When analyzing the world's current situation concerning terrorism, it is difficult to say whether the global war on terrorism has been a successful one. Since the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Centers in New York City, George Bush, president of the United States, vowed to defeat terrorism. Eight years later, this promise has yet to be fulfilled, and even with the help of many countries globally, the terrorism threat is still evident more then ever which begs to question whether the global war on terror is succeeding. To entirely grasp the subject, one must be familiar with the definition of terrorism and it can be defined as an act of violence or threatened violence intended to spread panic in a society, and to bring about political change. Terrorists do not necessarily live in their native states, they also migrate to neighboring countries, and countries abroad and often go undetected. The logistics and man power it takes to combat terrorism is immense, and it seems more evident that the global war on terrorism is not succeeding due to essentially three factors. First, that the United States have created a terrorist haven in the Middle East. Second, international support for the global war on terrorism is decreasing. Third, terrorism has been on the constant increase since September 11, 2001.
On March 19, 2003, American President George W. Bush announced to the world that the United States and the United Kingdom would be invading Iraq. He stated that this military operation was designed to “disarm Iraq, free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” America had seen Iraq to be a major threat against world peace as well as a “breeding ground for terrorists”, and that it had to eliminate this threat before they could attack again. On March 20, 2003, a day after President Bushes address, The United States and the United Kingdom began their invasion of Iraq. Although the invasion was intended to disarm Iraq from any weapons of mass destruction, it was also aimed at uncovering and eliminating any terrorist cells within the country since several U.S officials accused Hussein of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda. In fact, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found and it was discovered that there was “no direct connection between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda.” While there was no concrete connection between Iraq and terrorism, the United States and the United Kingdom decided to remain in Iraq and liberate its people. Attacks on troops were being carried out daily and Iraqis say that these attacks were being made by “organized forces - motivated by nationalism, Islam and revenge - that feed off public unhappiness.” Instead of creating a more liberal and safe Iraq, what the United States and United Kingdom had done was essentially bring more violence and terrorist activity to the country. Prior to the U.S and U.K occupation, the people of Iraq were not able to speak their minds, but what they did have was security and the basic amenities to get through the day. After the occupation had taken place, and still today, the Iraqi people “fear being attacked in their bedrooms; power, water, and telephones are routinely unavailable.” Shiites, which are a branch of Islam, supported the removing of Saddam Hussein from power, but got increasingly hostile towards the United States' and United Kingdom's occupation of their country. This hostility resulted in the creation of religious extremists within Iraq which “have told western reporters that they are prepared to carry out martyrdom operations if and when they receive orders to do so.” The United States and United Kingdom invasion or Iraq had not only increased religious extremism in the country, but it was also used as a “recruitment tool by al-Qaeda and other groups.” The head of Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, Saad al-Faqih, said that “images of American soldiers and tanks in Baghdad are deeply humiliating to Muslims.” This humiliation is one of many things that tends to trigger deep anger for American and British forces occupying Iraq, and ultimately creates terrorists.
However, some argue that the occupation of Iraq was essential in the global fight against terrorism. President George W. Bush stated that if the United States and the United Kingdom had not invaded Iraq, terrorists would not be idle. He goes on to say that “they would be plotting and killing [people] across the world and within [American] borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people.” Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom also agreed with Bush's comments stating “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that what is happening in Iraq now…is crucial for the security of the world.”
Both arguments made by two former leaders are relevant yet they did not take into consideration the hostility and anger that both the United States and the United Kingdom would produce as a result of their occupation of Iraq. Invading Iraq may have deterred it from becoming a threat to the American people and the people of the world at the time, but overtime what has been evident is the increase in religious extremist and terrorist activity within Iraq and surrounding areas. Moktada al-Sadr, a cleric in Basra, said that he “recruited a five thousand- man Shiite army to take on the occupiers” and that foreigners fighting against American and British soldiers are “increasingly welcomed by the public.” Such hostility towards the two driving forces of the global war on terrorism does not make the initial plan to eliminate terrorism seem like a successful attempt.
The global war on terrorism had begun in 2003 where the coalition of the willing was created by George W. Bush which were nations who supported the U.S.-led fight. The coalition of the willing was made up of forty-nine members, most notably, England, France, Germany, Japan, India and Russia. Out of the forty-nine members, only four supplied troops to the invasion force (United Kingdom, Australia, Poland and Denmark).
All forty-nine countries part of the coalition of the willing had strong support for the war on terrorism, but as of 2006, support decreased. Less than half of the United Kingdom and Germany supported the war, only forty-three percent of France were in support, and a very low twenty-six percent of Japanese people supported the war. This decline in support was substantial, and according to a Pew Research Centre survey, most of the countries surveyed regarding the U.S.-led war on terrorism did not believe that the U.S was putting in a good enough effort to decrease international terrorism. In fact, when surveyed regarding the war on Iraq, the majority of people living within the countries belonging to the coalition of the willing believed that the war in Iraq made the world more dangerous. Such evidence suggests that these are the reasons why international support for the war on terrorism decreased. Furthermore, the Pew Research Centre discovered through polls that most countries within the coalition of the willing believed that the true purpose of the United States'-led war on terrorism was to control the oil within the Middle East and to dominate the world. An underlying factor that can be contributing to this decrease of support for the United States may be the misunderstanding and misinterpretation between countries of the definition of terrorism. The term `war on terrorism' results in altered ideas of the phrase, and it has been frequently stated that “one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.” When the coalition of the willing was formed, `terrorism' and the `war on terrorism' were both not clearly defined, and as the global war on terrorism went on, and America had found no connection between Iraq and terrorists, countries began to lose support for the United States led war and questioned whether George W. Bush's interpretation of terrorism was the same as theirs. In his 2001 speech, George W. Bush stated that the war “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Within the same speech, he called the war “a task that does not end.” This contradiction proved that not only did coalition forces not know what the term “war on terrorism” meant, so to did the United States.
Nevertheless, some may not disagree that there is decreasing support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism but can argue that it is America's defiance of international laws that have created such a decrease in support for the United States. Issues of prisoner abuse arose, which were then made public throughout the world and left a stain on the United States effort to fight terrorism. The images and stories coming out Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq revealed that prisoners were abused, tortured and humiliated by American soldiers. There was also the question whether the United States invasion of Iraq was justified and acceptable under international law. The fact that it was a war made out of choice and not necessity could be the factor that renders the war unjustified.
These arguments are relevant when one looks at the reasons for the decrease in support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, but they do not provide enough evidence to prove that the people in the disapproving countries decreased their support based on America's defiance of international laws. Countries are essentially more concerned about their own security than whether or not a certain state is following international laws or not. Evidence of this is clearly shown in Pew Research Centre's poll where the majority of countries said that the war in Iraq made the world a more dangerous rather than safer place.
When a large amount of nations across the world united and supported each other in the global war on terrorism, their intentions were to decrease the amount of terrorism in the world and to make their own countries safer and secure for their citizens. The war on terrorism, run by the United States, was intended to disrupt the terrorist activities of the international system of terrorist organizations composed of a number of groups who were run under the order of al-Qaeda. However what was evident after the first year of the war on terrorism was not a decrease, but an increase in the amount of attacks brought upon civilians by terrorists. Data from the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre shows that after George W. Bush had announced the global war on terrorism, the number of international terrorist attacks had consistently increased. In 2005, there were 11,111 terrorist attacks worldwide. This amount grew in 2006 to its highest amount where 14,570 terrorist attacks had taken place and remained relatively the same in 2007. Since the war on terrorism was intended to decrease the amount of international terrorist attacks, the statistics showing a constant rate in increase of the number of attacks does not depict a war that is being won.
However, it may be argued that the global war on terrorism is succeeding since it is preventing potentially large terrorist attacks from occurring and since statistics generally represent the war as unsuccessful. This is evident in 2006 statistics where no major terrorist attacks occurred in Europe, and the total number of attacks in India, Indonesia and Pakistan declined. Some may argue that statistics are irrelevant when one tries to determine whether the global war on terrorism is succeeding. There can be a substantial amount of statistics displaying the number of attacks that have taken place, but when it comes to determining how many terrorist attacks were prevented, it is much more difficult to conclude.
The arguments presented are significant, but what cannot be ignored is the conclusive evidence which reveals that terrorist attacks have been on the increase for the past several years. Since it was the goal of the global war on terrorism to decrease terrorist attacks, the war cannot be seen as a successful one.
In conclusion, the global war on terrorism led by the United States has been ultimately an unsuccessful one. The U.S has created a terrorist haven in Iraq since their invasion of the country in 2002. Due to public unhappiness and humiliation felt by Muslims regarding the invasion of Iraq, the number of religious extremists and foreigners has risen and these groups have been carrying out terrorist attacks on occupying forces. The war has also been unsuccessful due to decreasing support for the U.S.-led global war on terrorism. Issues such as the United States' true reason for going to war and whether or not the world is a safer place after the invasion of Iraq, have had an impact on the support that countries have for the global war on terrorism. Thirdly, the increase of global terrorist attacks since the U.S announced the global war on terrorism indicates that the war has not been successful. All three serve as substantial factors in revealing why the global war on terrorism has not succeeded.