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The US War on Terror in the Middle East


Terrorism can be understood as the intentional utilization of violence to develop a general fear climate in a population, mainly to achieve a specific political objective. Throughout the world, terrorism has been exercised by revolutionaries, religious groups, and nationalistic (Fridlund, 2018). In addition, there are cases where state institutions like the police, intelligence services, and armies have been associated with terrorist acts. Terrorist attitude is a willingness to harm or murder innocent people in the name of a “greater cause” that falls into religious beliefs, ideological or political reasoning (Varvin, 2013). It entails varying degrees of dehumanization of other people and employs destructive and indiscriminate violence. Notably, the middle east is associated with most of the world’s terrorist activities; because most the organizations come from this region. In this regard, the US war against terrorism has been focused on the Middle East. The United States has implemented foreign policies to reduce terrorism in the Middle East. This paper aims to distinguish the regional impact of the United States’ foreign policy towards the retaliatory terrorism mindsets against the human world and what issues does it determine.

Terrorist Mindsets

Terrorist mindsets can be understood as the willingness to kill or harm innocent civilians in the name of achieving a “higher cause,” which may be religious, political, or ideological. The mindset of terrorism may develop in groups and individuals in different situations (Varvin, 2013). In addition, traumatization and humiliation of countries or groups have been regarded as significant circumstances that produce pre-conditions for terrorist mindsets development (Varvin, 2013). According to psychologists, individuals who join terror groups are neither brainwashed nor psychopaths (Victoroff, 2005). Mostly, people join terrorist groups to express their political strategies; since a majority of the organizations are developed based on political beliefs (Victoroff, 2005). Lastly, most terror groups are developed to express different religious, social, and political views.

The History of Terrorism and Retaliatory Terrorism in The Middle East

The history of Ancient Terrorism and the emergency of modern terrorism.

Non-state and state actors have executed terror acts throughout the world and across history. The Rome emperors like Caligula and Tiberius experienced some form of terrorist acts that were focused on opposing their rules (Fridlund, 2018). However, they responded by executing, property expropriation, and banishing any individual opposing their rules. The most common early terror example is the Jewish Zealots’ activity, also referred to as the Sicarii (Fridlund, 2018). Specifically, the group mainly engaged in continuous violent attacks on other Hebrews, suspected of cooperating with the Roman administration. In addition, activities of terrorism were openly encouraged in the French revolution by Robespierre (Fridlund, 2018). Likewise, the Spanish Inquisition employed execution, torture, and arbitrary arrest to punish actions perceived as religious heresy.

Modern terrorism is said to have originated in the 1870s in Europe. Specifically, modern terrorism means using violence to fight the state. The individual noted to be the first terrorist in the world was a twenty-six-year-old lady (Vera Zasulich); she was a social revolutionist (Fridlund, 2018). Vera shot St Petersburg’s governor in 1878 to retaliate against repression by the Russian state towards local political protests (Steinberg, 2020). In the late half of the nineteenth century, terrorism was adopted in the United States, Russia, and western Europe by anarchist adherents (Steinberg, 2020). Notably, they believed the most effective way of achieving social change and political revolutionary was by assassinating individuals in positions of authority.

Rise Of Terrorism in The Middle East

Failed post-colonial efforts at the formation of states, the colonial era, and Israel’s creation led to a series of anti-western and Marxist movements and transformations throughout the Islamic and Arab world. The development of these revolutionary and nationalist movements and their perception that terrorism was an efficient way of achieving political goals developed the first modern terrorism phase in the Middle East (Moore, 2014). Historians note that 1979 marked the turning point of global terrorism (Moore, 2014). Specifically, the Islamic revolution in Iran speared fears of a revolutionary wave throughout the West and Arab world. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan invasion by the Soviets and the continuous ant-Soviet war stimulated the expansion and rise of terrorist groups (Moore, 2014). Over the years, terrorist groups have gained roots in the middle east due to the increasing ease of communication and transnational transportation.

Evolution of the US Foreign Policy Motivations for Retaliatory Terrorism in the Middle East

The United States has been active in fighting terrorism worldwide and mainly in the Middle East. However, instead of achieving its foreign policy goals, the United States has been experiencing retaliation from the Middle East (Ayora, 2019). A majority of commentators, experts, and scholars argue that the US presence in the Middle East has played a significant role in motivating retaliation from the terror groups in this region (Ayora, 2019). Specifically, several terror attacks on the United States indicate a systematic strategy of “revenge” on the country because of its foreign policy towards the Middle East (Ayora, 2019). All the United States government administrations have implemented a policy that triggered retaliation from the terror groups in the middle east.

During the Truman administration, the United States used its relationship with the United Nations to achieve in-roots in the Middle East. In 1947, the Truman doctrine was implemented to establish the US goals of containing totalitarianism and upholding democratic governments worldwide (Al Sarhan, 2017). Although the United States’ influence in the Middle East was small during this period, Truman’s doctrine created room for more foreign policies (Al Sarhan, 2017). In addition, during this administration, the US actively advocated for the immigration of Jewish individuals into the Middle East. In this regard, the US foreign policy increased tension in the Middle East; this inspired terrorism because of religious differences (Al Sarhan, 2017). Although the Truman administration aimed to develop alliances with the Middle East countries, its actions created conflict between the US and the region that still exists even today.

During the administration of Eisenhower, the United States graduated as hegemon from a peripheral actor in the Middle East. During this period, the US foreign policy was a commitment to the security and stability of the area (Al Sarhan, 2017). In 1958 Lebanon, crisis indicated the US readiness to impose military intervention in the Arab countries (Al Sarhan, 2017). Consequently, Arab nations started viewing the US as an imperialist power. Many countries in the region still perceive this nation. In addition, the US military intervention in the Middle East is noted as one of the major factors that motivated the establishment of terror groups in the region (Al Sarhan, 2017). On the other hand, during Kennedy, Nixon, and Carter’s administrations, the US offered military aid to Israel by supplying them with military equipment (Al Sarhan, 2017). This is associated with increased tension in Arab countries and Palestine. As a result, this aid by the US motivated the establishment of terror organizations like the “Palestine Liberation Organization” (Al Sarhan, 2017). Thus, although the US did not directly influence the region, empowering its potential enemies encouraged the rise of terrorism.

During the administration of Reagan, the US promoted unilateralism by increasing its military capabilities. In addition, the US also increased its military presence in the Middle East and protected its interest in Israel. Notably, this motivated the creation of an extremist and religious-inspired terror organization, “Hamas,” which aimed at retrieving the state of Palestine (Yom, 2020). Specifically, although the US was trying to bring peace to the region, it continued to supply Israel with weapons used against the Palestinian population. On the other hand, during Clinton’s administration, the US did not engage in any military activity in the middle east; however, it continued to support Israel (Yom, 2020). This led to increased Islamic ideologies leading to a rise in anti-western sentiments in the Middle East until the twenty-first century.

During the Bush and Obama administration, the US made significant steps in the fight against terrorism. When Gorge W. Bush was in office, the US experienced one of its deadliest terror attacks at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center (Yom, 2020). This was an indication that terror groups were not happy with the actions the US was taking. However, the United States used the attack to increase military intervention in the Middle East to reduce the terror threat (Yom, 2020). According to Bush, the US actions were meant to clear the path for relentless, comprehensive, and sustained operations to put to book those who were involved in the terror attack (Yom, 2020). During Obama’s time, military intervention in the Middle East was reduced to allow peacemaking through diplomatic talks (Yom, 2020). However, the US government introduced drones to monitor the region. Thus, although the US “boots on the ground” were few, the country continued to protect its interest in the area through the use of drones (Yom, 2020). As a result, this provokes retaliation from the terror groups since they feel threatened by any US intervention in the region.

The presence of the US military in the Middle East

Throughout the years, the United States has been accused of interfering with the operations of the Middle East nations through its foreign policies. One of the United States’ influences in the Middle East has been felt through its military intervention in almost all the conflicts in the region (Ayora, 2019). For instance, in the 1980s, the American military participated in Lebanon’s civil war (Ayora, 2019). The US joined the war as a peacekeeper; however, on the way, US soldiers started to side with Christians and killed the Muslims. When the Gulf war ended, the US soldiers remained in Saudi Arabia to keep peace in the region (Ayora, 2019). The Muslims did not take well since they felt like the United States was getting involved in the affairs, which was inappropriate (Ayora, 2019). Consequently, terror leaders like Osama bin Laden declared war with the United States, which saw the American troops spend more time in Saudi Arabia.


Terrorism can be understood as the intentional use of violence to develop a general fear climate in a population. It can be exercised by revolutionaries, religious groups, and nationalistic. The US has been on the frontline in the fight against terrorism, especially in the Middle East. Thus, there was a need to differentiate the regional impact of the United States’ foreign policy towards the retaliatory terrorism mindsets against the human world and what issues does it determine. The mentality of terrorism may develop in groups and individuals in different situations. In addition, non-state and state actors have executed terror acts worldwide and across history. Besides, the rise of terrorism in the Middle East was facilitated by the increasing anti-western movements and transformations. On the other hand, instead of reducing terrorism, the US activities in the Middle East have significantly increased the spread of terrorist acts throughout the years. Notably, the presence of the US in the Middle East has been the primary motivation for retaliatory terrorism.


Al Sarhan, A. (2017). United States Foreign Policy and the Middle East. Open Journal Of Political Science07(04), 454-472.


Fridlund, M. (2018). Terrorism: a very brief history. The Conversation. Retrieved 24 November 2021, from,in%20Europe%20in%20the%201870s.&text=In%20its%20agitation%20for%20a,%E2%80%9Cpropaganda%20by%20the%20word%E2%80%9D.

Moore, J. (2014). The Evolution of Islamic terrorsim: an Overview. Retrieved 24 November 2021, from

Steinberg, R. (2020). Situating the Reign of Terror in the History of Modern Terrorism. The Oxford Handbook Of The History Of Terrorism.

Varvin, S. (2003). TERRORIST MINDSETS: destructive effects of victimisation and humiliation. Psyke & Logos, 24, 196-208. Retrieved from: file:///Users/as/Downloads/8621-Artikeltekst-27350-1-10-20130723.pdf

Victoroff, J. (2005). The Mind of the Terrorist. Journal Of Conflict Resolution49(1), 3-42.

Yom, S. (2020). US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Logic of Hegemonic Retreat. Global Policy11(1), 75-83.


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