Beyond The Neoconservative Legacy in American Counterterrorism Policy: From George W. Bush to Forever War

Rubrick Biegon, Tom Watts

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More than two decades after the 9/11 attacks, the militarised approach to counterterrorism initiated by the George W. Bush Administration remains firmly in place. Growing frustration with these actions has prompted debates on ‘forever war’. This article traces the origins of ‘forever war’ to the interplay of neoconservatism and conservative nationalism in the George W. Bush Administration, which aimed at preserving American primacy through the cultivation of overwhelming military power. The Administration’s support for the revolution in military affairs contributed to the development of a more remote counterterrorism approach, which helps explain the continuities in US counterterrorism policies across the latter Bush administration as well as the Obama and Trump presidencies. By helping embed a ‘common sense’ understanding that further 9/11-style attacks could only be prevented by enduring and aggressive military action against transnational terrorist organisations, neoconservatism shaped the evolution of American counterterrorism policy. The specific influence of neoconservatism must be qualified and contextualised, however, because the strategic commitment to primacy had wider support within the Bush Administration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Politics
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2023

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