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The War on Terror and its Global Impact

The War on Terror is an international military campaign against terrorism by the United States Government after the September 11 terrorist attacks (referred to as 9/11). It is now a structural American policy which has led to multiple international campaigns and invasions, but the impact of America’s longest war yet has affected thousands on the ground, people whose voices may never be heard. The campaign aimed to dismantle some of the world’s largest Sunni extremist groups like the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, it also aimed to crack down on the issue of state sponsorship of terrorism.

Some of the immediate actions that were taken by the Bush administration were done in an attempt to hunt down the leader of Al-Qaeda (an Islamic extremist group) at the time, Osama Bin Laden. The US government pressurized Afghanistan’s Taliban led the government to hand Bin Laden over to them, and when they did not comply, the USA and their other Western allies invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime. This move drew widespread criticism and is arguably seen as one of the biggest failures of the War on Terror, one that pushed America deeper into a war in Afghanistan. Similar operations were launched in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Despite its failures, the war on terror had strong global support, which manifested itself in the form of growing intelligence sharing, military cooperation, and the fundamental idea of collective self-defense.

However, this campaign has had multiple other ramifications not just for the countries involved. In a precedent-setting resolution, the US congress authorized American Armed forces to use active military force against terrorists, by extension setting historic precedent used by multiple countries today, to intervene against terrorism, without respect for national sovereignty. Although President Obama officially declared the war to be over, the rise of groups like The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forced the American Government to authorize operations very similar to ones undertaken in the war on terror. These operations have been successful in breaking down the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria along with pressurizing regimes long suspected of financially supporting non-state actors to halt funding to known extremist groups. Despite this, it leaves many asking whether the ends justify the means and whether the results compensate for its other flaws.

The War on Terror is a heavily criticized operation, the criticism is based on multiple grounds. Most fundamentally, a War on Terror simply cannot work. Experts have said that the correct way to combat terrorism in the long term is a method of systematic deradicalization through established programs and initiatives. Another area of contention is the cost. The war on terror has costed the US approximately over a trillion dollars and many argue that engaging in endless wars abroad is not a good use of state money. Lastly, there are growing concerns over the actual execution of this policy. Many sources claim that American forces use torture, arbitrary detention, and disproportionate killings in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Torture is illegal under both domestic and International law but countries have been known to use black sites abroad to escape accountability.

The growing sentiment against Islamic terrorism bled into daily American life with the rise of islamophobia and hate crimes against minority groups. With the Bush administration pushing for greater domestic action against terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security was created to coordinate the largest known reorganization of the federal government. In addition, the US Patriot Act of 2001 lowered the threshold of evidence required to tap phones, search emails, financial statements, and medical records. Along with the continued efforts of the NSA authorizing surveillance, this was seen as a hostile attempt to breach the fundamental right to privacy. Unilaterally acting against terrorists or rebel groups without the host country’s consent was declared unlawful by the International Court of Justice but owing to its structural inability to enforce decisions, it continues to happen. Many countries have adopted this style of fighting terrorism.

India gives it's military and paramilitary forces practical impunity in acting against terrorists in certain regions of the country. Even China which has sustained a cold relationship with the USA, to say the least, has praised the War on Terror and used it to justify the brutal suppression of the Uighur Muslims (an ethnic minority in Xinjiang) after a group of knife-wielding Muslims attacked passengers at a railway station. The war on terror started with the idea of protecting innocent civilians, but it has become increasingly evident that states are now losing moral legitimacy while claiming to fight those who undermine it.

By: Mihir Yedur

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