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C H A P T E R 2 o NOT IN MY BACKYARD The Threat from Terrorism It became clear to many people that after the 9/11 attacks, the United States was in a changed world, one with a new kind of threat and different brand of enemy. During the cold war, America had a clearly defined adversary in the Soviet Union and an unambiguous understanding of that enemy’s capabilities and intentions. Moreover, while its Communist counterpart had a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the United States many times over, the U.S. nuclear stockpile served as a deterrent in a strategy of mutually assured destruction (MAD). Although there were a few anxious moments over the years, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the public could generally rest soundly behind the protective walls of two large oceans and indomitable American military might. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it looked like there would be little to challenge America ’s security and supremacy in the next century. The hijackings on 9/11 shattered America’s cold war comfort. The terrorist group known as al Qaeda changed the rules of engagement, and by doing so, they brazenly exposed the vulnerability of the world’s only superpower. Instead of boldly confronting the United States head on and in the open, the terrorists slinked across American borders and disappeared into the crowds. While America, with a defense budget that exceeds those of the next largest eleven countries combined, had its guns pointed outward, al Qaeda hid behind its enemy’s lines and waited for orders to attack. The terrorists discovered that they could PAGE 11 11 .......................... 10897$ $CH2 08-31-04 10:08:58 PS 12 Chapter 2 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • take America’s greatest strength, its freedom and openness, and turn it into the country’s greatest weakness. There were clear warnings prior to 9/11 that Americans faced a new kind of threat. In 1996 the Air Force, in a report entitled ‘‘The Air Force 2025 Project,’’ envisioned a ‘‘large-scale terrorist incident on American soil’’ that would spark ‘‘civil demands that authorities use all appropriate national instruments to deter and prevent terrorist acts within U.S. borders.’’1 The 2000 National Intelligence Council report, ‘‘Global Trends 2015,’’ noted, Asymmetric approaches—whether undertaken by states or non-state actors—will become the dominant characteristic of most threats to the U.S. homeland. In 2001, the U.S. Commission for National Security in the 21st Century reported that: ‘‘Direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century.’’2 Attacks against Americans around the world should have signaled that something deadly might be in the offing. In hindsight, experts should have seen the gathering terrorist storm cloud that included the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the murder of employees outside of CIA headquarters in 1993, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the explosions at two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, the millennium plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, and the USS Cole bombing in 2000. The Face of the Threat The threat of terrorism is not a recent phenomenon. The twentieth century is replete with examples of terrorists unafraid to commit atrocities against innocent civilians, often as a part of movements to overthrow political institutions or colonial rulers. The century was witness to examples like the Irguns who forced Britain out of Israel, the National Liberation Front (FLN) who drove the French out of Algiers, and the Tamil Tigers who have battled the Sri Lankan government to a stalemate since the 1970s. A defining characteristic of these and other violent organizations was that they understood the need to win a certain amount of public support for their cause and to act within existing political structures. According to Paul Bremer, who headed the National Commission on Terrorism after 9/11 and was the U.S. administrator of the reconstrucPAGE 12 .......................... 10897$ $CH2 08-31-04 10:08:58 PS Not in My Backyard: The Threat from Terrorism 13 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • tion of Iraq, this pragmatic approach necessitated limits on the amount of violence and destruction they were willing to inflict.3 The picture has changed with today’s breed of terrorist whose primary wellspring of motivation is militant Islam. Of the nineteen foreign terrorist groups on a list published by the State Department, ten are Islamic organizations.4 Samuel Huntington, in his...


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