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In this essay we focus on how the global war on terror was constructed and how it has set down deep institutional roots both in government and popular culture.We take aim at those who would weave this narrative into the nation's identity by assigning it an iconographic status on par with national myths of manifest destiny and the frontier nation.Writing in confident and quasi-scientific terms, David Kilcullen, a former Australian army officer who acted as an advisor to General David Petraeus on the Iraq war, proposed the existence of an organized global jihad "seeking to overturn the existing Western dominated world order." With its claims of "nine principal Islamist theaters," "a greater than 85 percent correlation between Islamist insurgency and terrorist activity..a given theater,'" and a literal reading of the allegorical Islamic caliphate (a staple of the Islamist political imagination, but generally recognized as unachievable), Kilcullen's article created grounds for an equally concrete military strategy designed to "disaggregate" local insurgencies from Islamist middlemen seeking to draw them into the global jihad. military establishment has granted greater credence to a world as seen through the eyes of the "jihadologists," or those analysts with a strong self-interest in the concept of violent jihad as the defining aspect of Islam.
Much of the legal and ideological infrastructure that would later constitute the war on terror was introduced onto the U. The global war on terror acted as what, in the language of semiotics, is called a "floating signifier," able to be attached at will to a wide range of actions and policies.
Osama bin Laden was on President Clinton's intelligence and law enforcement radar screens; antiterrorism legislation that would significantly expand presidential and police powers was debated in Congress; and conservative advocacy groups such as the Project for a New American Century urged a more assertive projection of American power, including forcible regime change in Iraq. Bush administration that provided these diverse events with a holistic superstructure in the form of the "global war on terror." Almost overnight, following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, this narrative became the prevailing organizing principle of U. foreign policy, taking the attacks as its starting point and scripting the final act as an American victory in some undetermined future.
Although Bush presented military action as only one thrust of the new war, which also entailed diplomacy, intelligence, and law enforcement efforts, the war would nonetheless be most deeply associated with the military for both of the administration's terms.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld helped support the tendency to conflate the symbolic war with actual warfare.
A principal reason for the durability of the global war on terror is that it represents an extraordinarily powerful narrative, which Obama will need to rewrite if he is to change the policy dynamics in this area.
At the time of this writing, liberal commentators are expressing concern—and conservatives expressing satisfaction—that despite his initial moves Obama is basically adhering to Bush-era policies.
Rumsfeld was typical of those who posited hordes of radicalized madrasa students spilling out of Asia, and for whom the difference between nuanced gradations of radical beliefs, on the one hand, and violent actions, on the other, had no place in time of war. Quadrennial Defense Review, produced during Rumsfeld's tenure at the Defense Department, took the global war on terror as its central theme, characterizing the enemy as "dispersed, global terrorist networks that exploit Islam...[to] subjugate the Muslim world under a radical theocratic tyranny while seeking to perpetuate conflict with the United States and its allies and partners." Instability and rising violence in Iraq in the autumn of 2003 set the stage for a reassessment of the war on terror model.
The terms of victory were the numbers of al-Qaeda members or other terrorist suspects killed. Rather than spreading democracy, the United States and its partners in Iraq found themselves applying counterinsurgency tactics in an effort to separate violent and doctrinaire members of jihadi or sectarian groups in Iraq from the civilians the coalition forces were pledged to liberate.
Indeed, in subsequent years many supporters of this new war would compare it to the earlier struggle against communism. Indeed, other countries also told their own versions of the global war on terror story, even while referencing longstanding conflicts with specific local explanations, whether involving national identity, political franchise, or resources.
Further, the story had a hyperbolic dramatic force: these were not just villains but supervillains, whose intentions both terrified and titillated. The world's citizens also took up the narrative, although for many it referred to a war against the world's Muslims started by the United States and visited upon Afghanistan and Iraq.