A Strategy for the War on Terrorism
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the United States’ resolve was clear: never again. Never again would it let shadowy networks of jihadists, acting in the name of a perverted version of Islam, carry out a catastrophic attack on American soil. And so, in fits and starts, the George W. Bush administration and then the Obama administration developed a strategy for fighting what became known as “the global war on terror.” Washington sought to disrupt plots wherever they emerged and deny terrorists safe havens wherever they existed. When possible, it would rely on local partners to prosecute the fight. But when necessary, it would act alone to disrupt plots and kill or capture terrorist operatives and leaders, including with drone strikes and daring special operations raids such as the one that killed Osama bin Laden.
Today, the terrorist threat looks much different than it did right before 9/11. The U.S. counterterrorism community has dramatically ramped up its intelligence capabilities. Determined to “connect the dots” in the future, the U.S. government created new agencies and instituted a new paradigm for intelligence—share by rule, withhold by exception—and set up a slew of “fusion centers” and joint task forces to foster interagency cooperation. Borders were hardened, cockpit doors reinforced, and watch lists created. In Afghanistan, the United States overthrew the Taliban regime, which was hosting al Qaeda.