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World Politics: International relations after 9/11

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2089 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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In the aftermath of 9/11, what theory or theories of International Relations do you think are most useful in understanding World politics?

They were the most lethal terrorist attacks in history, taking the lives of 3000 American and international citizens and ultimately leading to changes in anti-terror approaches and operations in the U.S and around the globe. (www.fbi.gov). Before 9/11 occurred, the U.S was encountering a period of peace and economic boom. This fostered the illusion that International Relations were of no great significance in the wider arena. The American public and political classes were unconcerned with previous attacks on the World Trade Centre in 94, the attack on the USS Cole, and the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Attacks of 9/11 and the fall of the World Trade Centre’s marked the beginning of the real 21st century. (Brown 04). 9/11 was not simply an act of terror but the most destructive single act of terror since World War 2. Many in the Islamic community saw the attack, as an attack on “the symbolic heart of global capitalism” (Brown 04). 9/11 galvanised the American people, and less then 12 hours after the attacks, president Bush formally declared a “war on terror”. Overnight America’s relationships with Russia, China and India improved. Britain and Australia were also seen as close allies. President Bush and his supporters stressed the need to go on the offensive against terrorists, to deploy the U.S. military, and to promote democracy in the Middle East. (Gordon 07). The U.S is fighting a war on terror and must remain on the offensive. The Bush administration feel, that U.S. power is the foundation of global order, and the spread of democracy and freedom is the key to a safer and more peaceful world. (Gordon 06). Therefore I feel that neo-conservatism and Realism are the theories of International Relations that are most useful in understanding world politics today.

World Order in the 21st Century

Terrorism is a multi-faced problem and requires an aggressive and long-term solution. Any war against terror requires collaboration among governments worldwide, as well as collaboration among government units domestically. There are many sides to America’s war on terror. It is being fought on the military, diplomatic, financial and homeland security fronts. (Hayden 03). Charles Krauthammer’s vision of a unipolar world states, the U.S. has been designated the custodian of the International system by virtue of its enormous margin of military superiority. (Fukuyama 04). The U.S. as custodians of the international system suggests a broadminded understanding of self-interest. The neo-conservative movement is seen as quite strong in the Bush administration. The U.S. spends as much on defence as the next 16 most powerful countries put together. (Fukuyama 04). Democrats have argued that Bush’s approach to the war on terror has created more terrorists then it has eliminated, and that it will continue to do so unless the U.S changes its outlook. (Gordon 07). The U.S. wants to distinguish its friends and its enemies through foreign policy. With this type of power comes enormous responsibility. The promotion of liberal democracy around the world and the push for national interest are characteristics of a neo-conservative movement. (Fukuyama 04). Some of the more famous Neo-Cons would have been Ronald Regan, George W. H. Bush and George W. Bush. Neo-Cons see the spread of democracy as “the success of liberty”. By engaging in the war on terror, the U.S feels that it can spread democracy.

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The U.S led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq were justified by the Bush administration as to “fight an enemy that poses a global moral threat to global freedom”. (Krauthammer 04). The U.S. saw this as an opportunity as a nation-building project. (The U.S has had 18 since 1899, with the latest one being Iraq). (Krauthammer 04). For Liberal internationalists, war is legitimate only if sanctioned by the U.N. This was the case for the invasion of Afghanistan, but not for Iraq. Both France and Germany opposed the war in Iraq, and voted accordingly in front of the U.N. Security Council.

When one considers President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, one cannot escape the fact that George Bush Senior directly connects three components of Bush’s policies to initiatives set out by him when he was president. The three being the search for stability in the International system, confronting Iraq and combating terrorism. (Hayden 03). For President George W. Bush, Iraq represented opportunities and challenges. The opportunity to end the regime of Saddam Hussein, and to enhance regional stability were seen as rudimentary. (Hayden 03). Secondly, Saddam Hussein’s removal from power would represent a vindication for the Bush family, and to the advisors that served under Bush Senior. Namely Dick Cheney and Colin Powell.

The Presidents “axis of evil” address provided renewed impetus to remove the Iraqi President. Noting that Iraq’s WMD threatened world peace. President Bush launched a new doctrine. It was to protect the U.S from rogue states (Iraq, Iran and North. Korea) and pre-emption was favoured. The U.S would employ force to destroy WMD in a pre-emptive attack. The doctrine immediately alienated alliance members in the Middle East and NATO. Some might argue that Bush-Hussein showdown was seen as personal, noting that the Iraqi leader tried to assassinate his father in June 1993 (Hayden 03).

The war on terror further offered another variable that indicated a connection between father and son. George Bush Senior, as vice president to Ronald Regan, and as president himself, the issue of terrorism represented a huge aspect of foreign policy. (Hayden 03). This again is seen as a trait of the Neo-conservative movement.

The Just use of Military Force

The fundamental question faced by the Bush administration was how best to respond to the threat and reality of terrorism. The answer in the administrations eyes was to resort to war in order to strike back. (Hayden 03). There are fundamental criteria of just war theory and international laws of war. The U.S and its allies must meet these in order to justify military force. The war theory of ‘jus ad bellum’ must be looked at.

Did the U.S. have just cause? Did the U.S have the right to go to war? In my opinion, it would be very difficult not to react to the events of 9/11. 3000 people lost their lives. It would also send out a signal that swift retaliation would occur to anybody thinking of committing terrorist attacks. Was the right intention adhered to? I feel that in the case of Afghanistan, war was justified as a means of ousting the Taliban regime and providing peace and security to the region. There would be no personal or national gain from taking these measures. On the other hand, I feel that this could not apply to Iraq. The simple reason for this is that Iraq has a huge oil supply. Is the U.S after control of the oil, or to promote democracy and freedom to this country? The question of legitimate authority, whereby a war must be declared was adhered to. This was the case when a resolution was granted by the U.N for the war in Afghanistan. Some might argue that the war in Iraq was seen as personal or unfinished business on behalf of the Bush family. Was war the last resort? I feel that there was reasonable doubt as to whether serious attempts were made to negotiate settlements in the two countries. Was enough effort made through International Diplomacy, economic and legal measure? Again the question of controlling a country that is rich in oil springs to mind. I feel that the whole issue of finding WMD was used as a smoke screen in order to invade Iraq. Does the U.S feel that there is a likelihood of success? I feel they do. They have the largest, most sophisticated military in the world, and I feel that they are too strong for any country in the world. On a whole, no singular principle offers justification for use of military force. On the issue of Afghanistan, I feel the U.S had the right to declare war and to instil peace and security. With Iraq, I do not feel this was the case. The principle of the “proportionality of the ends of war” is intended to ensure that the good or end result intended by war outweighs the evil that will results from war itself. (Hayden 03). President Bush has made it clear that the war on terror is open ended. Again this indicates a strong trait of a Neo-Conservative. (U.S. trying to promote democracy around the world).

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The neo-conservative ideology is seen as an improvement on Realism because it understands the utility of democracy as a means for achieving global safety and security. (Krauthammer 04). One of the drawbacks is its universalism, its open-ended commitment to human freedom. The temptation for the U.S is to try and plant the flag of freedom and democracy everywhere. Such a crusade could overstretch U.S resources and deflect from the task at hand. One might argue that the U.S. could adopt democratic realism, as it is more targeted, focused and limited. (Krauthammer 04).

Democratic Realism emphasises the primacy of power in International Relations. This form of Realism has the virtue of most clearly understanding the new unipolarity and it uses, including the unilateral and pre-emptive use of power if necessary. . (Krauthammer 04). Charles Krauthammer believes that Neo-conservatism is indistinguishable from Realism.

Final Analysis

George W. Bush’s legacy is linked to his fathers. A linkage exists between the policies of the father and of his son. In the end George W. Bush has benefited from the mistakes and successes of his father. The outcome of the Iraq conflict and the war on terror will be a barometer for Bush’s long-term legacy. (Hayden 03).


It is not possible to deny that the events of 9/11 were the most lethal attacks the world has ever seen. It cost the lives of many innocent American and International citizens. It forced the American people and the Bush administration to wake up to the fact that America was open to attack, and that there is a lot of anti-American feeling especially in the Islamic community. They see America as the heart of Globalisation, and Bin Laden’s goal was to strike fear into the hearts of not only American’s, but also the international community. Bin Laden’s objective is to drive the U.S out of Muslim lands, topple the region’s current rulers and establish Islamic authority. (Gordon 07). The path to this goal is to ‘provoke and bait’ the U.S into ‘bleeding wars’ on Muslim lands. (Gordon 07). In reaction to this, President Bush and his predominantly Neo-conservative government decided to engage in a ‘war on terror’. There justification for this would be that as defenders of the free world, they have the opportunity to promote peace and democracy around the world. Victory in the ‘war on terror’ will not mean the end of terrorism, the end of tyranny or the end of evil. (Gordon 07). Terrorism after all has been around for a long time and will never go away entirely. The U.S and its allies need to promote patience, strength and the same resolve that helped to win the cold war. America needs to design policies that will provide hopes and dreams to potential enemies. (Gordon 07). Once the ‘war on terror’ concludes, preventing terrorism will remain an important goal of the U.S and the international community, but it will no longer be the main focus or driver of U.S foreign policy.


  • Brown, C.B. 2005 Understanding International Relations. Third edition. Palgrave and Mcmillan.
  • Hayden, P.H. 2003 America’s War on Terror. Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Gordon, P.H. 2007. Can the war on terror be won? [Online] available from: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20071101faessay86604/philip-h-gordon/can-the-war-on-terror-be-won.html Access date [10/12/2007]
  • Gordon, P.H. 2006. The end of the Bush Revolution. [Online] available from: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060701faessay85406/philip-h-gordon/the-end-of-the-bush-revolution.html Access date [10/12/2007]
  • Fukuyama, F. 2004. The Neoconservative Moment. The National Interest. 76: Academic Research Library pg 57.
  • Krauthammer, C. 2004. In Defense of Democratic Realism. The National Interest. 77: Academic Research Library pg. 15
  • www.fbi.org


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