AbstractWhile much of the record of American statecraft through the 1980s discloses bold policies which subsequently contributed to the favorable flow of global events, the Reagan administration’s approach to counterterrorism serves as a reminder that alongside the narrative of strong vision and decisive action, Reagan’s White House was plagued by division, dysfunction, and a lack of foresight which ultimately planted the seeds of the most catastrophic terrorist incident in U.S. history. Yet while the Reagan administration’s disorder may have played a significant role in creating the environment in which al-Qaeda and the September 11 plot was able to evolve, its actions also helped lay the political, legal and structural foundations of what became the United States’ War on Terror. Thus, as this chapter will demonstrate, counterterrorism under Reagan is best viewed as paradoxical, establishing the fundamentals of the hardline pursuit of terrorists, while simultaneously fostering the ideological climate and terrorist infrastructure which enabled the radical Islamist cause to thrive.
Fuller, Christopher (2017) Precedent and paradox: counterterrorism policy under Reagan In, Reagan's World: The Cold War and Beyond. Cornell University Press (Submitted).