chapter  4
12 Pages

NATO, the Bush Administration and 9/11

On 11 September 2001 al-Qaeda terrorists seized four US commercial airliners and flew them, before a global audience of millions, into two of the greatest symbols of America’s global power, the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, causing the deaths of over 3,000 innocent lives. For many, 9/11 heralded the dawn of a new – and infinitely more dangerous – era in the international security environment. The threat of asymmetric attacks, those defined as ‘forms of attack against which the United States has no defenses’, with the ‘potential to produce widespread civilian casualties . . .’, had become a reality, and not just theoretical musings on the part of policy analysts and academics (Lambakis et al. 2002: v-1). Although not everyone adheres to the belief that international terrorism will be the defining threat to international security in the twenty-first century, what 9/11 did serve to expose was that the United States was facing a new kind of threat to its security.1 9/11, along with the subsequent anthrax scare that killed four people and was widely perceived at the time to be connected to the attacks on New York and Washington, also raised the spectre that terrorists could acquire nuclear devices and chemical or biological agents.2 US policymakers began warning of a potential ‘nexus’ between terrorists and WMD, and warned that al-Qaeda would surely use WMD if they could obtain them (Lugar 2002a). Just under four weeks later, the US launched a massive military intervention of Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), in an attempt to destroy alQaeda’s terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan and topple the Taliban regime that sheltered them. Despite numerous offers of help from its NATO allies, as the US began planning for combat operations it chose to bypass the alliance in favour of an ad hoc coalition, simply picking and choosing what it wanted from NATO assets and individual members. Such an approach only served to create the impression within Europe that the Bush Administration intended to pursue its goals unilaterally, and heightened tensions within the alliance that would culminate in the crisis over Iraq.