Armed Hostilities

Constituents of Security Issue to the American Government


National security issues were redefined after the September eleven attacks. They were characterised by greater pre-emption rather than deterrence in what is now known as the Bush doctrine, this was done after it had been ascertained that the attacks had been caused by Al Qaeda.

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A campaign against global terrorism was enacted and reorganisation of security agencies was carried out. (Perl & O’Rouke, 2001) The paper shall look at the details of this reorganisation and some assessment of their feasibility will also be done.

Constituents of a security issue to the American government

The American government considers terrorism as the most serious security threat. This is a considerable shift from previous strategies about a decade ago. In the past, a national security threat would be perceived as a nation that had large resources and one that was driven by predictable needs. (Kushner, 2003)

However, this has changed owing to the fact that these days shadow terrorist networks have become the major concern. Therefore, any activities that are deemed to undermine the concept of democracy and freedoms within the US fall under this category (Miller, 2002). Furthermore, any organisation that may have been formed with the sole purpose of carrying out a terrorist agenda is considered a security issue.

This implies that all the persons involved in the leadership, control or financing of such bodies is a threat. Particular emphasis goes to terrorist groups that have a global reach or those ones that appear to possess some level of state sponsorship (Berner, 2007).

Terrorism may not just be limited to international acts; certain incidences have shown that locally based terrorism is still a big security concern. A case in point was an individual who attempted to drive into the Times Square in a vehicle with a bomb in 2009.

Weapons of mass destruction deterrence have been considered as an important part of the national security response strategy. President Bush argued that the convergence of technology with ill intentions by the nation’s enemies can be an impending risk to the country.

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In this regard, evidence that can demonstrate that a country possesses nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction qualifies as a national security concern within the country (Gottron & Shea, 2003).The possibility of large scale attack against the US is quite plausible and vigilance has therefore been heightened in order to detect these weapons of mass destruction or prevent their utilisation (Shea, 2004).

Recently, several countries have been noted as key threats to national security and the include North Korea as well as Iran. The two countries have attracted the attention of the US owing to the fact that they possess nuclear programs. This implies that they could carry out attacks against the nation at any moment and therefore need to be watched very carefully. (Niksch, 2008)

It should be noted that the election of a different US president at the moment alters several components of national strategy. For instance, during the Bush era, employing military force or striking first was a key issue in national security. However, in the Obama administration, it has been announced that diplomacy will take greater precedence to the use of aggression.

Furthermore, George Bush coined the term global – war – on – terror as a key national concern. However, this is something that the new presidential regime has moved away from because it has a lot of negative connotations. Instead, President Obama asserts that national security concerns will be characterised by the need to isolate various cases of terrorism.

One of the most interesting issues that have emerged in recent discussions in national security is the concept of the economy. It has been asserted by the secretary of state – Mrs Hillary Clinton that for the United States to effectively possess clout in the international arena then it needs to have a strong economy. By managing affairs at home then the country will be better positioned to deal with issues abroad (Solash, 2010)

Threats to national security require immense investment in resources and the country will have a difficult time carrying this out if nothing is done about its current budget deficit. Military officials themselves also stated that the biggest national security concern is not what has been conventionally known; it is the deficit. (Solash, 2010)

In fact, it can be argued that this failure to manage the national economy has led to substantial decreases in the strength of the United States internationally. However, this does not undermine the fact that the country is still considered one of the most powerful states.

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Many countries have to engage in consultations with the US if they hope to make great strides. In fact, in the pervious regime i.e. President G.W. Bush’s era, immense hostility existed between the US and the Muslim world. In this current regime i.e.

Obama’s administration, more emphasis is given to development and creation of positive association with entities and countries from the Muslim world. (Solash, 2010) It is a security priority for the latter government to neutralise the negative association that the United States had built for itself in the Middle Eastern region or in the Muslim world.

National security has also undergone a transformation owing to increased concern over failing nations. Countries that lack legitimate governments or those that fail to respect the rule of law also fall within this category. This is because citizens of those countries may not be bound by international or national laws and may attack the United States or any other country without fear of repercussions from their mother nations (Yosri & Fielding, 2004).

One such state is Somalia. The latter country has lacked a functioning government for over two decades. The effects of such a state of affairs can be witnessed by the fact that several pirate attacks have been made on Somali bound waters.

In fact this has been asserted as one of the most dangerous waters to cross. The US has fallen victim to hijackings by members of this country. It is therefore necessary for the US to watch out for such dangerous situations.

It is also interesting to know that a new threat has emerged around technology or information technology particularly. The United States has accepted that other than traditional military attacks, reliance on virtual worlds can also pose a serious danger to the security of the country.

This implies that attention is being given to the ability of terrorists to engage in cyber attacks or to employ these methods in order to carry out conventional attacks. Matters such as information gathering or intelligence coordination are critical in detecting such strategies. (US government, 2003)

Lastly, incidences and natural disasters beyond the control of the country or any human being can also be considered as a national security threat. Issues such as winter storms, hurricanes and other natural disasters can pose considerable risk to the lives and well being of people living in affected areas.

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Therefore, the ability of the government to coordinate these efforts and hence put in place guidelines that facilitate better evacuation or better response to those disasters are an immense part of these efforts. (White house, 2003)

How this changed as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11

The September eleventh attacks caused the United States and the whole world to realise just how vulnerable they were. Consequently, certain strategies in dealing with terrorism changed dramatically and one of them was economic sanctions (Bush, 2003).

Just one week after the September eleventh attacks, the serving president instated an executive order that was designed to identify and sanction banks that worked together with financial systems associated with terrorist organisations or terrorist supporters (Prados, 2004)

However, these actions were not just restricted to the United States; the United Nations through its security council also took on this role by making the 1373 resolution which was a directive to members to halt any payments that were being paid to the entities linked with Al Qaeda and the Taliban (UN, 2002)

Estimates indicate that two years after 2001, the world had recorded about 200 million dollars worth of frozen funds. (State Department, 2005)The extent to which this strategy translates into actual impediments of terrorists is yet to be seen as many terrorists employ networks to safeguard their funding. Furthermore, most of them do not use hard cash as investments.

Covert action has since become another approach following the September attacks. Now US foreign policy considers intelligence gathering and terrorist infiltration a key element in national security.

The country has been carrying this out in order to assess the capabilities, vulnerabilities and even the strategies of terrorist organisations. In most circumstances, this is a passive approach; however, covert action has also altered to include more active stances. (Senate intelligence committee, 2002)

One way in which this has been done is through the deliberate spread of disinformation concerning a terrorist association such that vulnerabilities can be exploited. (Senate intelligence committee, 2002) Furthermore, covert actions have also been reorganised after the September eleventh attacks so as to divide the various groups that may possess one vision (Homeland security department, 2007)

Perhaps one of the outstanding effects of the September eleventh attacks is increased use of military force to combat terrorism. Engagement of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a direct result of the 9-11 incident. The country has assumed that by employment of military force, it will be possible to locate accurately where terrorist groups are based and thus stop them.

However, many arguments have been made concerning the effectiveness of such a strategy and it is easy to see why this is so. First of all, prior to military attacks, an aggressor needs to be sure about where to locate the concerned terrorists yet this is not always the case in US’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Andrew & Kaplan, 2004)

Furthermore, such a strategy places the lives of numerous civilians in danger; many guiltless lives have been taken in these respective nations because of the US’s decisions to use greater military force. As if that is not enough, it has also been shown that terrorist organisations within the Middle East that previously had divergent purposes have now found a common cause or enemy.

This has rejuvenated their efforts and has given them a new sense of purpose. It can therefore be argued that now terrorists feel more important owing to the excessive attention they have received from the US. (Andrew & Kaplan, 2004) The employment of military force is also quite risky owing to the fact that sometimes this can cause retaliation from the said terrorists.

In fact, this occurred roughly one year after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. As if that is not enough, military force has undermined the perception of the United States in the international community as many countries have criticised its disregard for certain international laws claiming that the latter country has placed its hegemonic agenda ahead of the safety of innocent lives in those countries. (Ibrahim, 2007)

Many US citizens have expressed immense concern over the substantial resources dedicated towards the use of military power in Afghanistan and Iraq. This concern has been so intense that it led to the election of President Obama who was perceived as the ultimate deterrent to President Bush’s military based foreign policies in the latter country (State Dept., 2000).

Lastly, military force is no guarantee that the United States can actually get to the leaders or the masterminds of these terrorists organisations. The failure of the US to capture Osama Bin laden is testimony to the risk involved in such engagement (Vina, 2005).

Greater restrictions in foreign policy that came as a result of the September 2001 attacks has placed the US and the rest of the world in a tight spot. This is because in the process of attempting to limit terrorist freedoms, the freedoms of the ordinary citizens can also be compromised. This is not just a challenge within US borders since it requires cooperation from other nations of the world.

The problem with such a strategy is that the world is moving towards less restriction and open borders. Furthermore, a lot of concern is being given to expanded commerce and this is favourable in open rather than restricted borders. (Shea, 2004b)

As if this is not enough, changes made to US national security after the September eleventh attacks are also susceptible to the ability of the United States to actually identify state supporters. The problem with such a tendency is that now terrorists are changing their tactics since most of them no longer rely on state sponsorship. (Blanchard, 2005)

On going concern over Al-Qaeda’s threat and national security issue

The ongoing concern over Al Qaeda has caused the nation to look for different methods of facilitating interagency coordination. Cooperation of various security agencies has been a visible sign of how the government is attempting to handle the challenges surrounding Al Qaeda and other similar terrorist organisations.

Here intelligence services, customs control and law enforcement have all been utilised as unique platforms for implementation of antiterrorism policies. It can be observed in many ways. For example, one can find FBI agents in several countries suspected to be encouraging membership in terrorism organisations. Extradition of suspects of terrorism has been a common method used to fight the Al Qaeda especially after the 9-11 attacks. (Prados, 2004)

Cooperation has not just been prevalent within the US’s borders. This phenomenon has also been embraced in the international arena. For example, the US has initiated conventions that are centred on making the signatories prosecute or allow prosecution of terrorists (Archick, 2003).

These conventions have also sought to cause extradition of such terrorists; it has been found that the latter have participated in plane hijacks, diplomatic kidnappings/ harm and hostage taking. The use of the latter strategy is actually quite challenging because questions can be imposed on its effectiveness.

There is an exception to most political offenses when looking at the possibility of expedition. The problem with such an exemption is that a high degree of terrorists attacks are actually politically motivated (Mahaffey & Bourseton, 2003).The country therefore needs to look for other alternatives that may not have so many impediments.

US’s marked emphasis on the Al Qaeda may actually be an impediment in the future owing to the fact that terrorism is evolving. There may be individuals who are tied to Al Qaeda but some of them merely have loose ties to these organizations.

With continued emphasis on the Al Qaeda, potential terrorists may be prompted to go at it alone by engaging in state actions. The country needs to be vigilant of such new phases of terrorism that may not necessarily depend on directions by the Al Qaeda or other large organizations.


The shift of the country to pre-emptive strategy has exerted its toll on the nation through intense budget spending and renewed hatred by terrorists. To this end, some attempts at neutralising such aggression have been instated in the Obama arena. National security has also undergone a transformation owing to the increased utilisation of technology especially in cyber attacks or weapons of mass destruction.


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President G.W. Bush. (2003). National strategy in combating terrorism.

US government (2003). Global terrorism patterns.

Archick, K. (2003). EU-US co-operation against terrorism. CRS report, RS22030

Kushner, H. (2003). Terrorism encyclopaedia. NY: SAGE.

Department of state (2005). 2004 terrorism and country reports. NCTS, 1BI0119.

Perl, R. & O’Rouke, R. (2001). Terrorist attacks on the US, CRS report, RS20721.

Homeland security (2007). Budget.

Shea, D. (2004). Terrorism – lessening impact of biological, toxin and chemical weapons. CRS report, RL31826.

Vina, S. (2005). Protecting US perimeters. CRS report, RS21422.

Berner, B. (2007). Al Qaeda’s world. NY: Peacock publishers.

Shea, D. (2004b). Dual biological equipment difficulties, CRS report, RS45671

Blanchard, M. (2005). Al Qaeda – evolving ideologies, CRS report, RL32759

Gottron, F. & Shea, D. (2003). Ricin – potential role and technical background in terrorism, CRS report, RS21383

Andrew, M. & Kaplan, D. (2004). Cult at world’s end. NY: Mc Millan

Mahaffey, C. & Bourseton, J. (2003). Mass casualty & Al Qaeda. Strategic insight.

Prados, A. (2004). US bilateral issues, CRS report, IB92075

Senate intelligence committee (2002). Covert actions in counter terrorism.

Ibrahim, R. (2007). Al Qaeda readers. NY: Random House

US Department of state (2000). Terrorism and social psychology. Web.

Yosri, F. & Fielding, N. (2004). Terror masterminds. NY: Arcade publishers

UN (2002). UN convention for suppression of terrorism.

Miller, B. (2002). Trade centres’ assessment. Washington post.

White house (2003). National strategy for antiterrorism.

Solash, R. (2010). Obama – national security. BFE/RL.

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