Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image credits: The Atlantic
The world just witnessed the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on American soil. An incident that shaped the direction of geo-politics in a specified direction, countering and uprooting global terrorism to be precise. However, this facet is changing, and it has implications for the world order. Let us explore how?
Foreign Policy is the real expression of a country's thinking, at least it's administration (if you factor in not so democratic nation-states like China and Russia). It is what Pt. Nehru called it ‘real autonomy’ while everything else is internal management. Foreign Policy is absolutely dictated by national interests, notwithstanding the internal debates regarding the perception of what counts as national interests in a polity as they always tend to differ. In short, the sole objective of a nation’s Foreign Policy is its national interests. Everything else is decoration. So for when America waged it's war against global terrorism, it was not for the benevolence of the global hegemon but was particularly dictated by what it saw as a threat against its national interests.
The 9/11 attacks had sobered up the perceptions of American invincibility. Having deposed the mighty Soviet Union a decade ago, such perceptions were bound to exist, at least in some quarters. Yes, America was the reigning global hegemon standing on the twin pillars of its economic might and military superiority. However, the attack showed that America was not invincible, and the fact that the severity of the damage inflicted was at the hands of a non-state actor, humiliated the American ego. Thus, instead of dealing with Al-Qaeda and it's protector in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime, America launched its global project, tackling the additional “axis of evil” : Iran, Iraq and North Korea. How successful has it been, is a point of other discussion.
American withdrawal from Afghanistan is a dominant sign of changing American perceptions in practice. The withdrawal and more particularly the hasty manner in which it was executed has brought upon insurmountable criticism, both internal and external for the Biden Administration, and rightly so. However, the hasteness and Biden's absolute and firm stance of no-remorse over the withdrawal is also the sign of the growing American eagerness, eagerness to counter and face other threats, threats that it sees more critical than terrorism.
Image credits: Time
‘Change is the only constant’ is a popular aphorism and rightly so. The world has fundamentally changed since 9/11 and so have the challenges. Here is a brief outlook regarding the dominant factors that are staring deep into the America’s face:
weaponization of trade and technology
tackling climate change, by leading global efforts and building consensus
Constantly innovate in the realm of emerging critical technologies (AI, Blockchain…) For analogy, harnessing the naval and industrial aspects of the technology provided a pre-eminent position to the United Kingdom in the global hierarchy.
Ensuring the strength and sustainability of the global supply chain, making them resilient- capable of facing similar challenges like Covid.
Reducing its dependence of manufacturing of key infrastructural products over China
Managing the economy, especially in the aftermath of Covid related restructuring. This requires monumental efforts in reforming the market-capitalist model; for as of now it seems to have been working on ever-increasing debt leading to more and more inflation. How sustainable this model is in the long run remains a profound challenge.
As if these challenges were not enough, China represents an amalgamation of all of these with its additional feature of aggressive nationalism, seeking what it sees as its rightful place as the patriarch in the global hierarchy.
Additionally, China has been growing and deepening its relationship with other anti-American and dominant powers, Iran and Russia in particular.
Therefore, America is absolutely not oblivious to the challenges it faces and global terrorism, now, it seems does not feature among the top-priorities.
So what are the implications? While the America has significantly receded the ground against terrorism, it does not imply that the threat has receded in a proportional manner. Yes, America has largely reduced the threat over its direct shorelines but that's just it. The projects of nation-building (Iraq and Afghanistan in particular) that America willingly undertook in its heyday has not gone according to the plan and while it would have wanted them to succeed, in the face of them failing, America has chose to reposition and re-state its intended goal, from nation-building to back again to securing American interests.
The direct consequence of this is that the resistance and fight against terrorism is to become more regionalised, atleast on the grounds. While America remains committed to the cause through the institutions (UNSC in particular) and it's ‘over the horizon’ capabilities, it's decision to brick back its boots from the ground is a major development.
For instance, India and Russia will now have to increase their direct engagement with developments in Afghanistan and the threats it poses for exporting radical terrorism across the borders in the face of America withdrawing it's presence.
BY PRATYAKSH KUMAR
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA