International Lawlessness, International Politics and the Problem of Terrorism: A Conundrum of International Law and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Acharya, Upendra D. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

International Lawlessness, International Politics and the Problem of Terrorism: A Conundrum of International Law and U.S. Foreign Policy


Acharya, Upendra D., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


INTRODUCTION

At the dawn of the 21st century, the world was (as it is today) in the process of working out the power dynamics that would shape this coming century. China, India, Brazil, and many other countries have demonstrated that they are financially and politically stable enough not to be dictated to by the so-called powerful countries. At this time, the United States continues to face the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Now the world has begun to analyze whether it should allow the United States' 20th century power monopoly to continue. Will the United States lose its unilateral power base in the 21st century as Great Britain did in the 19th century and continental Europe did in the 18th century? What is the impact that the war on terror has or will have in terms of the sustainability of the power monopoly of the United States? These questions are appropriate this year as the United States and the world community observe the consequences of the decade-long global war on terror that followed the September 11th, terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, many foreign policy practitioners and international legal scholars delivered their perspectives and claim that the event changed the world, the understanding of international law, and the modus operandi and dynamics of international relations. There is also a contrary view that U.S. foreign policy and the approach to international law in that foreign policy has not been world changing. The United States continues to practice the same foreign policy that it did before 9/11, an approach that did not change even after the Bush presidency. (1) The purpose of this article is to address the 21st century world and what place international law should have in international relations and in U.S. foreign policy. In addressing this conundrum, the article will explore the effects of the global war on terror on international law and U.S. foreign policy, what has resulted from these developments, and what, if anything, should be done to eliminate or reduce any negative consequences.

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, OR WAR WITH AL QAEDA

On September 11, 2001 members of al Qaeda hijacked four U.S. commercial aircrafts en route to California from the East Coast. (2) The al Qaeda members threatened the passengers and attacked the crewmembers, then redirected the aircrafts to New York and Washington D.C. and used the aircrafts as weapons to attack the United States causing the deaths of 2,973 innocent people. (3) On the evening of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush, in an address to the nation stated:

      The search is underway for those who are behind these
   evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence
   and law enforcement communities to find those responsible
   and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction
   between the terrorists who committed these acts and those
   who harbor them. (4)

On September 20, 2001, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, President Bush announced that the hijackers were part of an anti-American radical Muslim network known as al Qaeda and whose leader was Osama Bin Laden. (5) President Bush also accused the Taliban government of Afghanistan of sheltering and supplying terrorists, he demanded that the Taliban government hand over al Qaeda leaders to the United States immediately or share the consequences. (6) President Bush announced the beginning of the global war on terrorism as follows:

      We will direct every resource at our command--every
   means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every
   instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence,
   and every necessary weapon of war--to the disruption and
   to the defeat of the global terror network.... We will
   starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another,
   drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or
   no rest. … 

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