This paper compares the ways in which countries that have suffered from terrorist actions combat terrorism. Specifically, I compare counterterrorism policies in the United States and Spain before and after two of the most severe acts of foreign terrorism, the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 and the attacks in Spain on March 11, 2004. These comparisons are made in two counterterrorism policy aspects: Bureaucracy and Institutions, as well as Foreign Relations and Military Intervention. Each of these sections shows both convergent and divergent choices made by the Spanish and American governments. In terms of bureaucratic institutions, Spain has a more modern and hierarchically fluid approach whereas the United States has a system with multiple agencies where specific issues are addressed by individual, specialized agencies. Both governments utilize military intervention as a part of a response to terrorism, however, here too, these nations differ, in part because Spain's foreign policy response was conditioned by the existence and actions of the European Union whereas the United States reacts more unilaterally. The United States as well, possesses a vast military network and budget which allows them to respond more dramatically and without the constraints of a multilateralism. While both Spain and the United States collaborated in the “War on Terror” in the wake of 9/11, Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq after the Madrid terrorist attacks. While the new Spanish government that came to power after the terrorist attacks continued to focus on fighting terrorism, it emphasized the importance of deterring and preempting terrorist strikes. The American government, on the other hand, has specialized in criminalizing and responding to terrorism. While America has faced terrorism from several different perpetrator groups (i.e. the Black Panthers, Ku Klux Klan, ELF/ALF, anti-abortion extremists, etc.) which have allowed the nation to holistically prepare its counterterrorism institutions, Spain has faced terrorism from Basque nationalists (ETA) which has led to a more direct approach from the Spanish counterterrorism organization while the United States takes a targeted approach on the type of attack that occurred (START 2017). In addition, the way in which Spain and the United States respond internationally changes, as well. Spain takes a far more reticent approach, in pulling back from international engagement whereas the United States exhibits a more bellicose attitude. This paper examines the internal and external elements that have led to the convergence and divergence of the Spanish and American counterterrorism paths.
Engber, Hannah, "Call and Response: The Effect of Terrorist Incidents on the Way Nations Fight Terrorism" (2017). International Relations Summer Fellows. 3.
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