The United States War on Terror – Liberal or Realist?

Is there potential for a new perspective in the United States' global-war-on-terror through the lens of a new political theory? Should U.S. policy continue to rely on a realist's use of force or shift toward a more liberal approach? Would relating the ideas of several foundational theorists in modern western political thought bring additional insight into this intractable, costly, and deadly morass? That is the direction of inquiry on which this paper moves with regard to the U.S. global-war-on-terror as prosecuted by the three post 9/11/2001 U.S. presidential administrations-that of George W. Bush, followed by Barrack Obama, and now Donald Trump. It uses a sample of relevant, current scholarly research on the U.S. global-war-on-terror. It reviews and compares the foreign policy agendas, pronouncements, and actions taken by each of these three U.S. Presidents. And, it considers the influential political theory of seminal Western political thinkers: Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, and Niccolò Machiavelli. The paper concludes that the U.S. global-war-on-terror is unlikely to end the ongoing worldwide threat of fundamentalist Islamic jihadism with its current predominantly military approach. Instead, it suggests that the U.S. would be better served by additionally increasing more cooperative economic, humanitarian, and cultural, efforts in its foreign policy agenda. This would more likely address the underlying causes of the rise and spread of fundamentalist Islamic jihadism in the 21st century, and by the same token reduce the size and scope of its long-term threat to the United States.