At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States became a nation transformed.
An airliner traveling at hundreds of miles per hour and carrying some 10,000 gallons of jet fuel plowed
into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. At 9:03, a second airliner hit the
South Tower. Fire and smoke billowed upward. Steel, glass, ash, and bodies fell below. The Twin
Towers, where up to 50,000 people worked each day, both collapsed less than 90 minutes later.
At 9:37 that same morning, a third airliner slammed into the western face of the Pentagon. At 10:03, a
fourth airliner crashed in a field in southern Pennsylvania. It had been aimed at the United States
Capitol or the White House, and was forced down by heroic passengers armed with the knowledge that
America was under attack.
More than 2,600 people died at the World Trade Center; 125 died at the Pentagon; 256 died on the four
planes. The death toll surpassed that at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
This immeasurable pain was inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists
headquartered in distant Afghanistan. Some had been in the United States for more than a year, mixing
with the rest of the population. Though four had training as pilots, most were not well-educated. Most
spoke English poorly, some hardly at all. In groups of four or five, carrying with them only small knives,
box cutters, and cans of Mace or pepper spray, they had hijacked the four planes and turned them into
deadly guided missiles.
The 9/11 Commission Report; http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/index.htm
The attacks of September 11, 2001 were the most deadly and destructive terrorist attacks ever
recorded. Approximately 3,000 people lost their lives that day. People from all around the world came to
do business at the World Trade Center. Consequently, victims came from both the United States and
abroad. Every person who died that day had a story. The youngest passenger on the hijacked jets was
two-years-old. The oldest passenger was 82. As many as 2,000 children lost a parent that day. The
impact of the attacks extends beyond that horrific day. It changed people's lives forever.
There are many forms of terrorism, and even more definitions than forms. This lesson will discuss
various definitions of terrorism and review the different types of terrorism. Additionally, weapons are a
significant part of terrorism. This lesson discusses various "weapons of mass destruction" that threaten
the U.S. and other countries.
The events of September 11, 2001 were not the country's first experience with terrorism. The United
States has experienced several incidents of foreign and internal terrorism. Many of these incidents came
in the form of hijackings and suicide bombers. This lesson also explores the history of terrorism in the
After the attacks of 2001, President George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror. Targeted states
include Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The main objective of the Global War on Terror is to stop regimes
and non-state actors that use weapons of mass destruction. By the end of the lesson, you will
understand different types of terrorism and the history of modern terrorism in the United States. You
will also become familiar with the Bush Doctrine, the policy of preemption, the Global War on Terror,
and actions taken to meet the war's objectives.
What is Terrorism?
The United States believed it was safe from foreign attacks for much of the 20th century. September
11, 2001 showed the vulnerability of the U.S. Following the attacks, the United States responded
quickly by attacking Afghanistan and deposing the Taliban regime.
In addition to exposing U.S. vulnerability, the terrorist attacks also demonstrated a new era in war and
foreign relations. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union maintained peace through the
doctrine of mutually assured destruction. This meant that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had enough
weapons to destroy each other, no matter who attacked first. This situation deterred acts of aggression
between the two superpowers.
A lot has changed in the world since the end of the Cold War in 1989. Communism is no longer a threat.
Many enemies are harder to identify since they are non-state actors. Non-state actors tend to have less
money and power than state actors. They turn to violence to get their message across because they
have limited power at their disposal.
Terrorism is defined differently by various groups. In general terms, terrorism is defined as the unlawful
use of threat or violence. This violence is usually used against the state or the public with the intention
of intimidating or coercing societies or governments. To better understand the terrorist threat, we must
first understand the numerous ways to define terrorism. A 1998 study by the U.S. Army found that over
100 definitions of the word terrorism have been used.
U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Code Title 18, Part 1 Chapter 113B defines terrorism as "an
unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the
civilian population or any segment thereof in furtherance of a political or social objective."
U.S. Department of Defense
The U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as the "calculated use of unlawful violence to
inculcate fear; intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are
generally political, religious, or ideological."
U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001
The U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 was created in response to the September 11 attacks. Its full name is the
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct
Terrorism Act of 2001.
The act significantly expands the authority of U.S. law enforcement. The President and the act's
supporters claim that increased authority will help stop terrorist attacks at home and abroad. The act
also has provisions for detecting and prosecuting potential related crimes. One such crime would be
providing false information on terrorism.
The act defines terrorism as "acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of
the United States or of any State."
U.S. National Counterterrorism Center
The mission of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is to inform, empower, and help shape
national and international counterterrorism efforts. More specifically, the center aids efforts to diminish
the ranks, capabilities, and activities of current and future terrorists. It strives to become the country's
center of excellence for terrorism and counterterrorism issues.
The NCTC defines terrorism as "premeditated; perpetrated by a sub-national or clandestine agent;
politically motivated, potentially including religious, philosophical, or culturally symbolic motivations;
violent; and perpetrated against a noncombatant target." Sub-national means that the terrorist act was
not carried out by a country, but by a person or group smaller than a country. However, the NCTC also
mentions clandestine agents, such as the CIA or Israel's Mossad secret agency, who could be acting on
behalf of a country.
The United Nations (UN) has not formally agreed on a definition of terrorism. A UN panel in November
2004 described terrorism thusly: "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-
combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an
international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."
Putting the definitions together
These definitions have common features. The violence of terrorist acts is identified as illegal. The act is
usually carried out by a "sub-national" person or group. Many definitions refer to the rule of law.
Let us consider some examples. If the Iranian Air Force (or the U.S. Air Force) bombed Paris for six
weeks and killed hundreds of thousands of people, it would not be terrorism by any of these definitions.
It would be an official, public act of a country. If a small Iranian political party (or U.S. political
radicals) set off a bomb in Paris killing thousands of people, it would be an act of terrorism. It would
even be an act of terrorism if the Iranian, American, or some other government had secretly planned
and plotted the bomb.
In Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, men and women were arrested by the police, had ears and other body
parts cut off, or were brutally killed. The Iraqi armed forces dropped bombs and poison gas on villages,
killing thousands of people. These acts were done by the Iraqi government and were not illegal in Iraq.
By the definitions above, they were not terrorism. If an angry mob of Ku Klux Klan members lynch a
black person in order to intimidate people, it would be terrorism. If the sheriff and the legal system
arrest and kill an innocent black person in order to intimidate people, it would not be terrorism.
All evil acts are not terrorism. Terrorism is a certain type of act. In order to understand and combat it, it
must be separated from other acts. Some argue that acts such as Hussein's state-sponsored torture in
Iraq are a type of terrorism: his government was able to maintain political power by intimidating people
with violence. He achieved a political goal by using violence against civilians. Some people would
expand this concept of state-terrorism to include any official bombings of civilian targets, such as
Britain's bombing of Dresden, Germany or the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki in World War II. Both of these
bombings used violence against a civilian population to achieve political goals.
Think About It
Define terrorism in your own words.
Types of Terrorism
Terrorist acts come in many different forms. Some experts classify types of terrorism based on the type
of terrorist: a loner, a group, a state-sponsored group, or an entire country. Some experts classify types
of terrorism based on the types of target or the purpose of the terrorism. The following list is issues-
based. It groups terrorist acts by their political objectives.
This list should show you the wide range of terrorist actors today. What images come to mind when you
hear the word "terrorist?" Unfortunately, the image in many people's minds since the events of
September 11 is that of a stereotypical Arab terrorist from Saudi Arabia. In fact, many of the terrorists
in the examples below do not fit this picture at all. Lesson 7 discussed racial profiling and stereotypes.
We should be careful and mindful of such stereotypes. Terrorists come in many different forms.
Nationalist terrorists strive to form a separate state for their own ethnic group. Usually, this group
consists of people who feel ignored by their state and the world. They seek attention through acts of
terrorism. They often view themselves as "freedom fighters." They are careful not to alienate supporters
with a high casualty rates.
Examples: the Irish Republican Army, Haganah in 1930s British Palestine, the Tamil Tiger insurgency in
Sri Lanka, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Chechen fighters in Russia
Religious terrorists use violence to advance causes they view as divinely commanded. They justify their
actions in the name of religion. They usually support significant changes in their countries or
Unlike nationalists, their political objectives are not short-term, but planned over a long time and not
directed towards one single country. They have a tendency to target anyone who is not a member of
their religion or religious sect. Although these groups claim to be motivated by religion, their terror acts
are designed to promote particular political results.
Examples: Al-Qaeda around the world, Hamas in Israel and Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Eric
Rudolph and other abortion clinic bombers
State-sponsored terrorism occurs when a political state uses radical terrorists as foreign policy tools or
allows a terrorist group to operate from within its borders. States that sponsor terrorism give money to
terrorist organizations and the families of deceased militants. They do so for the purpose of continuing
and rewarding terrorist activity. Usually, a state that is sponsoring terrorism is secretly waging war
under the guise of a terrorist group.
Examples: Iran is believed to fund Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.S. gave money and weapons to Osama
bin Laden when he was fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Iraq under Saddam Hussein gave money
to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers
The FBI classifies some domestic terrorists as left-wing or right-wing movements, based on their
political objectives. The two types of movement have some affinities with the liberal and conservative
members of mainstream political parties. Some left-wing terrorists aim to destroy capitalism and replace
it with a Communist or socialist regime. That type of left-wing terrorism was more common in the 1960s
and 1970s, before the collapse of Communism in 1989.
Today, left-wing terrorists include animal-rights activists and eco-terrorists. Eco-terrorism involves
threats and acts of violence against both people and property. For example, in May 7, 2000, the
Olympia, Washington, headquarters of a small timber company was burned down, causing an
estimated $150,000 in damage. In a statement released through the North American Earth Liberation
Front Press Office, a group calling itself Revenge of the Trees (ROTT) claimed responsibility for the act
stating, "ROTT takes credit for gutting this timber company....Logging is just one aspect in this
capitalistic industrialized system that is destroying all things wild. We will not stop until this whole
stinking system rots." The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, can be considered to be a leftist terrorist,
although his politics defy easy categorization. He sent bombs to universities and airlines from the late
1970s through the early 1990s, killing three people and wounding 29.
Within the U.S., right-wing terrorists are often nativists, racists, or anti-Semites. They frequently attack
immigrants, minorities, or refugees. Other right-wing terrorists are reclusive separatists who do not
trust the United States government. They may believe that the U.S. is under the control of Jews or no
longer represents white people. They often want to withdraw from the United States. In general, right-
wing terrorists want to return to what they define as "traditional" values, which are often racially or
Examples: Neo-Nazis, Neo-Fascists, Ku Klux Klan, skinheads. Eric Robert Rudolph, also known as the
Olympic Park Bomber. Rudolph left a bomb at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta during the 1996
Summer Olympics, wounding 111 people and killing one woman. He also bombed abortion clinics and
gay and lesbian nightclubs in Alabama and Georgia, killing a police officer and a nurse. Timothy McVeigh
was a right-wing conservative who denounced the U.S. government. On April 19, 1995, McVeigh used a
rental truck with 5,000 pounds of explosives to blow off the side of a federal building in Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma. The explosion killed 168 Americans and injured 800. At the time, this act was the largest act
of domestic terrorism in the U.S.
Think About It
How would you categorize the September 11, 2001 attacks?
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Since 2001, we have become very familiar with the term weapons of mass destruction. Weapons of
mass destruction are capable of killing or injuring large numbers of people or destroying a large area at
one time. They are usually weapons that are nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological. Conventional
weapons are weapons that do not incorporate chemical, biological, or nuclear payloads.
One of the main goals of the Global War on Terror is to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being
used by states or non-state actors. Some states and non-state entities have made threats against the
United States. There are several types of weapons of mass destruction.
Biological weapons are used in biological warfare, also known as germ warfare. Such warfare is defined
as the use of any disease-causing organism as a weapon in war. Biological weapons are used to disable
or kill the opponent. You have probably heard of the most common biological weapons. They include
anthrax, smallpox, and Ebola.
In the fall of 2001, the United States suffered the most significant bioterrorist attack in the country’s
history. In September and October 2001, letters containing anthrax were mailed to U.S. Senators and to
newspaper and television reporters. By the end of 2001, 11 cases of pulmonary (inhalation) anthrax
were confirmed, seven cases of cutaneous anthrax were confirmed, and four additional cases remain
suspect. Five of the 18 confirmed anthrax cases resulted in death. Each of the deaths resulted from
pulmonary anthrax. According to the FBI, these are the first known deaths in the U.S. from criminal use
of a biological agent.
Chemical warfare is the use of toxic chemical substances to kill, injure, or incapacitate an opponent.
Some chemicals used in chemical warfare are dangerous long after they are initially released. These
long-term effects make chemical warfare particularly dangerous.
The most toxic chemical weapons include sarin, VX, and mustard gas. The Iraqi government used sarin
on the Kurds in northern Iraq during the 1980s. Sarin kills by attacking the nervous system. Saddam
Hussein's chemical warfare killed as many as 5,000 and wounded 65,000 people. The U.S. claimed that
Hussein was storing sarin prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. Iraq was also accused of using toxic
chemicals against Iran in the Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1988. Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese terrorist
group, used sarin in an attack on a Tokyo subway train in 1995. It killed 12 and injured 5,000 people.
Currently, Russia and the U.S. have stocks of sarin.
The U.S. and Russia also have stocks of VX (U.S. army code name), the deadliest nerve gas ever
created. Mustard gas was first used during World War I. It is not as deadly as nerve gasses such as
sarin, but it causes horrible wounds and can injure a person's lungs for life.
Nuclear weapons use the power of atomic energy, mainly relying on uranium and plutonium. These
weapons were first invented and used by the U.S. during World War II. They are very difficult and
expensive to make. Even an industrialized country with advanced science resources has difficulty in
preparing the ingredients for a nuclear bomb. It would be very difficult for a non-state agent to make a
true nuclear bomb.
Two categories of nuclear weapons could be a serious threat in the hands of terrorists: "loose nukes"
and dirty bombs. "Loose nukes" are nuclear weapons from the Cold War that were sold on the black
market following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan
are suspected of having such nuclear weapons in their possession. These countries were formerly under
Soviet control. A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive that contains radioactive material. The
radioactive material scatters when the bomb goes off. Most conventional bombs and weapons can be
outfitted with these materials.
Recent Terrorism In and Against the United States
The United States has experienced domestic and international terrorism. Terrorism conducted by foreign
agents on U.S. soil or against U.S. installations and citizens abroad has become a serious concern in the
last 20 years. The following list highlights major terrorist attacks committed against U.S. targets at
home and abroad.
U.S. Embassy Bombing in Beirut
On April 18, 1983, a delivery truck containing 400 pounds of explosives drove to the U.S. Embassy in
Beirut, Lebanon. The suicide bomber driver blew up the truck in front of the embassy. The explosion
killed 63 people. Hezbollah claimed responsibility. The terrorist group stated that the bombing was a
response to America's involvement in the Lebanese Civil War.
U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut
During the Lebanese Civil War, U.S. troops were sent to the region. Marines were stationed at the Beirut
International Airport as a part of an international peace-keeping force. In the early morning of October
23, 1983, a bomb exploded next to a U.S. Marine barrack in Beirut. A yellow delivery truck crashed into
the main lobby where a suicide bomber detonated 12,000 pounds of TNT. The blast killed 241 American
soldiers and wounded 60. No terrorist group claimed responsibility for the explosion. The Reagan
administration believed Hezbollah was responsible for this attack as well. They also believed that
Hezbollah was backed by the Iranian and Syrian governments. Others believe that the terrorists acted
out of anger for the U.S. support of Israel after its invasion of Lebanon.
Pan Am Flight 103
On December 21, 1988, a commercial airplane left Heathrow Airport in London, England and headed to
New York City. The airliner exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack killed 270 people, 189 of
which were American. Libyan terrorists were responsible for the bombing. The terrorist act may have
been a reaction to U.S. bombings in Libya in 1986 and to the accidental downing of Iranair Flight 655.
this plane was accidentally shot down by a U.S. naval ship in 1988, and killed 290 passengers. The
Libyan government formally took responsibility for the attack on August 15, 2003 under Col. Muammar
Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia
The Khobar Towers, located in Saudi Arabia, were used to house U.S. military personnel. On June 25,
1996 a fuel truck exploded adjacent to the towers. The explosion killed 19 servicemen, one Saudi and
injured 372 people. Hezbollah was blamed and several men were indicted for their involvement in the
World Trade Center, 1993
On February 26, 1993, a bomb containing 1,500 pounds of explosives was planted in the garage of
Tower One of the World Trade Center. The plan was to set off explosives that would cause Tower One to
collapse from the bottom and fall on Tower Two. The attack did not succeed in destroying the towers.
Six were killed and over 1,000 were injured. Four Islamic extremist were convicted for the attacks.
Oklahoma City Bombing
An American Gulf War veteran by the name of Timothy McVeigh was a right-wing conservative who
denounced the U.S. government. On April 19, 1995, McVeigh used a rental truck with 5,000 pounds of
explosives to blow off the side of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The explosion killed
168 Americans and injured 800. Of those killed, 19 were children. The blast also damaged over 300
buildings in the area.
McVeigh committed the largest domestic terrorist attack until 9/11. He was arrested an hour later as he
tried to flee the state. He was tried and convicted along with his accomplice Terry Nichols. McVeigh was
executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols is currently serving a life sentence. McVeigh
claimed that the bombing was revenge for the U.S. government's siege and destruction of the home of
the Branch Davidians, a small religious group in Waco, TX. Today the site of the former federal building
in Oklahoma City is a memorial to the lives lost.
U.S. Embassy Bombings in Tanzania and Kenya
On August 7, 1998 car bombs exploded simultaneously outside the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. In Nairobi 213 people were killed and approximately 4,000 were injured.
In Tanzania, 12 people were killed and 85 were injured. Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda,
claimed responsibility for the attack. The Clinton Administration responded with Operation Infinite
Reach. This was a series of air strikes on terrorist targets in the Sudan and Afghanistan. Both countries
were believed to be hiding Osama bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda. Several men were tried and
convicted for the attacks.
SS Cole Bombing In Yemen
The USS Cole, an American naval destroyer, was docked along the coast of Yemen in the Arabian
peninsula. On October 12, 2000 it went into harbor for refueling. A suicide bomber in a small boat filled
with explosives drove into the side of the ship. The explosion left a 40' by 40' hole in the boat.
Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were injured. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. In
September 2004, several men were captured, tried, and sentenced to death for planning the bombing.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001 the U.S. experienced the most deadly terrorist acts ever recorded. This was the
first time since the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 that foreign agents executed an attack on American soil.
That day, four commercial airliners were hijacked and used as flying weapons of mass destruction.
Suicide bombers flew two Boeing 767s into New York City's World Trade Center, also known as the Twin
Towers. The first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. The second plane was captured on live
television striking the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. Both 110-story towers collapsed within minutes of each
other. Most who remained inside were killed.
A third plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia at 9:37 a.m. The Department
of Defense reports that 125 were killed during this attack. The Pentagon is located across the Potomac
River from Washington, D.C.
The fourth plane crashed into a field in the middle of Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. In all, over 3,000
people, mostly American citizens, perished during the September 11 attacks. Flight records indicate that
265 died on the planes. At the World Trade Center site, 2,595 people died. This number includes 343
New York City firefighters, 23 New York police officers, and 37 Port Authority officers. The group al-
Qaeda, which had declared war against the U.S. in 1996, claimed full responsibility for the attack. Al-
Qaeda was led by Osama bin Laden and had its main bases in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda financially and
militarily supported the extreme religious government of Afghanistan, the Taliban.
On a televised broadcast, al-Qaeda announced the reasons for the attack. They claimed that it was in
retaliation for certain actions committed by the U.S. These included:
plundering the resources of the Arabian Peninsula
dictating policy to rulers of other countries
supporting abusive regimes and monarchs in the Middle East
violating Muslim holy land with military installations
creating disunion among Arab/Muslim states
supporting the Jewish state of Israel
President Bush declared a Global War on Terror in response to the attacks. His immediate goal was to
remove the Taliban government of Afghanistan and find Osama bin Laden. Over time, the aims of the
war evolved. In 2003, Bush focused his attention on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
Hussein was suspected of supporting acts of terrorism and possessing weapons of mass destruction.
The War on Terrorism
The events of September 11, 2001 shook the American people and government to the core. Never had
the U.S. felt so vulnerable. Previously, terrorist attacks seemed a threat to American interests abroad,
not on the home front. Americans were not used to foreign invasion and attack. In his January 29, 2002
State of the Union Address, President Bush outlined his response to these acts of terrorism. His three
main objectives were to:
stop regimes that threaten the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction
target the "axis of evil" (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea)
These objectives comprised President Bush's Global War on Terror. The military response to 9/11 was
called Operation Enduring Freedom. Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The goal
was to topple the oppressive Taliban regime. The Taliban regime harbored Osama bin Laden. The initial
fighting resulted in 258 American deaths and 638 wounded. The Taliban were quickly removed from
power. At the time of the writing of this course, Osama bin Laden has yet to be found. The leader of the
Taliban has also escaped and is missing. Although Afghanistan now has a democratic government,
fighting continues in much of the country.
In 2003, President Bush focused his attention on another perceived threat to the US. This threat was
the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Hussein had been a threat to the stability of the Middle East for
over 20 years. Because Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction against neighboring countries
and his own people, President Bush linked him to the Global War on Terror.
On March 20, 2003, the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq with a sanction from the United
Nations Security Council. The capital city of Baghdad fell on April 9th and President Bush declared an
"end to combat operations" on May 1. Saddam Hussein was captured on December 14, 2003. After the
fall of Hussein, U.S. forces began the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The search was
abandoned on January 12, 2005 when nothing was uncovered. The insurgency following the invasion
continues today. At the time this course was written, American casualties totaled 2,603. The number of
American and Iraqi casualties grows everyday.
The Bush Doctrine
On October 26, 2005, the Department of Defense issued a fact sheet. The fact sheet outlined the
reasons that the U.S. must stay in Iraq and the Middle East:
1. These extremists are determined to end American and Western influence in the Middle East.
2. The militant network wants to use the vacuum created by retreat to expand its power.
3. These militants will seek to establish a radical Islamic Empire.
4. To accomplish their extremist agenda, the militants thrive on the suffering and frustrations of
5. In pursuit of their goals, Islamic radicals are empowered by their helpers and enablers.
President Bush has expanded his policy on terrorism. His approach to combating terrorism is known as
the Bush Doctrine. The Bush Doctrine includes the following guidelines:
prevent attacks before they occur
deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and their terrorist allies
deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes
fight to deny militants control of any country
deny militants future recruits by advancing democracy and hope across the broader Middle East
The most controversial aspect of the Bush Doctrine is the policy of preemption. Preemption is the use of
military strikes on terrorist targets to prevent perceived threats. Bush believes that the U.S. should
make the first move against possible attacks. In other words, the U.S. should strike before it is
attacked. This policy supports harming the opponent when they least expect it. This policy has been
opposed both in the U.S. and in countries all over the world.
Supporters of preemptive action feel that it is crucial in preventing terrorist attacks. They say that
proactive measures are necessary to prevent further acts of terrorism against the U.S., its allies, and
interests. In a world of changing governments, it is important to prevent weapons of mass destruction
from falling into the hands of enemy states or terrorist groups. Self-defense is the best security
possible. Immediate action will prevent or diminish greater acts of violence against the U.S.
Many others oppose preemptive attacks. They note that violence only breeds violence. Hate breeds
hate. Using self-defense as a justification for attacking without provocation violates international law.
Additionally, perceived threats do not always translate to real threats. Opponents of preemptive
violence point to the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. The
war has caused much death and destruction, and no weapons were found. Opponents also argue that by
taking preemptive action, the U.S. encourages other countries to do the same. Finally, critics argue that
world opinion overwhelmingly opposes preemptive attacks.