I guess what I’m most interested in is the news coverage of the event.
Watching CNN this morning, I noticed that the vast majority of the channel’s anchors, correspondents and experts were surprised about the “soft” (that is, the largely unprotected civilian) nature of the target. While one military expert tried to explain to CNN’s morning anchors that no society can be fully “hard” and that saying we’re “winning the war on terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq misses the fact that terrorists (by definition) will strike other lesser protected and unprotected targets in those embattled countries and abroad, he never mentioned the most important (and, thus, least surprising) aspect of our fight with al Qaeda.
There is a term for this type of warfare. It’s called asymmetrical warfare. Indeed, after September 11, the Army War College published a lot of material on this type of warfare and its associated tactics. Asymmetrical warfare merely means that when a nation confronts an enemy whose forces do not match ours (in this case, al Qaeda doesn’t have tanks and attack helicopters to launch a conventional war on the West), they will instead fight “asymmetrically” by striking “soft” targets. This maximizes the terrorists’ otherwise low-level military capability. A suicide bomber kills a lot more people when he or she is targeting a subway or a line of police recruits than when the explosive is set off next to a heavily barricaded military base.
I think it’s important for all Americans to recognize exactly who and what we’re fighting and how our enemy plays the game. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to properly confront the threat of terror.