Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

Assess if Al Qaeda achieved its goals in the September 11 Attacks.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the most basic of senses, the objectives set out by Al- Qaeda were accomplished in the September 11 Attacks.  The desire to use aircraft as weapons, to do so using low tech tools in boarding the aircraft, and to catch the United States in a complete state of surprise were all elements that Al- Qaeda sought to do and actually did through the attacks of September 11.  Consider the ideas of then CIA Director George Tenet, when summarizing the focus of the organization:

Usama Bin Ladin's organization and other terrorist groups are placing increased emphasis on developing surrogates to carry out attacks in an effort to avoid detection... Some of these terrorists are actively sponsored by national governments that harbor great antipathy toward the United States.

This "antipathy toward the United States" represents the base motivation of the September 11 Attacks.  Certainly, this was accomplished in terms of how the attacks demonstrated an "antipathy toward the United States."  

Another objective of the organization was to provoke the United States into "coming out of its hole."  The fundamental belief of the organization was that the policies of the United States towards the Arab world and its zealous support of Israel both embodied positions that threatened millions of Muslims and Arabs across the world.  For Al Qaeda, being able to expose this bias towards Muslims and Arabs was essential.  The organization wanted to display to the world how the United States was biased against Muslims and Arabs.  In response to the attack, the United States launched military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Certainly, the desire to initiate American military action was accomplished through the attacks, as American military presence rose in a stark and sharp manner.  From an internal point of view, the desire for "credibility" amongst the world's Arabs and Muslims helped to motivate the attack.  Al Qaeda recognized the instant amount of "prestige" that would come from its expansive network of associates with a coordinated attack on the United States.  This was another objective and one that was accomplished through the September 11 Attacks.

I do think that some mention has to be made of whether or not Al Qaeda envisioned the fundamental demise to their own organization that resulted from the September 11 Attacks.  I cannot envision a situation where Al Qaeda would have seen its leadership so fragmented and so destroyed by the results of the Attacks.  The deaths of key and strategic Al Qaeda leaders could not have been foreseen by the leadership.  I think that the organization and its leaders believed that the September 11 Attacks would have been a start of similar attacks.  I don't think they envisioned that their greatest success would have been on that day, rather seeing it as a way to develop more inroads into terrorist activities against the "West."  In this light, one can say that an objective to expand the organization's reach was denied in the events that followed the September 11 Attacks.  The organization was able to see its own success spike after the attacks, but was truly unable to work another event on that level after it, only to see its own leadership become killed as a result of it.  This is not to say that the organization lacks power today, for it still is able to function.  Yet, it is in a significantly weaker position today than it was prior to the September 11 Attacks.  In this, a goal or objective was denied.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial