What is GWOT?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is also frequently called the Global War on Terror, or simply the War on Terror. Five years into the war, which began in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of civilians in the United States, more nuance was injected to create slogans such as "a global struggle against violent extremism.” Many different terms and phrases describe the conflict, but whichever title is preferred, the GWOT is seen as an unprecedented campaign to defend against and prevent acts of terrorism worldwide.

The term GWOT may have originated from the simple “war on terror” language used to describe conflicts of the past, but its use was discussed in great detail by American government and military leaders. Since the phrase Global War on Terrorism apparently translates well in many other languages, it was considered the best option. George W. Bush, President of the United States at the time of the September 11 attacks and the beginning of the GWOT, made it clear that the fight against terrorism would have a global reach. In addition, he swore that the effort would not only work to incapacitate terrorists and their networks, but would also deal harshly with nation states that supported or harbored terrorists.


The change in terminology was adapted to include more within the GWOT framework. The original language didn’t seem like an apt description of the various operations, since much more is involved than military maneuvers or battles. The GWOT includes both combat and non-combat initiatives, such as intelligence gathering, effective law enforcement, countering narcotics trafficking, efforts to freeze terrorist financing, economic sanctions, disabling known terrorist cells and training camps, and fighting insurgencies. It also involves training military and police forces, reconstruction efforts, strengthening infrastructure and supporting fledgling governments, protecting human rights, and providing humanitarian aid.

President George W. Bush stated in a 20 September 2001 speech that the GWOT would not allow terrorism to destroy the rights and freedoms of individuals or to destroy democratic governments. He described the GWOT as a “lengthy campaign,” unlike anything the American people or the world has seen. The president stated that the GWOT would begin with Al Qaeda, the group believed to be responsible for September 11 and other attacks, but would not end there.

One statement, which at the time fueled Americans’ resolve, also received criticism from sources worldwide. President Bush declared the GWOT would not end “until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Many critics feared that this statement and other strong language would incite more violence and lead to a state of perpetual war. Amnesty International also believed that “ordinary citizens” as well as protected human rights and civil liberties would suffer the most due to the GWOT.

Despite critics’ fears of the GWOT, there was an outpouring of support after the September 11 attacks, as well as support for the nation’s efforts to defend the U.S. along with friends and allies throughout the world from terrorists. Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom quickly offered support. Many other nations also showed support and formed a Coalition of forces to combat extremists. NATO instantly responded, reiterating statements from its charter that an attack on any member nation is “an attack on all.”


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Post 3

No matter what you call it (war on terror or global war on terror or something else) we need to go get the bad guys. When somebody does something to threaten our freedom and our people it is the job of our government and our military to take action and protect us. I support them 100 percent.

Post 2

I have to agree with the thoughts of Amnesty Internal as they were stated in the article. After 9/11 you would have had a difficult time finding any U.S. citizen who wasn't angry and who didn't want to lash out at someone. I think we all want our government to find who was responsible and go get them.

That's only natural. When someone hits you you want to hit them back and much harder than they hit you. I support what the U.S. has done to make our country safer, but we have to draw the line somewhere, don't we. We can't be police the entire world.

Post 1

The name Global War On Terror sounds better for the United States government because the politicians and GWOT services can use the word global as a reason to poke into the business of other countries and then they can justify their actions by saying they were fighting terror. The U.S. seems to be using the excuse of fighting terrorism to explain every action it takes against people.

What makes this worse is that the government is using the excuse of terrorism to attack and spy on other countries and also to spy on and arrest citizens of the U.S. GWOT shouldn't be used as an excuse to violate people's rights, whether those people are in another country or in the U.S.

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