George W. Bush

By: Shayde Jones

what is war on terrorism?

Because the actions involved in the "war on terrorism" are diffuse, and the criteria for inclusion are unclear, political theorist Richard Jackson has argued that "the 'war on terrorism' therefore, is simultaneously a set of actual practices wars, covert operations, agencies, and institutions and an accompanying series of assumptions, beliefs, justifications, and narratives it is an entire language or discourse."Jackson cites among many examples a statement by John Ashcroft that "the attacks of September 11 drew a bright line of demarcation between the civil and the savage"Administration officials also described "terrorists" as hateful, treacherous, barbarous, mad, twisted, perverted, without faith, parasitical, inhuman, and, most commonly, evil Americans, in contrast, were described as brave, loving, generous, strong, resourceful, heroic, and respectful of human rights. Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preventive war, human rights abuses and other violations of international law.


On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists, with the support and funding of the renowned terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, attacked the United States. The assault on the nation was unconventional in nature. Instead of a military invasion, terrorists hijacked four aircraft and used them as projectiles. The first aircraft struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center facility in New York City at 8:45 a.m. Then, just shortly after 9 a.m., a second plane barreled into the World Trade Center's South Tower. It immediately became apparent that the United States was under attack.In the immediate aftermath of September 11, members of the Bush Administration quickly blamed Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the leader of the regime, as the primary culprit in the devastating attack. On September 20, 2001, Bush went before Congress and declared a 'war on terror' against the Taliban government in Afghanistan because the Taliban offered refuge and protection to bin Laden and tenets of the Al-Qaeda network. While Bush's pursuit of bin Laden was largely retaliatory, his quest to eliminate the entirety of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network reflected his doctrine of preventing future attacks on the United States and its international interests.Bush provided the Taliban government with the option to hand over bin Laden to American officials, but it refused on the basis of the lack of evidence supporting his role in the September 11 attacks. As a result, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, an extensive war in Afghanistan, on October 7, 2001. The United States, combined with support from Britain, France, Germany and Canada, decimated suspected Al-Qaeda networks throughout Afghanistan and systematically eliminated terrorist leaders.

bush doctorine

Before a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, President Bush declared a new approach to foreign policy in response to 9/11: “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.” Bush declared that the United States considered any nation that supported terrorist groups a hostile regime. In his State of the Union speech in January 2002, President Bush called out an “Axis of Evil” consisting of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, and he declared all a threat to American security. British and French allies did not receive Bush’s declaration enthusiastically because they believed Bush’s language to be overly aggressive.

These remarks later matured into the policies known as the Bush Doctrine, officially traceable to September 2002, when the White House released the National Security Strategy of the United States. The doctrine generally focused on three points. The first was preventive war in which the United States would strike an enemy nation or terrorist group before they had a chance to attack the United States. It focused on deterring any potential attacker. The second point was unilateral action in which the United States would act alone if necessary to defend itself either at home or abroad. The third point embraced spreading democracy and freedom around the world, focusing on concepts such as free markets, free trade, and individual liberty.

Reactions to the Bush Doctrine were mixed. Neoconservatives within and outside his administration strongly supported the idea of the United States acting on its own to ensure the country’s security and to protect the American people—preemptively, if necessary. Some opponents believed the doctrine was overly bellicose and its emphasis on


war was unjust. Others believed the emphasis on spreading democracy around the world was naïve and unrealistic. As the situation in Iraq became increasingly unstable, the ideas behind the Bush Doctrine receded in prominence, even within the Bush administration.
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