The terminus of the Cold War was marked by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet block and the withdrawal of Moscow’s authority and direct influence over the Third World. These developments left the US as the unchallenged global superior power. Further integration followed by independence of newly independent Eastern Europe states coupled to the growing military and economic developments in the United States stimulated a readjustment of the global political landscape and the creation of new definitions of what constitutes political and security interests.
In essence, the end of the Cold War marked the beginning of systemic change in the hierarchy of state actors in a new international system (Ahmadov 2005). Thus, 1989 not only marked the end of bipolarity but the emergence of unipolarity in international politics. With the rise of newly independent states and the continued rivalry between big powers, the United States rose decidedly to fill the power vacuum and chart the course for world politics in the post Cold War era. As the victor in the Cold War, the US began pushing for political and economic reforms as opposed to revolution which was the principal tool used by the Soviet Union.
Instead of preventing Soviet ideology from penetrating into the Middle East, the US opted for reforms at the political, social, and economic levels (Ahmadov 2005). In a bid to establish an economic monopoly over the whole region, United States imperialist adventures adopted economic, ideological, and cultural foreign policy tools to hasten the integration of the Middle East into a single unique capitalist global market (Joya 2005). The United States also pushed these states to democratize through the adoption of western forms of political governance (Ahmadov 2005).
Broadly analyzed, US policy towards the Middle East was grounded on two tools: economic liberalization and political democratization. These tools served to legitimize America’s presence in the region despite opposition by Middle Eastern States. Relative insecurity in the region and the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism provided the United States with a reason to resort to militarized foreign policies. 1989 and 2001 are important turning points in the history of US foreign policy and their implications on the global political system (Hubell 2000). More importantly, 1989 marked the beginning of transformation in the Middle East.
The United States being the principal actor in the transformation process had great influence on both regional and global transformations. From a bipolar to a unipolar hegemonic power hierarchy, the Middle East became one of the main focus points with the demise of the Soviet Union (Ahmadov 2003; Fred 1999). According to Richard (1993), US policies in the post-Cold War era were objectively influenced by the desire to prevent the expansion of the communist ideology, secure free flow of oil to Western powers, and provide security necessary for the protection of Israel and pro-Western states in the Middle East region.
The pursuit of these objectives has remained the determining factors of the nature of policy. However, while the number and severity of dictatorial regimes are diminishing and the Middle Eastern region is emerging into an economic power, thanks to huge petroleum and gas deposits; the incoherence, disconnectedness, the growing anti-American sentiments are detrimental to the efficient management of continuity and change (James & Charvez 2002; Archick 2005; Daniel 2004).
The net result is that despite the comprehensiveness of policy towards the region, the United States struggles to achieve its foreign policy goals in the region (Ahmadov 2005). Thus, the terrorist attacks were just but an impetus for a new assertiveness in the overall US-Middle East framework.