Why have terrorists not struck the US since 9-11?
In the current issue of Foreign Affairs
, Prof. John Mueller of Ohio State poses the obvious yet apparently subversive question is there still a terrorist threat?
He points out, quite reasonably, that despite how easy it would be to terrorize the US population with, say, a single sniper rifle
, we have not seen a single domestic terror attack since 9-11. His suggestion is that despite the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, al Qaeda is not the omnipresent danger that we've been led to believe -- that they are far less competent, coordinated, and threatening than Code Orange
would have us think.
This is an important question, and I wish somebody (i.e., the Democrats) would stand up and ask Bush why this is the case. Does the White House honestly believe that US efforts to seal the borders against terrorists and track down sleeper cells have been 100% effective? That despite the tons of illegal drugs entering this country every day, aQ has been prevented from sneaking in a suicide bomber or two to blow up a suburban shopping mall or a Starbucks? We've also heard the theory that aQ is "biding its time" for something Really Big. But it's hard to buy this as an explanation, since bide too long and you risk losing the attention, and the fear, of the American public.
I'm not convinced that Mueller is right, or that as a consequence of his arguments we should forget about the whole anti-terror campaign. Certainly we face threats, as was clear from the disruption of the UK airplane plot several weeks ago. But I do think we should ask why Americans should have their phone calls spied on and their library records secretly seized when the evidence for a clear and present domestic danger is thin indeed. Maybe the emperor has no clothes after all.