America's War On Terrorism

Strengthening or Weakening of the United States?

Pre-University Paper, 2014

23 Pages, Grade: 15 Punkte



I. Introduction

II. Terminological and definitional fundamentals
1. The term “War on Terror”
2. The term “Terrorism”
3. The term “Jihad”
4. Taliban and Al-Qaeda

III. Development of the war on terror
1. Reasons for fighting terrorism
1.1 Aims of terroristic groups
1.2 Terroristic assaults on the United States
1.3 Danger of further attacks
1.4 Starting the war on terror
2. Progression of the war on terror
2.1 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists and “Bush Doctrine”
2.2 Military Action

IV. Successes of the war on terror
1. Deaths of important terror group leaders
2. Achievement of aims and withdrawal of troops
3. Deterrence of the terrorists
4. Improvement of America’s reputation

V. Sacrifices of the war on terror
1. Costs of the operations
2. Deaths caused by the war on terror and impact on civilians’ lives
3. Aggravation of America’s reputation
4. New threats on the rise

VI. Conclusion

Bibliography: Paperwork.

Bibliography: Online Sources


I. Introduction

September 14th, 2001. Ground Zero. A group of people is standing in the middle of the debris of the World Trade Center, reduced to ashes by the plane hijackings and suicide attacks carried out by terrorists just 3 days earlier. Disbelief, anger, shock, horror, desperation and grief are the emotions the whole US-population seems to be feeling. The small group is united by the worldwide trauma. Ashes and debris, parts of bodies, personal belongings of the victims and parts of the aircrafts are lying all over the place. President George W. Bush has come to visit the site of the horror and to talk to the relatives of the victims and to the helpers. He climbs to the top of a wrecked fire truck and grabs a bullhorn in order to deliver a speech addressed to the workers who were still desperately clinging to the hope of finding survivors, for each life they would save would already be a small victory. One man shouted that he could not hear what the president was saying. The commander in chief’s reply quickly spread and is now said to be one of the most remarkable quotes of George W. Bush. “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon.” It is a challenge. It is a threat. It is a promise, stating that the pursuit of terrorists and the eradication of such horror had begun… isn’t it? That the United States of America will rise from the ashes, a phoenix, indestructible, unwilling to bend, that they will pursue and capture terrorists, bring peace to all nations and all countries and that they will make the world a better place, or won’t they?

Those words and the actions following them in the next couple of days, weeks and months have become known as the start of the so-called “War on Terror”. How did this affect America’s position as the leading superpower? Did it strengthen it? Weaken it? Ruin it? These are the questions I will further pursue in my term paper “America’s War on Terrorism – Strengthening or Weakening of the United States?”

It is paramount that we are all on the same page. Therefore I have decided to explain some fundamental terms that are often misinterpreted and misused at first. Once I have established this common ground, I can begin to elaborate on how these events have affected America’s role as THE superpower. First I will present an overview of the reasons that led to America’s war on terrorism. Why did America choose to intervene? Why does terrorism need to be fought? After answering these questions I will proceed with the progression of the war on terrorism. Next, I will take a closer look on the successes the United States have accomplished in their so-called war on terrorism. But where there is light, there must also be shadow, so it goes without saying that the considerable sacrifices America has made in this consuming war must be named as well. After I have illustrated both aspects on America’s war on terrorism, I will conclude and answer my essential question whether America was strengthened or weakened by this monumental attempt to end terrorism – whether successful or not.

II. Terminological and definitional fundamentals

1. The term “War on Terror”

“War on Terror” is only one of many names for “the ongoing campaign by the United States and some of its allies to counter international terrorism” (Anon., n.d.). This term was the term George Bush used when he started this operation. It is also known as “Global War on Terror”, “War on Terrorism” or “Long War”. President Obama announced that he would rather his employees call it “Overseas Contingency Operation” (c.f. Wilson & Kamen, 2009). This global military campaign was launched in 2001 as a response to the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th. It is mainly carried out by the UK and the USA, but supported by numerous other countries. US Legal defines it as following:

Global military, political and ideological struggle employed against organizations designated as terrorist and regimes that were accused of having a connection to terrorists or presented as posing a threat to the US and its allies in general. (US Legal., n.d.)

2. The term “Terrorism”

In order for a violent act to be considered terrorism, it must meet two criteria. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has established those criteria as follows: First of all, it has to be a violent act or operation which puts peoples’ lives in danger by breaking federal or state law and secondly, it has to be intended to either frighten civilians and/or force them to do something or to take influence on a government’s actions or affect the conduct of a government. There are two kinds of terrorism, namely domestic terrorism and international terrorism. While domestic terrorism mainly takes place within the territorial jurisdiction of the US, the international terrorism does not. (c.f. FBI, n.d.)

In my term paper I would like to focus on the most important branch of international terrorism, namely the Islamist terrorism. It is terrorism based on a religiously fanatic interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunni. In order to justify the terroristic acts, these two Holy Scriptures are misinterpreted and abused.

3. The term “Jihad”

The Arabian word “jihad” originally stands for “permanent contention of a believer with the evil in the world” (tr. Moghaddam, 1984). It should be a “peaceful battle for self-control and betterment” (Kabbani & Hendricks, n.d.) Most people think that “jihad” means “sacred war”, but that is a misunderstanding. However, said “evil in the world” means other religions for extremists, who aim at spreading or defending the beliefs of the Islam violently.

4. Taliban and Al-Qaeda

The Arab word “Al-Qaeda” means “the base” in English. Al-Qaeda is a network of Islamist extremists mainly operating in Iraq, Yemen and Maghreb. It was governed by Osama Bin Laden until his death in 2011. The aims of this group will be elaborated in the next point. While the network Al-Qaeda has been classified as a terroristic group on October 8th, 1999 by the Secretary of State (c.f. Bureau of Counterterrorism, n.d.), Taliban is a political movement which was in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It was toppled by the US military and Afghan opposition forces in 2001. The BBC report:

The Taliban in Afghanistan were accused of providing a sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda movement who were blamed for the attacks. (Simpson, 2013)

III. Development of the war on terror

1. Reasons for fighting terrorism

The war on terror was officially started in 2001 as a countermeasure to the events of September 11th. Yet, 9/11 was not the only reason why the war on terror was launched, but only the last impulse needed.

1.1 Aims of terroristic groups

In order to comprehend the reasons why terrorism needs to be fought, it is obligatory to understand what aims terroristic groups are pursuing with their actions and attacks. In order to demonstrate this, I will elaborate Al-Qaeda’s goals in the following.

Al-Qaeda has declared its aims to be the formation of an all-united Muslim nation in which all inhabitants live strictly according to the rules of the Qur’an and the Sunni. In order to create this nation, all the non-Muslim influence, especially the American one, on Muslim countries must end because, according to their beliefs, the USA is the perfect example of a secular state. (c.f. Hayes, et al., 2007) Furthermore, to achieve this goal, it is required that all leaderships in favor of the western ideals within the Mid-East be tilted (c.f. Hayes, et al, 2007). Since the USA are supporting said governments, which follow such ideals as e.g. democracy, equal rights or freedom of religion, they have given the terrorists another reason to consider them as the most important enemy.

Another aim of Al-Qaeda is the destruction of Israel. The majority of Israelis is Jewish and that fact is unacceptable for these Islamist terrorists, who see their own religion as the only true word of Allah. Also, Israel is located in the center of the area in which the all-united Muslim nation should be formed. Again, the USA are clearly visible as an opponent to this target, since they are Israel’s greatest ally.

It is obvious, that the USA are hindering Al-Qaeda from achieving their goals. That is the reason why they are seen as the main enemy.

1.2 Terroristic assaults on the United States

The hatred toward America has led Al-Qaeda to carry out numerous actions against the USA or US citizens. The most tragic successful assaults were obviously the suicide attacks of September 11th, 2001, when four planes were hijacked. Two of them were flown into the World Trade Center, another one was directed into the Pentagon and the fourth one was originally headed for the Capitol, but crashed in the countryside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after a passengers’ riot. Almost 3000 people were killed. (c.f. Smutz, 2011)

But even years before 9/11, terrorists have plotted and threatened assaults against the United States or other secular or religious adversaries and successfully carried out some of them. Many assassination attempts were disrupted, including such plans against President Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul II (c.f. Cronin, 2004) and the so-called millennium attack plots as a part of which Los Angeles International Airport should have been bombed (cf. Gabriel, 2006: 118)

1.3 Danger of further attacks

The September 11 attacks can be seen as the climax of a steadily worsening development. Shortly after 9/11 Osama Bin Laden denied any involvement of Al-Qaeda:

I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people. (Global Research, 2011)

But later on, Bin Laden praised and justified the assaults in numerous video tapes and audio recordings. Al-Qaeda became the main suspects for 9/11. Because of the enormity of this event, which was perfectly planned, the USA came to the terrifying realization that terrorists are capable of carrying out even worse attacks and that their force had obviously been underestimated. President George W. Bush stated in a speech addressed to all American citizens on September 20th, 2001: “Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians.” (eMediaMillWorks, 2001) They came to the conclusion that the war against Americans that had already been declared by Osama bin Laden years ago (c.f. Tristam, n.d.), had now taken on a whole new dimension. Therefore worse attacks were expected.

1.4 Starting the war on terror

Political leaders tried to calm the citizens who were clearly upset and terrified and promised that countermeasures would be implemented. New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, for instance, urged “decisive action” (Anon, 2001) against terrorism on TV a few days after the attacks. On September 20th, 2001, President George Bush uses the term “War on Terror” for the first time. He promises:

“Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. “ (eMediaMillWorks, 2001)

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, many countries expressed their condolences and shared the American grief. Military support was promised to the United States by almost 30 countries and many of them agreed to President George W. Bush referring to the war on terrorism as “the world’s fight”. That was the beginning of the war on terror.

2. Progression of the war on terror

2.1 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists and “Bush Doctrine”

On September, 17th, 2001, the National Security Strategy was published, in which President Bush announces that he does not only plan to capture terrorists, but also to attack countries that support terrorists. In his speech at a session of Congress on September 20th, 2001, he stated the following:

“We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” (Jones, n.d.)


Excerpt out of 23 pages


America's War On Terrorism
Strengthening or Weakening of the United States?
Wissenschaftspropädeutisches Seminar "The USA as a World Power - on the Rise or on the Decline?
15 Punkte
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
747 KB
USA, America, Super power, Terrorism, Al Quaeda, ISIS, World Police, 9/11
Quote paper
Carmen Röhrl (Author), 2014, America's War On Terrorism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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