America's security & foreign policy objectives since 9/11

Two years ago, the Unites States experienced world history's single worst act of terrorism -around 3,000 persons killed in only hours by hijacked airplanes smashing deliberately into New York City's World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon. A third plane, allegedly headed for the White House, crashed in Pennsylvania.

The three incidents, referred to collectively as 9/11, altered the leadership, policies and the psychology of a nation known as the world's only superpower and indispensable advocate and facilitator of democratic capitalism. Within the U.S., a nationwide sense of vulnerability to terrorism blossomed. Washington now had the task of shielding potential targets in more than 230 major metropolitan areas and thousands of rural locations inside the 50 states, at the same time having to create and manage programs of deterrence and protect U.S. property and persons abroad.

As a result of 9/11, a discipline known as "homeland security" was raised from near obscurity to national prominence. But, the vastness of the U.S. and its seemingly infinite number of targets suggested early on that the best domestic undertakings could not stop terrorism completely. Needed would be other U.S. strategies to diminish as many anti-U.S. attack possibilities as could exist. One of these U.S. strategies, an over-arching one, would have to be "assumption of offence," thus a declared U.S. war against terrorism and soon the sweep of Afghanistan and the thrashing of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and soon after that the anti-Iraq invasion, none of these actions total victories as yet, for pockets of resistance have remained.

Surely the two years since 9/11 have been, for the U.S. national security establishment, a period of adjustment to threat-recognition and to identification of vulnerabilities, and the seeking of steel-tight protective shrouds inside which normal U.S. life could occur. This has required new U.S. threat assessments, analysis of existing resources and capabilities, and changes to goals and policies, missions, strategies, force-structures, platforms + equipment and tactics, so that the right ways and means could exist for an anti-terrorism war.

With regard to policy, the Bush administration won applause for swiftly recognizing that the U.S. could not combat terror alone, that a successful war against terrorism would demand international cooperation. Though very few countries other than the U.S. have military forces capable of delivering the power needed for sustained assaults against decentralized terrorist organizations, large numbers of allied countries would be needed for intelligence gathering, for logistics, for support operations ranging from border patrols to airport security and money laundering investigations.

However, reconciling national security interests with a policy of multi-lateralism could be quite difficult for any nation threatened with future 9/11-type incidents. Post-9/11 U.S. national security strategy, as cited by the George W. Bush administration, underscores "right to pre-emption," which has left room for misinterpretation, causing complaints among nations around the world that the U.S. had indeed become an imperialist country with unilateral policies that could lead to regional takeovers, which the U.S. administration has recognized as political hogwash, these nations having their own agendas.

So, U.S. requests for support from Russia, China, Germany and France for the war against terrorism fattened mostly with unmet conditionality, and therefore U.S. hopes for a coalition against terrorism being as multi-lateral as was the 1991 war against Iraq (Desert Storm) were nearly crushed by March, 2003. From this evolved four clear messages for U.S. policymakers: (1) Not since the Cold War ended has there really been any unconditional allied nation support for U.S. objectives, even when the U.S. goals were unselfish; (2) The U.S. cannot, by itself, end terrorism and/or influence the many actors and means that could serve terrorism, that is, America cannot alone defeat dangerous rogue state behavior, Jihad, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the triangular terrorist/drug-smuggling/guerrilla warfare triad, or the poverty-stricken segments of under-developed countries that offer recruits for the terrorism planned by religious, political, ethnic and separatist fanatics; (3) The U.S. has to apply measures capable of breaking through the resistance to anti-terrorism that is expressed by uncommitted nations, in effect, the U.S. has had to maintain anti-terrorism as a major driving theme for U.S. diplomacy and the U.S. foreign policy plans that U.S. diplomats support and act from; and (4) Should U.S. diplomatic efforts to gain international support for the war on terror fail, America should, and must, act alone. The U.S. going to the United Nations for Security Council resolutions that would internationalize a war against Saddam Hussein was certainly evidence of multi-lateral leanings, but the decision to invade Iraq mid-March of this year with a very thin international coalition was also evidence that the U.S. would assume a robust lead in the war on terror in order to reduce threats against U.S. interests.

With respect to maritime operations, there have been changes in emphasis and increased intensification since 9/11 in the many programs that could serve the anti-terrorism, anti-rogue state and anti-WMD proliferation missions, the three being related. Advocates of precision-guided munitions from aircraft carrier-deployed planes for the anti-terrorist mission, preceded by ship-to-shore cruise missiles deliveries, were proven to be effective and so R&D for technology assists toward greater perfection of naval strikes are being pursued; and UAV and UCAV, and now aerostats and airships, are being examined for their unconventional warfare and homeland security values. Also for homeland security is the U.S. Coast Guard's Deepwater Program, an indispensable need for protection of America's ports and waterways. Too, were it not for 9/11 and the war on terror, it is doubtful that new U.S. submarines would have been re-designed for safer and increased SEAL infiltrations, and probably the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) would have had a tougher time gaining authorization for development from the U.S. Congress. And, because terrorists could become more threatening by allying themselves with rogue states that may have nuclear missiles, naval anti-ballistic missile (ABM) development has one more reason for actualization around the world, support for which has grown since 9/11.