Redefining Terror: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Threat Environment
For both political analysts and the American public alike, September 11th served as a defining feature of the American political experience, a turning point in the way one perceives the relationship between the U.S. and its opponents. Like the Cold War conflict, terrorism now defines the United States’ foreign policy, representing not a policy initiative amongst a larger grand strategy, but the impetus for U.S. international action as a whole. Even today, nearly seven years after the tragic attack, the ramifications of 9/11 still dominate debates among foreign policy analysts. As such, it follows that one might ascribe a degree of significance to modern terrorism, using the concept not only as an explanation for the current American foreign policy, but as a means of defining a new era in international politics. For those political scientists who ascribe to such a theory, the notion of a stateless international community is not merely a hypothetical, but a burgeoning reality, a manifestation of a changing political culture in which the dispossessed now have the power to reshape the global culture. Terrorists no longer advance a set of materially based, concrete goals, but perpetuate a distinct ideology, considered by many theorists to be a diametric opposite to the West. Terrorism is thus redefined as “new terror,” a tactic of those who seek to destroy, rather than negotiate. From this perspective, terrorism exists in respect to what it does rather than what it is. Political scientists declare the existence of “new terrorism” based on the magnitude of 9/11 and define the characteristics of this change in terms of its material outcomes as opposed to a comprehensive explanation for terrorism’s rebirth. The notion that religion drives this modern iteration of conflict pervades the issue, while alternative factors receive little, if any attention. Yet, beyond this narrow-minded analysis, the notion that one might reduce modern terror to a single concept for its motivation demonstrates a general disregard for the evolution of this practice as both a political and survival strategy.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2008
- F&M Theses Collection