Analysis of Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism

During the past two decades, the United States has faced a threat much more elusive and complicated than any previous homeland security issues – terrorism. President Obama faced the difficult task, which required the development of an effective strategy that would be less aggressive than that used by his predecessor, but at the same time effective and comprehensive to protect Americans from the increasing threats of terrorism (Alperen, 2017). Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism introduced in 2011 was expected to address the emerging threats and provide a more accurate and evidence-based plan for fighting terrorist organizations at home and abroad. In this short essay, I aim to analyze this strategy, highlighting its main strengths and weaknesses.

To begin with, it is important to explain the key aspects and goals outlined in Obama’s strategy. As noted by Alperen (2017), the main aim of the strategy was to disrupt, weaken, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida and its adherents that threatened the national security. It emphasized the need to build international partnerships and capacity to develop more effective counter-terrorism programs that would bring long-term effects (Alperen, 2017). Moreover, President Obama emphasized that the strategy was not about the war in its traditional sense. Although the plan to fight al-Qa’ida certainly involved military services,  it was acknowledged that all available tools (e.g., intelligence, civilian involvement, awareness raising, etc.) should be used to make sure that terrorists are fought on all fronts.

Interestingly, Obama’s strategy differs somewhat from that developed by the Bush administration. Oliver, Marion, and Hill (2004) argued that President Bush relied more on the Department of Defense and viewed counterterrorism as a kind of a hybrid war that required a serious approach using military forces and weapons. Although Obama did not underestimate the threat of terrorism, his position seemed more balanced and less aggressive. The president involved CIA as the primary agency dealing with the terrorist threat, thus giving more responsibilities to intelligence units who tracked the most dangerous terrorists (Oliver et al., 2004). Moreover, the new strategy stressed the importance of such agencies as FBI and National Security Agency in domestic counter-terrorism activities. In this way, one may note that the main strength of Obama’s National Strategy was that it used diverse tools and resources to tackle the problem.

However, there were critics who argued that the strategy had some limitations. Thus, for example, Poling and Moore (2013) maintained that the plan was a step backward to the pre-9/11 position, which was no longer relevant to the present-day realities. More specifically, the authors argued that the decimation of central leadership may weaken al-Qa’ida for a short period, but it would be wrong to think that the organization is defeated with the death of its leaders. Its influence is far more pervasive than some may think, and others will continue to use the terrorist strategies to attack the United States. I agree with Poling and Moore (2013) that Obama’s strategy was too optimistic, especially given the current threats. Destroying one terrorist group does not mean combatting terrorism altogether, as the recent experience shows.

Thus, I would like to summarize that Obama’s strategy had both strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, it was more comprehensive than the previous counter-terrorist policies because it involved core agencies and reduced the use of military forces. On the other hand, the strategy obviously failed to acknowledge the growing power of terrorist groups in the Middle East and was too optimistic is prognosis. As the present-day experience shows, countering terrorism is far more difficult and time-consuming that it was once believed.

 

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References

Alperen, M. J. (2017). Foundations of homeland security: Law and policy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Oliver, W. M., Marion, N. E., & Hill, J. B. (2004). Introduction to homeland security. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Poling, C., & Moore, E. (2013). The good and bad of Obama’s Counterterrorism Strategy. U.S. News. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/06/07/assessing-obamas-new-counterterrorism-strategy

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