In the terrorism-expert business, there is no profit in forecasting there won’t be an attack on the Homeland “soon.” No one will remember a negative and give you credit, and, on the other hand, the definition of “soon” is expandable.
So it’s no surprise that not only do the N.I.E. researchers, Homeland Security Director Chertoff and other less sensitive-gutted authorities on the government payroll but the all rented experts on TV agree about the imminence of an attack in this country. Where’s the news in not predicting one?
The more interesting question is what the terrorists may be thinking. Assuming a modicum of brains to go with their mad hatred, if the object is to sow fear and confusion in our society, what political outcome in ’08 best suits their purposes? And what could they do to help bring it about?
Since 9/11, George W. Bush has been collaborating with Osama bin Laden in destroying the traditional trust Americans have had in their government and in one another. Would Al Qaeda like more of the same?
If so, Giuliani is their man. His campaign, based on images of Rudy in the rubble, is following Karl Rove’s game plan for 2004. Any attack that rekindles 9/11 fears would help America’s Mayor get to the White House.
But if terrorists prefer, for whatever reasons, to see Clinton or Obama in the Oval Office, holding off on homeland attacks would help. It may all depend on their reaction to the Republican gas bags. If they take them at all seriously, Al Qaeda leaders might prefer a Democratic President who wouldn’t break American laws to get at them.
On the other hand, if they find hard-line campaign rhetoric laughable, another Republican to extend Bush’s incompetence and impotence to hurt them might just be the ticket for bin Laden et al.
The terrorists no doubt will go about their business their own way for their own reasons, but what they do in the next year will nonetheless have a profound effect on our elections.
That may be the saddest commentary of all on our post-9/11 world.