be the core opponent in the 'War on Terror'. This was then followed by the naming of several states as constituting an 'Axis of Evil', support for Israel in its vigorous control of the Occupied Territories, and preparations for a possible war with Iraq.

By the end of 2002, it was apparent that the 'War on Terror' was proving very difficult to prosecute. During the course of the year there were numerous attacks on western targets in Tunisia, Yemen, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Kenya, with many more attempts intercepted. The al-Qaida network had been disrupted but remained active, and in Afghanistan itself an apparent victory was deteriorating into a situation of deep instability, with a visible absence of commitment by most western states to protracted and serious post-conflict peace-building.

It was also a year in which initial support and sympathy for the United States across much of the world was replaced by suspicion and even overt antagonism. What was becoming widely believed was that the 'War on Terror' was developing into an attempt by a particularly hard-line administration to re-impose order primarily through the use of military force. By the end of the year it was as if the world community was fracturing into three constituencies. One was the United States, in concert with a handful of allied governments such as those in Australia and, to an extent, Britain, which saw the 'War on Terror' and the vigorous confronting of rogue states as the fundamental requirements for international security.

In much of Europe there was dismay at the evidence of growing instability, especially in the Middle East, and a frank disbelief that Washington could be so supportive of the Sharon government in Israel. Not only was there a greater concern with trying to understand the root motivations of paramilitary groups such as al-Qaida, but there was also a recognition that support for these groups was not diminishing-indeed it was probably at a higher level than in the period immediately preceding the 11 September attacks.

-xi-

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