As the greatest military and economic power in the world, the United States has taken an active role in international politics. The United States values security and stability, both at home and abroad, above all else, and focuses on a number of areas to achieve those ends:
Terrorism has been used by groups of all ideological and political views, from the leftist Red Brigades in Europe to the right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1994. A number of foreign and domestic terrorists have launched attacks against American interests since the early 1980s. In 1982, a suicide bomber killed 241 American military personnel in Lebanon. A group of Islamic fundamentalists attempted to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993, and al Qaeda attacked American embassies in Africa in 1998. Al Qaeda’s devastating, coordinated attacks on September 11, 2001, prompted officials in Washington to make combating terrorism the central focus of American foreign policy.
Using passenger planes as weapons, nineteen terrorists damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, killing nearly 3,000 people in the process. The terrorist network al Qaeda carefully planned the attack to protest American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Following the attack, President George W. Bush rallied the nation to fight back against the terrorists responsible. The United States successfully led a coalition force in an invasion of Afghanistan, where the governing Taliban regime had sheltered and aided the core leadership of al Qaeda, including Saudi exile Osama bin Ladin. Bush also created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate efforts at home to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Bush’s War on Terror broadened the scope of the American response from fighting al Qaeda and other groups intent on attacking the United States to fighting all terrorists around the world. Since 2002, the United States has funded many wars on terror being fought by other governments in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. The United States has even sent military consultants to other countries. As a result of these wars, a few terrorists groups, including the Irish Republican Army, have voluntarily renounced violence.