War and Conflict

The War on Terror

What is the War on Terror?

In his remarks the evening of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush (1946-) vowed that “America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.” TV newscasts were soon emblazoned with the message, “America’s War on Terror,” or simply, “The War on Terror.” The events of 9/11 catapulted the free world into a new era, in which conflicts no longer were limited to wars between nations. There was a new enemy, which knew no national boundaries, whose “army” was covert, and which mercilessly targeted civilians.

Acknowledging that the new threat could not be met by the United States alone, the Bush administration began forging an alliance of nations that together would use diplomacy, take military action, and coordinate intelligence and law enforcement efforts to combat terrorists around the globe. On September 12, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell (1937-) called for a “global coalition against terrorism.” Eventually the Bush administration put together an alliance of 84 countries, called the Global Coalition Against Terrorism, “united against a common danger, and joined in a common purpose.”

The strike on Afghanistan, called Operation Enduring Freedom, was the first military strategy in the new war. The next major initiative was the war in Iraq. While those operations were underway, terrorist strikes continued around the globe. In March 2004, following the commuter train blasts in Spain, President Bush remarked that “the murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians find themselves suddenly on the front lines. In recent years, terrorists have struck from Spain, to Russia, to Israel, to East Africa, to Morocco, to the Philippines, and to the United States. They’ve targeted Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen. They’ve attacked Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. No nation or region is exempt from the terrorists’ campaign of violence.”


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