When we are attacked with force, we have natural response to want to defend our selves. Whether attacked as individuals, as a group or collectively as a nation, we have the inherit right to use measures of self-defense in response to acts of violence and aggression. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter makes this point extremely clear: “nothing…shall impair the inherit right of individual or collective self defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations..” Before 9-11, it was understood within the international community that ‘armed’ attacks were planned and executed by nation States against other sovereign States. According to Theresa Reinold however, the terrorist attacks on the pentagon and the world trade center on September 11th, 2001, has changed the definition of an ‘armed’ attack; effectively changing who is to be held accountable. It is thus necessary to explore the reasons for this change as well as its future implications for the international community in general. In this essay I will examine the criteria for the State’s right to self-defense as it applies to state weakness, irregular warfare and international law in our post 9-11 world. Furthermore, while such change may appear to be linear and expected, Naomi Klein offers a different narrative aimed at exposing the hidden agenda of changing such definition to exploit war for financial gain.
At 11:00 pm on September 11th, 2001, the George W. Bush administration of the United States declared war against Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. This declaration of war was a direct response to the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. This was an unprecedented declaration of war because it was not directed at a particular State per se, rather against a non-state actor and its ideology: terrorism. George W. Bush declared Afghanistan to be a ‘safe-haven’ for Al-Qaeda operatives and other terrorists alike.
‘Safe-havens’ are described as under-governed, ill-governed or un-governed states in which terrorists can freely organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, train and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, or will, or both. Safe Havens come into existence when States are unable or unwilling to exercise territorial control. Territorial control should be viewed as the state’s ability to govern, police and protect citizens within their territorial borders. When states cannot do this, it allows for terrorist networks to operate without the presence of an overarching authority.
In State Weakness, Irregular Warfare, and the Right to Self-Defense post 9-11, Reinold claims that safe-havens are not a novel phenomenon, and that they have been an ongoing, yet negligible humanitarian problem for the world. After Al-Qaeda launched their attacks from Afghan soil, she argues that the existence of ‘safe havens’ have now become a serious threat to global peace and security. While they may have always...