Essay On Terrorism

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One of the widely recognized ideas is that, across all countries, extremism is becoming increasingly a dynamic problem to contend with. The opinion is reflected in Griffith's (2004) statement that international policy, economic changes, immigration laws, and defense reorganization in all areas of the globe should inform the existence and effect of the 2001 attacks. The viewpoints are reinforced by the fact that globalization has not only interconnected the human race but has also contributed to vices related to nuclear technology anxieties, the pains of post-modernism, the complexities of the internet age, as well as the emerging threat of terrorism. Hurrell (2002) also acknowledges the widespread implications of terrorism, noting that the 9/11 incident marked not only a new age of threats but also enhanced the traditional tensions associated with the war. Against the backdrop of the age-defining challenges of terrorism, understanding the vulnerabilities and political outcomes linked to the response is not just desirable but also critical, a view that informs the focus of the paper on exploring institutional arrangements before the 9/11 attacks and appropriateness of state responses after the incident.

Domestic Legal Arrangement Prior the 9/11 Attacks

Before the 9/11 attacks, the U.S had limited experience in dealing with terror attacks on its soil (Sheppard, 2008, pp.189). The country had only witnessed sporadic oversea bombings and airline hijackings, which shaped the development of the legal tools since 1970s. The centrality was supported by the occurrences, where the only attacks carried out within the boundaries of the country was the Oklahoma City Bombing perpetrated by an anti-government hard-liner in the 1990s and the World Trade Centre incident in 1993, which did not have mass casualties as planned. The law enforcement teams had managed to foil other attacks, under the guidance of existing legal infrastructures such as Title III the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The enactments were complemented by a number of statutes that regulated gathering of intelligence at domestic level. However, the institutional arrangement did not support sharing of information between foreign and domestic agencies (Nikbay and Hancerli, 2007, pp.264). The laws also criminalized collecting materials for enforcement purposes and treated terror-linked arrests as common criminological issues, where perpetrators were to be accorded privileges of free and fair proceedings like any other defendant.

International Diplomacy and Legal Arrangement before the 9/11 Attack

Before the attacks, the United States engaged other countries in a peaceful approach. The diplomatic strategy was characterized by communication among governments and organizations in the political landscape and negotiation in matters that had overlapping areas of interest. Nevertheless, momentum also played a critical role in the pre-9/11 diplomatic approach, where the United States could shift their attention among global partners. The foreign policy concept allowed the superpower get the best for its people, and at the same time safeguards the idea of the international society through protecting and strengthening international relations (Ghosh, 2013, pp.106). The policy was evidenced by the existence of embassies across the globe as well as free movement of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Intelligence Operations and Arrangement before the 9/11 Attacks

One of the most important agencies in the pre-9/11 counterterrorism strategies was FBI, where it was tasked with the investigation as well as intelligent gathering. Consistent with its operational approaches at the time, the agency’s energy was directed to aftermath probes with the focus being building prosecutable cases (Zegart, 2009, pp.157). The majority of experts were also assigned overseas duties, where they helped in developing the institutional profiles on terror figures. The decentralized approach had limited sharing of information between the office and field agents. However, the FBI had an overseas Legal Attache program, where it shared intelligence with other governments.

Media Management Arrangement before the 9/11 Attacks

While media has remained one of the most important sources of news, the 9/11 incident changed the management of violent stories. Before David Westin ordered the video of the planes hitting the twin towers not to be replayed, having unedited graphic content was important in the media industry (Hargrave and Livingstone, 2009). The impact of raw videos in viewership was evident in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident as well as the murder of President Kennedy where moving images provided television industry an upper hand in live reporting compared to other platforms. However, the disturbing nature of such coverages has changed, with the 9/11 being the landmark in focus.

State Responses to the 9/11 Attacks

One of the primary short-term policy issues was protecting government buildings and the public, a constitutional role assigned to the Federal government. To execute the mandate, security agencies directed their energy to hunt down all suspects, resulting in indiscriminate arrests as well as setting secret torture and detention camps around the globe, as well as the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

With retrospective investigations revealing that the existing legal infrastructure was inadequate in preventing terror attacks, one of the post-9/11 development was changes in the legal outlook. The responses focused on coordinating and integrating intelligence gathering, with the intention of identifying patterns and behavioural aspects that could lead to attacks. The counterterrorism architecture was built on the premise of punishment and prevention, with the latter being the major focus. The criminal justice principles were refashioned to punish individuals who aided attacks while prevention focused on incapacitating terror activities through promoting efficiency in intelligence gathering and integration Perrow, 2006). The changes in the legal landscape were guided by the Patriot Act, which not only updated rules governing electronic and internet-based communications but also expanded security monitoring to commercial data, especially in travel and telecommunication industries.

With the investigations revealing that Al-Qaeda exploited the diplomatic ties and universal values of free movements, the United States also adopted a raft of controls in public and cultural diplomacy. One policy issue was immigration, where foreigners were placed under discriminate attention. Besides border control measures, the law enforcement agencies also established interoperable databases, visa controls, as well as heightened screening of travellers (Chishti and Bergeron, 2011).

Long-term and Short-term Appropriateness and Effectiveness of State Responses

While the United States had one of the most dynamic criminal justice systems at the time of the attack, the 9/11 incident highlighted gaps in the legal regimes, an aspect that underscored the need for reforms aimed at containing terrorism. Both CIA and FBI were unable to foresee the attack and instead focused on preventing subsequent attacks. While the country had invested in billions of dollars in generating real-time reports to counter potential attacks against the United States and its areas of interest in other nations, such analysis was disregarded in the post-9/11 incident. Policymakers felt that the approaches had failed to predict the attacks and directed their attention to preventing more attacks. However, the freneticism was ineffective as highlighted by the crash of American Airlines in New York a day later and the anthrax attacks on November 18 and in October the same year. (Rostow and Rishikof, 2016).

Despite the heightened focus, most of the approaches adopted failed to achieve the objective of preventing future attacks. An underlying aspect in inefficiencies is that most of the decisions were shaped by an atmosphere of fear and the uncertainties in the 21st-century terrorism. The two were obstacles in the soundness of measures embraced, as the mood was adopting any approach deemed appropriate. While the focus of the strategies was to gather intelligence, the methods were challenged because of their role in violating fundamental human rights aspects, an aspect that was supported by scientific inquiries that torture does not work. While it is still a subject of high-politics, strategists in the department have dropped the strategy, noting that it cannot be executed legally in the war against terrorism.

Another shortcoming of the responses adopted after the 9/11 attacks were the disruptive nature of the militaristic approaches taken. The Bush regime linked the attack to Taliban in Afghanistan and invaded the Middle East economy to flush out all terror elements. While the move to invade another country is permitted under the international rules such as laws governing use of force (jus ad bellum) and the Law of Armed Conflict (jus in bello), as well as the domestic legal setup where the president can auction troops without seeking the Congress authorization per Article II of the Constitution of the United States, the decision unsettled the balance in international relations (Rostow and Rishikof, 2016). The invasion was founded on realism theory, a supposition that claims that the world is a harsh place and can only be handled using militarism. The postulation suggests that nations must rise to command more respect and power, and pursue their national interest. The views informed the move by the United States to invade Afghanistan, irrespective of the objections by the United Nations Security Council. The drifting away from the traditional diplomatic approach of negotiation and peaceful dealings was evident in Bush’s call for loyalty, a move that prompted the NATO countries to invoke Article 5 to render the United States support by jointly invading Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2002 (Jackson, 2007).

While it was first termed as a war of necessity, it has proved to be a battle of adversity. Besides escalating the military spending to almost 50% of the total global amount, the presence of the United States has also destabilized Iraq, allowing radicalization to thrive as revealed by the current threat of ISIL. Linking the religion to the attacks has also heightened the ill feeling where most Islamic nations perceive the United States as the ‘Great Satan’. Similarly, abandoning the international law that protected the sovereignty of nations has resulted in power blocks across the globe (Rostow and Rishikof, 2016). The regionalisation has been a major setback in the war on terror, with the role of Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemeni crisis highlighting the rising crescendo in international relations, where countries are interfering with affairs of other sovereign states.

Besides influencing the American place in the globe, the war has also shaped domestic aspects such as public engagement, globalization, and government spending on missile defence. The political dimension of the war on terror was evident in the recently concluded elections, where Americans voted against the establishment in a bid to pick a president who they believe would address the heightened security concerns. Besides the regionalism, the aspect of constructivism is also evident in the post-9/11 responses where countries have borrowed from the experience of the United States to invest in public security. The move has reduced the number of terror incidents on the globe.


Despite its criticality in preventing attacks at home and abroad, the post-9/11 responses have been faulted by many experts for failing to address the shortcoming of the previous institutional arrangements holistically. For instance, while reorganizing the homeland defence was supposed to allow power sharing, experts note that the DHS is a dysfunctional public entity because of misprioritization and underfunding. Similarly, the libertarians have been challenging detention and questioning protocols, which overlook legal aspects guiding arrests, holding terror suspects during the intelligence gathering process, as well as the length of detention. There is a need for addressing concerns raised by the parties to ensure the political outcomes benefit all persons.


Chishti, M. and Bergeron, C. (2011). Post-9/11 Policies Dramatically Alter the U.S. Immigration Landscape. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Feb. 2017].

Ghosh, P. (2013). International relations. 1st ed. [Place of publication not identified]: Prentice-Hall Of India Pv, p.106.

Griffith, I. (2004). Caribbean security in the age of terror.Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers.

Hargrave, A. and Livingstone, S. (2009). Harm and offence in media content. 1st ed. Bristol [u.a.]: Intellect.

Hurrell, A. (2002). `There are No Rules' (George W. Bush): International Order After September 11. International Relations, 16(2), pp.185-204.

Jackson, R. (2007). Sovereignty and its Presuppositions: Before 9/11 and after. Political Studies, 55(2), pp.297-317.

Nikbay, O. and Hancerli, S. (2007). Understanding and Responding to the Terrorism Phenomenon: A Multi-dimensional Perspective (NATO science for peace and security series. E, Human and societal dynamics ; v. 21). 1st ed. Amsterdam: IOS Press, p.264.

Perrow, C., 2006. The disaster after 9/11: the department of homeland security and the intelligence reorganization. Homeland Security Affairs, 2(1).

Rostow, N. and Rishikof, H., (2016). 9/11 and After: Legal Issues, Lessons, and Irregular Conflict.

Sheppard, B. (2008). psychology of strategic terrorism : public and government responses to attack. 1st ed. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis Group, p.189.

Zegart, A. (2009). Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11. 1st ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p.157.

September 21, 2021

Terrorism Politics

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