Thomas L. Friedman wonders in today’s New York Times about the lack of U.S. terrorist attacks since 9/11, mainly concluding the bad guys are focused on beating us in Iraq, on their own territory. “When and if” that fails, he says, “they may want to launch a spectacular, headline-grabbing act of terrorism in America that tries to mask, and compensate for, just how defeated they have become at home.”
Well, Friedman always comes off the rails when it comes to Iraq. It’s impossible to say he’s wrong, but not very difficult to think why.
For one thing, his theory suggests Al Qaeda, the Baathists and Jihadists have colorfully garbed representatives sitting around a large table in an underground lair plotting world domination — with elaborate miniature dioramas, no doubt. Friedman brings up the absurdity of the image (“To the extent that the Baathists and Jihadists have a coordinated strategy”) and goes on anyway conjecturing as though the image is accurate.
Terrorists in Iraq plot terrorism in Iraq. Others probably support it, financially and tactically. But the idea terrorists around the world are so fixated on Iraq that they can’t spare a few members and several thousand dollars to plot evildoing in the United States? Please.
Friedman should also consider that whatever terrorists consider the United States their responsibility aren’t working on any particular timetable. For every Millennium plot, there’s been a significant lack of plots targeting our Fourth of July or giftmas holidays or even our elections. The 9/11 Commission said Osama bin Laden wanted his attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center to happen not on Sept. 11, 2001, but on May 12, the seven-month anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole.
Can you really second-guess terrorists who want to mark a seven-month anniversary?
It makes more sense that the terrorists have been silent in the United States — aside from the complications of dodging the country’s intelligence agencies — because they’ve more or less accomplished their goals here. Our borders are tightening, with fewer Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners getting in for westernized educations. We’ve been made to look as though we’re conducting a war on Islam, with rabidly Christian generals and a tolerant White House playing the role willingly, if not eagerly. The rights and civil liberties that made our country great are being eaten away by paranoia and power consolidation, making our noise about democracy sound laughably hypocritical. We’re increasingly disliked around the world, even among traditional allies.
In general, after 9/11 the terrorists could have high-fived each other and merely settled back with a bowl of popcorn to watch the evolving mess.
The problem with our response to terrorism is the same problem with capital punishment everywhere: It’s not a deterrent.
Especially when the bad guys stop to contemplate whether, with all apologies to Friedman, the United States’ leaders started kicking ass around the world when they started feeling “just how defeated they have become at home.”