The arch-unilateralist into a card-carrying multilateralist” (M.Lindsey,

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The events of September 11th, 2001 not only indented
the New York skyline, but shaped international politics forever. The deadliest
terrorist attack in US history, where Americas “freedom came under attack” (Bush, 2001) ­­ was seen to have
been an attack on not only America, but an attack on the freedom of the western
world. 9/11 was significant as it made the threat of trans-national terrorism
legitimate; and specifically, the threat of Al-Qaeda significantly more apparent. 9/11 acted as
a catalyst for the US to transition from post-Cold-War hostilities with Russia
and China, to new anti-terror type alliances, which formed on the idea that “you are with us or you are with the
terrorists”. (W.Bush, 2001) Americas desperation in wanting to
prevent another terrorist attack from happening again, led the US’
involvement in other wars in the middle east, such as Iraq and Afghanistan;
where the US acted on pre-emptive violence, to prevent attacks in the future. It
has also been argued that 9/11 represented the darker side of globalisation,
which the west had not previously experienced. (Powell, 2011). Attitudes to
Americas leadership under George W. Bush was impacted by 9/11, in that critics
highlighted that 9/11 actually turned   “him (Bush) from an arch-unilateralist into a card-carrying
multilateralist” (M.Lindsey, 2003)

Prior to 9/11, President George Bush rejected Clinton’s
multilateralism approach and focused mainly on building up the military and the
US’ defences. Bush also rejected international agreements, such as policies on
greenhouse gas and limiting the number of weapons of mass destruction the US
was permitted to have.  Bush isolated
himself from any complex agreements that his predecessor had been involved with
the Middle-East and Northern Ireland.  Bentley
and Holland (Holland & Bentley, 2013) also state that that
under the administration of the 42nd President Bill Clinton,
policies tended to focus more on economic policy.

However, 9/11 acted as a catalyst for policies that focused fully
on the military and ways to prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack
happening again. In 2002, the US state department published, along with new US
Foreign policies, the ‘US National Security Strategy’ which displayed a new
approach to policies. Policies such as the Patriot Act allowed for the
pre-empted arrest of terror suspects, without trial. This is an example of how
policies turned much more aggressive and focused on the war on terror, as
oppose to post-Cold-War internarial relations. In a speech at the White House
regarding the new policies, Bush stated “We will defend the peace by fighting terrorists…
we must make use of every tool in our arsenal—military power, better homeland
defences, law enforcement, intelligence” (The White House, 2002) This was the US
moving away from more global policies and focusing on the security of its own
borders, and the legitimate threat of  occupation of any middle eastern states that
hold an opposing  ideology.  As Dipak K. Gupta states, terrorism not only
became everyone’s business, it became the cornerstone of US foreign and even
domestic policy (Gupta, 2010)
This change in foreign policy then led to the creation of Guantanamo bay, which
ran based on interrogating and prosecuting detainees of war crimes, without trial.
The change in US Foreign policy in reaction to 9/11 influenced international
politics as it fundamentally changed how the most powerful country in the world
at the time operated, which subsequently changed the worlds attitudes towards
terrorism as it legitimised the threat and made the west and other core
countries form strong allies to defend themselves.

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America wanted to form strong alliances after 9/11 to secure
not only its borders from terrorism, but the West itself. US secretary of
defence Donald Rumsfeld stated that the US needed to end ‘old-style’ alliances
and the US now had to form a worldwide alliance against terrorism (Nadkarni, 2010). Bush was persistent
in making sure that other countries, especially in the middle east, knew the US
was prepared to defend itself against any country that posed a ‘threat’ in
order to maintain world peace. Rumsfeld visited American troops in Afghanistan,
where he described the battle scene as a “ride into the future” and a “remarkable
achievement” as the union of soldiers and technology shows a meeting of the
nineteenth and twenty first centuries. The evolution of military weapons signifies
“new ways of thinking and new ways of fighting” (Rumsfeld,
Rumsfeld ‘new way of thinking’ was in fact a trip back to old ideas, which were
largely associated with the cold war.

At that time, dictator Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq,
and his running of Iraq and the murder of his own people went against the UN
security council legislations. It was believed that Hussain had WMD that could
be activated within 45 minutes (Blair, 2003)
which posed a significant threat to the US. In wake of 9/11, the UK had sworn
allegiance to the US to fighting the war against terror; stating “We…Britain
stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends” (Blair, Tony
Blair’s “Shoulder to Shoulder with our American friends” speech,
It has been argued that the UK government treated 9/11 as “unprecedented and
epochal…that was of direct interest to the UK itself, and it signed up to a
global campaign to prevent its repetition” (Krieger, 2004, p. 44)The US’ decision to
go to war in Iraq was endorsed by Blair but opposed by France, China, Russia
and Germany, and more importantly, undermined the authority of the UN’s
Security Council. Ryan states that Iraq was given the label of a ‘Rouge’ state
(meaning it was posing a potential security threat) and it was already a key
idea for foreign policy, but 9/11 opened the doors for policy makers to put
forward their agendas.  (Ryan, 2008) However, Miles
disputes this by saying that because Iraq didn’t alter its behaviour after 9/11,
which therefore made the administration use the opportunity to put in place a
regime that had been a consistent national security dilemma (Miles, 2013)

Therefore, the decision to undergo an invasion and full-scale
occupation of Iraq, was prompted by 9/11 as the new Foreign policy, which was
created in wake of 9/11; where “governments felt a responsibility to act to
anticipate and reduce risks before they turned into a threat.” (Chilcot, The Chilcot Inquiry, 2016) Due to the belief that
Saddam Hussain held numerous WMD, so posed a significant threat to world peace
and goes against the new post 9/11 ideology of the “war on terror”. It was later
found in the Chilcot report that the US and UK’s decision to involve themselves
in the Iraq war was a decision that was taken before alternative “peaceful
options of disarmament had been exhausted” (Chilcot, The Report of the Iraq Inquiry – Summary, 2016) and that the intelligence
the US and the UK had received was false, meaning Hussain held no threat to the
US nor the UK. Thus, due to the paranoia caused by 9/11 in relation to national
security, the unnecessary invasion, occupation and mass killing of innocent
civilians in Iraq was carried out to maintain world peace, even though Hussain
posed no threat at all. In modern day terms, the imminent threat of middle eastern
extremism has resulted in the US showing “little enthusiasm for countering the ever-increasing
of militant jihadists” (Isakhan, 2015, p. 231), this reflects the
poor decision to invade Iraq in 2003 which has been argued to have created the terrorist
group ISIS.  In relation to the question,
9/11 may not have directly caused the Iraq war, as Iraq was in turmoil since
the late twentieth century; but 9/11 was a catalyst for action from the West to
disarm Hussain and maintain world peace.

The technology and planning used by Al-Qaeda to undertake the twin
tower attacks was revolutionary. The surge in development and technology was a
result of the rapid pace of globalisation occurring in the world. Therefore,
according to Tony Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell who highlights that
Al-Qaeda used high-tech planes, the internet and open borders to attack the
heart of Western society. (Powell, 2011) Even though
globalisation had seen to be an overall good thing, it was subsequently seen to
be an enabler for terrorist groups to conduct high-tech attacks at the expense
of globalisation. This therefore has a domino-like effect on international
politics, as it shows that technology was moving so fast, the western
governments couldn’t keep up whereas the terrorist groups in the middle east
could, which would leave western civilisations in a vulnerable state and open
for attack.

To conclude, 9/11 had a significant effect on international
politics as it shaped policies and laws irreversibly and in a way, that led to further conflicts, and
further terrorist attacks, such as Istanbul 2003 and Madrid 2004. 9/11 made the
west more aware of trans-national terrorism organisations and legitimised the
threat of middle-eastern extremist ideologies. The consequential invasion of
Iraq has been argued to have led to the severe threat of terrorism that exists
today, which is met with the US and UK’s reluctance to intervene like they did
in 2003. 9/11 made the threat of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear
weapons a must have for core countries, in case of an attack. 9/11 put the West
on red alert for further attacks and made US foreign policy turn more
aggressive and introduced the idea of pre-empted arrests, in order to prevent a
9/11 like attack from happening again.  September
11th 2001 wholly turned international politics from post-cold war
alliances and hostilities, to the idea of ‘Us vs the terrorists’ which was a
transition that was not only not expected, but would have taken much longer to

Categories: Strategy


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