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Why not?

I happened to flip past the bad movie The Siege on television on Sunday. The basic plot: Muslim terrorists. Denzel Washington's kinder, gentler, civil-liberties-friendly FBI vs. Bruce Willis's mean ol' U.S. Army. (With Annette Benning adding the requisite CIA intrigue.) Frankly, it wasn't a very good film, with a particularly muddled ending, but because the movie was from 1998 -- in other words, before 9/11 -- there's some added poignancy to the plot. In the movie, there are terrorist cells operating in New York. The first takes out a city bus, Hamaslike. The FBI goes to work investigating. Each time the FBI thinks they've accomplished something, a new attack takes place. A Broadway theater. Then a school. Finally, a car bomb takes out the federal building itself, wiping out FBI headquarters in New York and killing hundreds of people. Panic everywhere. The federal government has had enough, and declares martial law, and we get to the silly Hollywood confrontation between the defenders of the Constitution and the defenders of people-who-don't-want-to-be-blown-up.

But here's the question: when you watch the movie, there's an eerie familiarity to events. But that very familiarity prompts you to ask: why was it different? Why were there a series of attacks in the movie but not in real life? How come Al Qaeda never followed up on 9/11? In Iraq, or Israel, we see repeated terror attacks, just like in the movie. But in the United States in real life, we had 9/11 and then nothing. Why? If the goal was to scare us, to disrupt our lives, to cause us to tear up the Constitution (as Denzel Washington cleverly discovered in the movie), to get us to pull out of the Middle East, to start a clash of civilizations, then why not have repeat attacks? Wouldn't a few suicide bombings on city buses in New York have stuck an exclamation point on 9/11? So why didn't they?

Don't tell me it's because our law enforcement is that effective; nobody ever accused the Israelis of being slouches, and yet they're not perfect. It's obviously not due to a shortage of terrorists, as we can see from events around the world. So why only one attack? (Not that I'm rooting for another attack, mind you. I just don't get it. It just seems like, whatever Al Qaeda's specific goal, extra attacks would have helped immensely.)


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» Why not? Redux from Jumping To Conclusions
Blogger Soccer Dad -- if that's his real name -- cites Charles Krauthammer in attempting to answer the question I posed about why Al Qaeda didn't follow up on 9/11. Krauthammer -- who was wondering the same thing I was... [Read More]

Comments (2)


Very scary thought - but damnably well reasoned. Like leaving a second IED ~15 meters from the first......

After our e-mail exchange, I realize that I misunderstood the question. But here's my shot. I don't believe that Al Qaeda really wanted to do more than it did that day. A subway or bus bombing wasn't in the planning. Frankly, I think the attacks of 9/11 no matter how low-tech required significant logistical effort. It wasn't going to be easy to follow up so quickly.
Additionally, 9/11 was meant to be a symbolic strike at American economic, military and political strengths. They didn't need to do anything else at that point.
Also the quickness with which the government reacted shutting down all air travel once it was realized what was going on had to have some effect. By cutting out one mode of transportation the government necessarily disrupted the ability of extant cells to get together physically. (Do you remember how odd it was to see planes in the sky again?)
In Baltimore, during the past two years there have been two news stories that I've found unsettling.
One was that a group of Pakistanis were found in the center of the Jewish community with a computer that marked various landmarks. They were arrested. But I have no idea of their disposition. (Were they tried? Are they still being held?) There's been no news made public.
The other is that a Saudi national was discovered videotaping the campus of Jewish girls' school. He was identified but to the best of my knowledge there was nothing the authorities could do. (He was trespassing. I don't know if that's enough to revoke a student visa.) Presumably he's under surveillance.
Finally I still think that Pipes/Emerson article
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/381 is significant in terms of answering your question. But not as I first intended. What Pipes and Emerson say is that the trial of the embassy bombers told us a lot about the structure of Al Qaeda in the U.S. Perhaps, with the wake up call of 9/11, the FBI is finally using the information from that trial and shutting down Qaeda operations.


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