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Social and Political Theory in US Coursework

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This paper answers two questions namely how can the US best counter the threat of terrorism on its soil? and what could the United States have done to have been better prepared for such terrorist actions as those in New York?

To counter the threat of terrorism on its soil, the current measures instituted by the Department of Homeland Security and the revamp of the entire Intelligence structure of the country would have to be augmented by concerted efforts to address the larger causative factors that lead to terrorism at the diplomatic, information, military economic and sociological levels. The paper identifies the need for the U.S. to counter negative perceptions of America in the Muslim world, carrying out information warfare in the cyberspace against the terrorist organizations, continuing pre-emptive military measures, leveraging America’s economic clout to freeze terror finances and addressing the sociological aspects to prevent the rise of home-grown terrorists.

In the hind sight there were many weaknesses in the American security apparatus, which if had not been present, could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Had American intelligence community been better coordinated they could have picked up the tell tale signs of the impending attacks months before its execution and thwarted it. Had American immigration policies and airport security procedures been more stringent the attacks would have never been successful. Likewise, had standard FAA procedures been followed by the pilots, the hijackers might not have ever got access to the cockpits. Thus had the weaknesses in organizational structure, execution, policy and material measures not existed; the terrorist attacks of 9/11 could have been thwarted.

Terrorism in the United States

How can the US best counter the threat of terrorism on its soil?

Ans. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has successfully thwarted any further terrorist attacks on US homeland since 9/11, withdrawing into ‘Fortress America’ would be a mistake and hence a holistic approach for countering terrorism is required. Diplomatically, the U.S. needs to bring about a perception change in the way the world views America. It needs to take steps to halt civilization fault lines1 that have helped strengthen negative perception of America as an imperialist, ‘Christian crusader’ out to destroy Muslim way of life. American diplomacy needs to build partnerships across cultural divides, possible adversaries, and neutrals to counter the scourge of terrorism. In the field of information, intelligence networks, both Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) need to be enhanced. Information warfare across the cyberspace must also be countered to remove negative perceptions about America. Militarily, emerging threats need to be countered before they can hurt American interests. The much reviled pre-emptive action, no matter how unpopular, is a stark necessity. Economically, American clout at the various world financial institutions must be leveraged to shut out funds to terrorist organizations which would hinder their ability to function efficiently. While the 9/11 attacks had been planned by Islamic groups external to the U.S and not as a “result of stirrings in the home-grown Islamic community”2 that possibility cannot be ruled out and Michael Caine’s observation that “some men just want to watch the world burn3 may therefore be not just a great one-liner but an apt summarization of the socio-psychopathological disconnect of our times. Thus even the sociological aspects of counter terrorism would need to be addressed.

What could the United States have done to have been better prepared for such terrorist actions as those in New York?

Ans. The primary cause that led to the 9/11 attacks was the complete failure of intelligence. America’s over reliance on technical intelligence and downsizing of human intelligence was the chief cause why such a big conspiracy could not be picked up. That something was afoot was available in bits and pieces spread4 over the 11 odd intelligence agencies that make up the American Intelligence Community but because of lack of coordination5 vital clues went unnoticed. For example, the ‘Phoenix memo’ had clearly stated the possibility of Osama Bin Laden sending students to train in American aviation schools6 as also the case of Zacarias Moussaoui7 but was not given adequate attention. Had this information been analysed, the hijackers would have been picked up while training at those schools. At the procedural level, had airport security been tighter, the possibility of the 9/11 terrorists embarking planes armed with knives, box cutters and mace would not have been possible. The fact that some of the hijackers had sparked suspicion because of poor English and had set off the metal detector alarms while passing through security and yet cleared the secondary inspections showed that the screening procedure had been marginal8. Had FAA procedures of locking the cockpit door during flight been adhered, the hijackers would not have got access to the cockpit. Material measures such as strengthening the cockpit doors of all commercial aircraft could have prevented access to the cockpit and would have prevented the event. Had anti-hijack procedures for requesting military assistance by the Air traffic control centres9 been adhered to, it could have resulted in bringing down the airplanes before they hit the twin towers.

End Notes

  1. Samuel P Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (NY:Touchstone, 1997),291-298.
  2. Neil Jeffrey Kressel, Mass Hate, the Global Rise of Genocide and Terror, (Cambridge, Westview Press, 2002), 52.
  3. Michael Caine in the film Dark Knight, Directed by Christopher Nolan (USA: Warner Bros, 2008).
  4. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, (Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2004), 254-257..
  5. Ibid, 264.
  6. Ibid, 272.
  7. Ibid, 273.
  8. Ibid, 3.
  9. Ibid, 20, 31.

Bibliography

Dark Knight. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Produced by Warner bros. Performed by Michael Caine. 2008.

Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. NY: Touchstone, 1997.

Kressel, Neil Jeffrey. Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2002.

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report. Washington D.C: US Government Printing Office, 2004.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Social and Political Theory in US." November 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-and-political-theory-in-us/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Social and Political Theory in US'. 7 November.

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