Although first coined by then United States President Ronald Reagan in response to state-sponsored terrorism, the "War on Terrorism" has irrevocably evolved since 11 September 2001. Concerned with annihilating the terrorist threats both abroad and at home, deeper questions of the war on terrorism are unanswered. What does it mean for the state to win or lose against terrorists? Conversely, what does it mean for terrorists to win or lose against the state? More precisely, what do the outcomes of armed conflict mean and look like within the context ofthe war on terrorism? Current terrorism studies literature focuses on what it takes for the state to win. Yet, scholars fall short of conceptualizing the alternative. This paper is a humble attempt to engage with the gaps in current research. Analyzing broader questions of constructivism, discourse and language, this paper grapples with contemporary theories of terrorism to put forth three claims. First, terrorism is a social construct whereby discourse is instrumental. Second, perceptions of victory rely on terrorists' capacity to deal destruction. Third, for terrorists, to lose is to be forced to cease the campaign. Although victory and loss for states is largely indefinable, both measures became distorted. The reason for this is intuitive: what makes terrorism distinct from other forms of political violence is that the tactic requires interpretation by its audience. Adopting a Foucauldian notion of discourse as the production of knowledge and power, this paper posits that the stakes of the far-reaching "War on Terrorism" were defined and intensified by the heads of state. The consequence of which was that the war became a matter of preserving liberal-democratic values rather than addressing terrorists' motivations.
"What is Victory? What is Loss? An Analysis of the War on Terrorism,"
Augsburg Honors Review: Vol. 9
, Article 3.
Available at: https://idun.augsburg.edu/honors_review/vol9/iss1/3