Analyzing Trends Post 9/11: A Constructivist Perspective

In the current era, the ideas and the concepts that were constructed or brought to limelight after 9/11 are quite prevalent and widespread. The construction of these concepts and the hype that was created for few terminologies originating from this attack on the world trade center in USA continue to have global implications. These include the shift in dynamics of Muslim World, concept of islamophobia, terrorism, global war on terror and role of women and media. This article examines how this incident created a hype and shifted the attention of global politics to such an extent that even today after two decades, the issue is discussed and is ranked among top events in the history on International Relations.

“No one wants 9/11 to be misrepresented, politicized, coopted, or distorted. Yet, it seems difficult not to do just this.”

(Ann Keniston and Jeanne Follensbee Quinn, Literature After 9/11)

A common challenge of terrorism emerged after 9/11 and the global security dynamics were to be drastically changed to deal with this challenge. Many non-traditional wars began after 9/11. Within a month after this attack, the US troops invaded Afghanistan with the purpose to remove Taliban government and to dismantle Al-Qaeda. This brought forward a new pattern of trilateral relations that emerged at that time in the region. After two years, in March 2003, the United States attacked Iraq and removed President Saddam Hussein. This attack skyrocketed the budgets used for the militaries related to defence. Soon after 9/11 US led the Global War on Terror (GWOT) as a counterterrorism campaign. This led to a shift and emergence of a new phase of security, international law, human rights, co-operation, governance, and the international politics and can be compared to cold war back then. GWOT is a multidimensional campaign including military, intelligence, diplomatic, domestic, preventive and security dimensions.

Social constructivism best explains this scenario. It tells how an attack on the twin towers brought a dent in the prestige of US, the discourse brought forward a hype and ultimately the West specifically USA determined what was to be highlighted and in what way. Today the ‘truth’ of terrorism is constructed by the US. Terrorism was considered to be a major issue at the forefront of Western security since the attack of 9/11.  Al-Qaeda a terrorist group killed large number of people and attacked the two important symbols of American life; the pentagon and world trade Centre. In response to which soon became Al-Qaeda became the target at GWOT, killing large number of people. This sort of terrorism gives us the sense of attack of a state against its own population or against some other non-state actors.

After the attack of 9/11, the fear and threat from Islam was manipulated by the West. This came to be known as Islamophobia which was not true in the sense that few Muslims do not represent whole Muslim community. Media played a vital role to misinterpret Islam and other conflicts. Ideological dispersal, abuse, wars, contortion by various philosophical systems and revolt made inside the Muslim society are the unmistakable image of contempt system in the West against Islam. This old idea of islamophobia is yet alive on the planet today. After the event of 9/11 the image of Islam got an unexpected shift. West began considering Islam as a terrorist producing and exporting religion. West saw Islam as a green threat. Possibly it is socially developed or the truth.

Since 9/11 the male hero has become a predominant social symbol, invoking a narrative of strength to a country looking for seeking emotional grounding the women whose spouses died on September eleventh have since arisen as victim of the event, in the way the children were the iconic victims of Oklahoma City. The widows have become images of despondency, posturing for instance in People magazine with their infant youngsters, presently known as post-9/11 babies. A recurrent relationship is set up whereby women are considered unequipped for specific tasks, bringing about less quantities of women in these jobs, and thereby justifying their lack of representation in sites such as the media. This restricts the depiction of women as role models an ‘heroes’, which is impeding to women who are thinking about non-customary professions. All women who contributed to the event as police officers, rescue workers or firefighters all were ignored. Thus, the media, the reports, the narratives and the stories of 9/11 did not highlight the role of women and some truths were not claimed as reality by the society.

Before 9/11 many nations were not familiar with the popular phrase of terrorism. There were many popular working groups and organizations, and Al-Qaeda was not among them. Moreover, US also paid little attention to the term terrorism and other conflicts of the Muslim World. Soo after 9/11 media began to play its role as a change agent in the political affairs of the world. Media played a greater role in winning public support and portraying Muslims as a danger for harmony and solidness of the world. Thus, the truth was constructed, and the media acted as a tool.

The debate on the sources of strategic intelligence failure has been greatly intensified by two recent events. The inability to provide notice of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the shambles over the reporting of an alleged Iraqi WMD program. Governments throughout the world were curious as to why they were spending billions of dollars each year on intelligence while receiving terrible value for money. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, and Denmark began probes into their own local versions of the WMD intelligence saga, hoping for a greater return on investment in the future. Despite this, intelligence budgets continued to rise at an alarming rate, implying an inverse – even perverse – link between performance and reward.

This shift in intelligence culture is primarily due to globalisation. Transnational threats such as terrorism and organised crime have prompted a move from a “need-to-know” to a “need-to-share” mentality. After 9/11, this trend accelerated, resulting in closer collaboration with previously unknown partners. The Federal Bureau of Investigation now employs the same number of international liaison officers as the Central Intelligence Agency. Since 9/11, thorny transatlantic arguments have erupted over topics such as Iraqi WMD assessments, secret prisons, and detainee interrogation. Americans have worked with Libyan and Sudanese security forces in recent years. Intelligence collaboration is a type of “low politics” that focuses on individual instances or causes. So far, the foundation of the unified EU intelligence service has been rejected by stronger European nations.

When it comes to the world politics, the western powers dominate and their knowledge or evaluation regarding any event in the international system is greatly implied and preferred and the views and the working of the less privileged state is ignored due to less influence in the international world politics such as in 9/11 attack where the discourse developed by the America is considered and valued and this is viewed best from the lens of social constructivism.


Published in Global Affairs July 2022 Edition

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Alina Fayaz

Written by Alina Fayaz

Alina Fayyaz in a former intern at Global Affairs and a student of International Relations at National Defence University Islamabad.

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