The so-called “Global War on Terror”—once omnipresent on cable news networks—seems to have receded from view. Is the war over? How do we think about the past 11 years of warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond?
Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University, now offers a “brief history” of the “war on terror” in a piece on History News Network.
Bacevich divides the American-led “war on terror” into three phases, defined by their strategic rationales and their leading proponents:
1. Liberation (Rumsfeld era)
2. Pacification (Petraeus era)
3. Assassination (Vickers era)
Bacevich briefly traces the developments of the “war on terror” through each of these phases, arguing that strategic shifts have led to changes in the waging of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, but a failure to really question the aims of war.
Bacevich concludes by probing the potential effects of the “war on terror” strategies on American society:
“Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called ‘the dark side,’ with implications that few seem willing to explore. Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose. Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair. Is this progress?”