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Has the struggle against international terrorism replaced anti-communism as the central theme of US foreign policy?

Has the struggle against international terrorism replaced anti-communism as the central theme of US foreign policy?

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Eoin Commins. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Arts (BAM) at None, with lecturer Dr. David Fitzgerald in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Eoin Commins. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Arts (BAM) at None, with lecturer Dr. David Fitzgerald in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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06/26/2014

 
Has the struggle against international terrorism replaced anti-communism as the centraltheme of US foreign policy?Abstract
There are few topics as relevant and important to today's world as international terrorism. For almost half a century, the principal focus of US foreign policy was on curtailing and eliminatingcommunism around the world. The question of this paper - “Has the struggle against internationalterrorism replaced anti-communism as the central theme of US foreign policy?” - is very pertinenttoday. Given the variety of definitions for terrorism and the difficulty for academics to expoundterrorism as a concept, this paper remains within the framework of US rhetoric and policy. Byfollowing the development of the anti-terrorism facets of American foreign policy in contrast to thedeclining emphasis on anti-terrorism in US policy documents, a clear process (beginning with theReagan administration and continuing right up to the present day) by which international terrorismcomes to be evermore seen as the greatest danger faced by the United States can be seen to occur. Inincorporating the issue of threat inflation and contextualising this process in terms of global events,this paper offers a holistic view of the struggle against international terrorism in US foreign policy;the central tenant of the foreign policy of the global hegemon.
 
Introduction
The struggle against international terrorism is certainly a major concern of the foreign policy of theUnited States today. This struggle is primarily focused on Al-Qa'ida – the US Government clearlyand boldly states that “we will disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qa’ida” and that “We areat war. We are waging a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses everyelement of American power to defeat al-Qa’ida.”
1
While it seems fully plausible to assert thatinternational terrorism has become the primary focus of US foreign policy today, a number of other questions arise – what exactly is terrorism, according the the US? When did it become the dominantissue for American foreign policy? Were the events of September 11
th
, 2001 a decisive turning pointin American history? Was anti-communism previously the central theme and what role, if any, doesit play today? This essay will first briefly examine definitions of terrorism offered by the UnitedStates, before embarking on a historical journey from the Regan administration to the present day inorder to identify the evolving government efforts to eliminate international terrorist threats to US.The corresponding acts of terrorism perpetrated against the United States will also be looked at, before the issue of threat inflation with regard to the Bush administration is discussed. Finally, thecorrelating demise of anti-communism as the central tract of US foreign policy will be examined, inorder to demonstrate clearly how the central theme of US foreign policy has shifted from anti-communism to a struggle against international terrorism.One major problem concerning terrorism (and by extension, international terrorism) is thestruggle to define it. Many scholarly writers offer the “sustained use, or threat of use, of violence bya small group for political purposes such as inspiring fear, drawing widespread attention to a political grievance and/or provoking a draconian or unsustainable response” as a definition.
2
TheUS Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence
1White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet: National Strategy for Counterterrorism”, 29/6/2011.http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/29/fact-sheet-national-strategy-counterterrorism[accessed07/12/2011].2Valentina Taddeo, “U.S. Response to Terrorism: A Strategic Analysis of the Afghanistan Campaign”,
 Journal of Strategic Security
, Vol. 3, No. 2, (2010), p. 28.
 
to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political.”
3
Debate continues over how terrorism ought to be defined, and different governmentagencies of the US offer varying interpretations. The FBI offers this definition of internationalterrorism:“International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intendedto intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidationor coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. Internationalterrorist acts occur outside the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or thelocale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.”
4
Definitions are often updated or revised, but nonetheless, terrorism in its basic form has long beenrecognised by American governments. This has lead to an evolving struggle against internationalterrorism, a struggle which came very much to the fore under George W. Bush and persists today.Combating international terrorism had become an issue in US policy making long prior tothe Bush Administration. In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration conducted its own “War onTerrorism”. Reagan himself asserted the US stance on terrorism clearly:“Let terrorists beware that when the rules of international behaviour are violated, our policy will beone of swift and effective retribution. We hear it said that we live in an era of limits to our powers.Well, let it also be understood, there are limits to our patience.”
5
3As cited in Michael Kraft, Edward Marks,
U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What,
(NewYork, CRC Press, 2011), p. 29.4US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Terrorism in the United States”, 1999, p. ii.http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB55/fbiterrorism98.pdf  [accessed 12/12/2011].5Ronald Reagan. January 21 1981, as cited in David C. Wills,
The First War on Terrorism: Counter-terrorism Policy During the Reagan Administration,
(New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), p. 1.

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