Can Terrorists Be Too Successful?

September 19, 2001
By Michael Glantz

Fragilecologies By Michael Glantz

The reality is that, even when it comes to terrorism, there are acceptable but unexpressed rules of engagement. The attacks in New York and in the Washington D.C. area coupled with the cell phone accounts of the hijacking of civilian aircraft for purposes of terrorizing civilian populations violated those tacit rules. As a result, the victimized country will never really be the same with regard to the way it looks at terrorism, the way it views the Middle East and South Asia, and even the types of dreams its citizens have at night. True the terrorists have brought terror into the minds of Americans and others around the globe. But, it is also true that the lives and ways of terrorists and terrorism will have been changed.

In the early days of the Cold War and with the development of nuclear warheads, strategies were developed on how to use those weapons of mass destruction. The two of note are the following: counter-force and counter-value. Counter-force refers to the targeting of military forces and facilities by the nuclear weapons. Counter-value refers to the targeting of cities and civilian populations. The purpose of the former is to destroy the military capabilities of an enemy. The purpose of the latter is to break the will of the people, in essence to hold the cities as hostages to avert military attacks.

The terrorist attacks in New York’s Manhattan and in Washington were elements of a counter-value strategy. I would think that the plane that hit the Pentagon was destined originally for the White House or Capitol, as it fits with the persistent counter-value terrorist strategy. They set out to destroy some landmark buildings, symbols of America, and in the process killed thousands of innocent people: fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends and co-workers. They also killed people who had devoted their lives to saving lives --- firemen, policemen and rescue workers. Yup, they achieved their goals successfully. But, in retrospect, were they too successful?

Now the American people of all color, of all religions, of all political persuasions have joined their voices to show the resilience of Americanism in the face of terrorism. They have come together to back their government and protect their way of life. They have given carte blanche to their leaders to seek out and destroy terrorists and those countries that support them. The US, its allies and almost the entire community of nations have come together to deal terrorism around the globe a stinging if not fatal blow. The world waits for the proverbial “other” shoe to drop. And it will. The crime against humanity and civilization in this instance was so large and so mean and so hateful that the various causes of terrorists will be set back years, if not decades. It appears that, while the terrorist act got the terrorists what they sought to achieve, it also served as a wakeup call to all leaders around the globe about just how vulnerable their governments are to terrorist activities, even those of a lesser scale than just witnessed in Manhattan and in Virginia.

Unwittingly, the terrorists’ actions in the United States on 11 September 2001 have laid the foundation for their destruction. With no places to hide, terrorism can be sharply reduced, making the world a safer place for all.

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