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Monday, October 18, 2021

­­9/11: America’s place in a post-Cold War world

This marked the start of modern time terrorism. It continued to rear many ugly sides, flourishing and leading to the pointless death of thousands of innocent civilians. Regimes fell as economic chaos and insecurity prevail. From Benghazi to Beirut, acts of terror continued to portend threats on the development of nations. This is type of development that had always been dependent on democracy, good governance, respects for human rights and uninterrupted peace and security. As many commentators put it, this particular brand of terrorism had always advocated for brutality and injustice against countries whose democratic institutions and ideals have never been more desirable.  At best, this is what put America at the very centre of events as they unfold and at worst redefined its place for what’s left of a world with great security challenges.

Evidently, United States’ place on the global stage throughout this entire time has been shaped by its matter-of-fact foreign policy strategies. This, sometimes, have been altogether slow and painful and come with a feeling of globalisation as a new form of Americanisation. But what is true is that September 11 significantly changed world politics in which the basic principles for peace and security backed by strong economic revival and democracy suffered inconveniences. The reality of a new power balance as often been anticipated by many neo-realist thinkers was ramping up with states increasingly becoming aware of America’s new place in this. An important move which bears testimony of America’s search for its new place in a new power balance in a post Cold War world is President GW Bush’s declaration of the ‘war on terror.’ This war was widely supported by Americans and the country’s allies but much of the global counter-terrorism measures have been dealt with arguments – arguments that either promote them or view them as insignificant. 

Of course, the United States has done itself   great good by broadening its relations with many nations around the world and has remained wary of the fact that its extraordinary performance on the global stage would come at a price. This also meant America had to amass resources and set sail on dangerous and uncharted waters to promote world peace by combatting issues like terrorism. But even in most contentious situations, the country’s intention to do good on the global stage has never been greater. Some critics would take such an argument to be deeply patronising and exaggerated. It is true that the US sometimes displayed power and aggression and side-stepped various international resolutions that are meant to support actions to promote world peace and security. Even so, such power and aggression have been viewed by many as necessary to not only safeguard America’s interests but those of other weaker countries even in far-off places of the world. 

In a considerably remarkable range, not all the news about America influence in world affairs is good. Yet, most of the country’s fundamental ideals to combat international terrorism have yielded great dividends since September 11 and the fact would surprise many people who feel as though the current global outlook on the ‘war on terror is failing – often with murky sides. Modest sacrifices made by the United States to tackle global terrorism from the works of great security experts to those that involved the policy-making process in a country where even the sparest of effort is writ large, and partly reflecting a better-than-genteel and systemic policy dimension, have proved crucial to world peace. Still, there are those who oppose international terrorism but further go about pouring scorn on any effort aimed at combating terrorism and the ‘war on terror’ is part of overall global effort. 

Meanwhile, the sequence of ills that continue to scare the international system including terrorism and global poverty should not distract countries in charting down what’s left of their development. In general, and as the biggest player, the United States to both significantly continue making progress in its support for other countries that have shown real intention to deal with various development challenges need to continue coming in high regards and its quest for a better international system would mean that it would need to do more for less in terms of making difficult policy choices and action. This may change the pattern of policy focus of less powerful allies of the United States change significantly in dealing with world crises depending on the extent to which America is prepared to assist in order to make resources available to them. More than ever, direct and selective intervention by the US to combat international terrorism and has created new capacities for many countries and has ensured that the existing capacity is used efficiently. The ‘war on terror’ may be viewed by its critics as preposterous in this regard but a common consensus has pointed out a desired pushing back of the face of global extremism in the past decade. Stress has been placed on inherent problems; problems that the US has faced since the war started which include communication problems with the rest of the world, lackluster relations with key players as well as many misjudgments on America’s true intentions in the world. But the past years, statistics have indicated that the country hasn’t performed as badly as has been thought in breaking down these communication problems and that the country has significantly improved its relations with the Islamic world. The fact that America has proved a positive influence by extending goodwill towards much of the rest of the world especially the Islamic world means that it has also provoked greater confidence in the fight against global extremism. Most of the country’s foreign policy programmes in all parts of the world have taken into consideration the importance of peace and security through mutual trust and understanding between and among nations. It would therefore disguise the US as a self-seeking country because its century has been predicted to deliver more good to the world than other past centuries and perhaps what has scared many nations has been the ever-expanding domination of the US in all spheres of influence often defined in power and resources but this global panic may end soon. Great many persistent and complex issues still remain unclear as to how quick this is expected to happen though much have been made of them to tackle terrorism and the blatant latency of unknown reaction to future terrorist events by the US has caused some commentators to believe that the issue may dominate other crises as a matter requiring urgent action in the world. The anticipation of unintended consequences by America in combatting terrorism has been closely monitored as significant changes take place on how the country pursue its foreign policy goals – some of which may be defined as too extravagant and self-serving. Politicians in the United States have always attempted to assuage the feelings of not only Americans but other people in terms of doing what’s right and not what’s deemed right by special interests and emerging forces in world politics. Their desire to favourably place the country’s name on the world map as a sure route towards a successful American century means that it has to adapt to new norms in world politics that have emerged over the past decade. These include the need to promote and strengthen democracy and human rights in countries that need it most and as well the creation of favourable conditions for the global economy to thrive and an assessment of the country’s success as a leading player in the international would depend on these. International terrorism, however, seeks to threaten the practice of democracy and economic growth in all countries and its impact on global peace and security has been all too familiar to the United States as it feels worst hit in terms of promoting its own interest in the world. This is why it has shown interest in putting up a strong resistance aimed at stemming the very many security bottlenecks in the world and especially global terrorism; an issue which has now caught the attention of almost all players in the international system. 

Put more judiciously, expectations to safeguard and protect America’s common interest in the world have risen among its citizens and defending the country from all forms of external aggression has assumed great importance which defines its sovereignty and progress. Since 9/11, most security threats against the United States have come from international terrorism and its trend and nature have carried more scrutiny. Though there are numerous other security problems that remain largely unchallenged by the US including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, many of these hiccups in world affairs have led to a greater interplay of rigorous international activities by all nations to address such challenges. 

Distinguishing various factors that electrify international terrorism and understanding its current trend as both important, in equal measure, in order to coordinate proper international effort to combat it. Some nations have often misunderstood what America means when it pursues individual and drastic strings of step in order to make the international system work better and free nations from great insecurity and underdevelopment. The ‘war on terror’ has not only been defined in terms of self-defense in the face of external aggression but as a way of ending rising insecurity in the world and international terrorism embodies a kind of aggression which permits brutality against all nations and peoples and this has had a great toll on the United States. Many other countries, too, have been greatly affected by terrorism some of which previously served as breeding grounds for terrorist organizations and hence suffered from reprisals as they joined efforts to combat them. America doesn’t bully other players in the international system as some commentators have argued as a result of its influence and the notion that its quest for absolute security is dangerous and could lead to the emergence of other more complex problems is invalid. This is because the country has always lived up to its true values on the global stage since the Cold War ended and at the heart of which lies democracy and respect for the territorial integrity of other nations and a chance for nations to compete in a Capitalist system. But the past decade has been somewhat tumultuous given the strong resistance of some countries to America’s domination as well as other anti-American sentiments that have stemmed from special interest ideologies. 

A significant belief of most realist thinkers even before September 11 is that America’s ever-burgeoning domination in world affairs is good and will bring about a better international system. Opinion, all too strong, remains that current global counter terrorism efforts have not been outpaced by the current trend of international terrorism but might not necessarily succeed in completely wiping it off the face of the earth. It can only weaken and disrupt the activities of extremist forces that have become the basis for international terrorism which has come to America with appreciative formality.   


Lamin Njie is a senior reporter at The Standard newspaper.


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