Charles Krauthammer

After all, Timothy McVeigh did not need a huge terror apparatus to kill 168 people in the heartland of America. It takes but a primitive level of organization to do that. It is hard to believe al Qaeda is not capable of doing the same. So why haven't they?

The other explanation is that it is a matter of pride. Having pulled off the greatest terrorist attack in the history of the world, they do not want to sully their reputation by resorting to the cheap car bomb.

Or put it less psychologically and more strategically: Part of the appeal of al Qaeda -- what it uses to recruit people and funds -- is its mystique. Superhuman feats, brilliant execution, masterful planning. That aura feeds its ideology of historical inevitability, that ultimately it will prevail over Western decadence, because the seeming high-tech West lacks the diabolical and methodical will that Islamism brings to the war.

Could that be it? For the sake of its own mythology, is al Qaeda biding its time until it can pull off the next spectacular?

I don't know. I tend to favor the second theory. But I have no doubt that reorganizing homeland security, redirecting law enforcement (from locking up bad guys to preventing worse guys from attacking) and increasing vigilance at the borders have had a significant deterrent effect.

Add to that a forward strategy of attacking not only the terrorists, but the states that support them. Maybe al Qaeda does lack the capacity for even simple terrorism on U.S. soil. If so, it speaks well for an administration that immediately after Sept. 11 designed and carried out a radically new strategy, both offensive and defensive, to fight the war on terror.

But no one dares say it. It could prove catastrophically wrong tomorrow.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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