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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
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Experts reflect on terrorism’s implications

On Sept. 10, 2001, the U.S. was separated from foreign hostility by its borders; an ocean to the east, an ocean to the west and two nation-state neighbors to the north and south. The attacks the following morning left the physical borders untouched, but changed the concept of domestic security.
The successful attack of a non-nation-state extremist group — with the resources and international infrastructure to carry out terrorism — and the wars that followed changed American military and diplomatic approaches to conflict around the world. It is a subject near and dear to many experts and students in the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Charles Hermann is a professor at the Bush School, the director of the master’s program in international affairs and Brent Scowcroft chair in international policy studies. Hermann said most of America’s pre-9/11 national security policy was focused on fighting adversary nation-states.
“What 9/11 brought home dramatically was that threats to the United States can appear in the form of non-state actors, terrorist groups,” Hermann said. “We used to think that nation-states had something of a monopoly on the major means of violence. That is to say, it was nation-states that had an army; it was nation-states that had an air force; it was nation-states that had tanks, artillery and so on.”
Hermann said this rationale grew antiquated in the late 20th century. Developing technology and rogue governments made it possible for smaller, non-state groups to realistically seek weapons of mass destruction.
“The idea in the 1960s that a small group of individuals might have a nuclear weapon was unbelievable, and it isn’t anymore,” Hermann said.
Mack Nolen, a Naval officer and graduate student at the Bush School, has been deployed three times overseas. Nolan said a large focus of the military effort in Afghanistan is counterinsurgency, protecting legitimate authority against the attacks of groups that seek to destabilize regions of the world for political gain.
“An insurgent group is a group that is trying to undermine the legitimate political authority in a specific region and is ultimately, in many cases, trying to assume that legitimate political authority. Counterinsurgency is a really broad term for all the actions that we do to keep groups like that from being effective,” Nolen said.
But Nolen said establishing and maintaining stability in conflict areas is about more than overpowering an enemy, as it was in traditional warfare of past decades. Now, soldiers face the added task of convincing a populace that the U.S. offers a better future than insurgent groups, such as Al Quaeda or the Taliban.
Stanley McChrystal, former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, famously characterized the mission as a campaign for hearts and minds.
“Counterinsurgency is not something that can just be done with just soldiers; it takes what we call the whole of government, or all the instruments of national power: economics, infrastructure, building roads and electricity,” Nolen said.
Andrew Card, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service and former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush, said the Sept. 11 attacks brought significant economic ramifications for diplomacy and international trade.
“Commerce is affected because now shipping containers are screened more closely and airplanes are monitored more closely,” Card said. “And, yes, that impacts diplomacy. It impacts diplomacy because we have added more complications to the challenges that other governments have around the world as they interact with America.”
Students enrolled in the Bush School’s international affairs program have the option to add a homeland security certificate. Card said the Bush School has addressed a real need in homeland security by preparing students for the diverse challenges facing those protecting the U.S.
“It is a whole new career path for a lot of people in public safety who are working in Bryan, or in Austin, or in Dallas, or in Houston, or Washington, D.C. We’re helping by providing an educational tool through the certificate program that enhances someone’s opportunity to advance in public safety, working at state and local government as well as federal government,” Card said.
Many graduates at the Bush School of Government and Public Service pursue careers in intelligence agencies, including the Departments of State and Justice, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency.
Card added that the War on Terror could only be won when all nations protect their people by working together to keep terrorists from gaining a foothold.
“Terrorists are interested in destroying borders and nation-states are there to protect their people and respect borders,” Card said. “It’s a huge challenge, and it’s almost as if diplomacy and terrorism represents an oxymoron, from which there is no easy answer. But we have to work to make sure that terrorists feel so uncomfortable that they have no place to call home.”

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