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Summary: Continuity and Change in International Security Policy

September 11th as a Turning Point

Andreas Wenger

11 September 2001 marks the end of a transition period after the end of the Cold War, but does by no means represent a decisive caesura in the development of the international system, as many observers thought to believe right after the attacks. The war against terrorism became the central point of US foreign policy and President Bush succeeded in forming an impressive antiterror coalition within a very short period of time, the cohesion of which, however, is becoming more and more questionable, as time proceeds.

The support that Russia, the Central-Asian states, and Pakistan showed, as well as China’s silent agreement to the war on terrorism were amazing and the initial solidarity of America’s European alliance partners was remarkable. While Europe and the USA are getting closer in perceiving the threats, the opinions as to what means to employ in the fight against terrorism are, paradoxically, moving them further apart.

11 September has not led to a paradigmatical change in US foreign policy, from unilateralism to multilateralism, from criticism of international institutions to cooperation within them, though certain statements of senior politicians have tried to give that impression. Despite its unequalled military superiority, the US will not be able to meet asymetric challenges unilaterally, such as countering terrorism drawing support from weak states. Therefore, selective multilateralism is likely to become the new US credo.

As to the securitypolitical role of NATO and the EU in this context, the USA seems to focus on the global military challenges, while its European partners devote themselves to peace support operations. The USA has made it more than clear that, because of the modest military capacities of the Europeans, they intend to wage war against terrorism outside NATO structures, which, however, does not rule out occasional support, as for instance by Great Britain.

That alone makes a new approach in international burden sharing evident. International policy in the 21st century presents itself as multilayered and complex, and the USA will have a lasting impact on shaping its agenda only if it cooperates with other big and small international players, in order to meet the challenges arising from the globalization of international economic structures on the one hand, and the regionalization of order structures on the other.



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