GED Social Studies Practice Test: American Foreign Policy Since 9/11

On September 11, 2001, terrorists belonging to a group known as Al Qaeda (“the cause”) hijacked four airlines and destroyed the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a portion of the Pentagon (headquarters of the Department of Defense) in Washington. A fourth plane was crashed (presumably by the hostages on board) before it could reach Washington. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost — the first attacks on American soil by a foreign power (or group) since Pearl Harbor.

The shock and outrage brought Americans together. President Bush’s decision to punish terrorist groups won wide support. Soon, the U.S. tightened border and airport security, and under the PATRIOT Act, the government was given increased surveillance, detention, and interrogation powers. Supporters claimed the U.S. needed every possible power to fight non-state terrorism, while others worried about the erosion of civil liberties at home.

The U.S. quickly assembled an invasion force and entered Afghanistan, the base of Al Qaeda, and its radical Islamist government soon fell. That, however, did not solve America’s problems.

In 2002, President Bush named Iraq part of the “Axis of Evil” and alleged that its brutal dictator (who had once been a U.S. ally, as he was anticommunist), Saddam Hussein, was building weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] (atomic, biological, and chemical weapons). A series of United Nations resolutions imposed deadlines on Iraq to disclose information about its programs although the U.S. was not certain that Iraq was engaged in making WMDs.

In early 2003, Bush announced that time had run out. Using massive air power, the U.S. bombed Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, and eventually sent between 100,000 and 150,000 troops to Iraq. Critics charged that the invasion force was too small and that the mission of the operation was ill-defined. No hard evidence of WMDs was ever discovered. Saddam Hussein was eventually found (and turned over to the new Iraqi government, which executed him). Tens of thousands of Iraqis died in American-led airstrikes and the following invasion. The U.S. lost 4500 troops in the operation, most of them in combat.

Bush left office with very low popularity ratings. The effectiveness of the war in Iraq — and whether it actually reduced the threat of terrorism — will be debated for years to come.

Osama Bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda and the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was hunted down in an elaborate CIA operation and assassinated in May of 2011.

The war on terrorism that began in 2001 continues. The U.S. uses secret operations and unmanned drones to target and kill “high-value” suspected terrorists. While the U.S. is banned from outright assassinations of foreign leaders, “targeted killings” of those who pose a threat to the United States — even if they are U.S. citizens — outside the U.S. by the U.S. to be legal under international law.

You have seen 1 out of 15 free pages this month.
Get unlimited access, over 1000 practice questions for just $29.99. Enroll Now