Tam asks, "Where were you?"
There are several ways to answer that question -- "Getting ready for an eye doctor appointment and watching network news" is one. "Waiting for the other shoe to drop" is another.
I'd been waiting a long time. Since 1995, when a couple of amateurs ruined a Fed building with (mostly) stuff anyone could've bought from the Farm Bureau Co-Op. Since '93, when inept fumblers made a big mess in the World Trade Center. Since I read Bruce Sterling's Islands In The Net (published in 1988, don't know when I first saw it), which introduced me to the interesting weaknesses of a high-tech culture when faced by low-tech foes, a notion Sterling introduces in the form of a fictional book-within-a-book, "The Lawrence Doctrine and Postindustrial Insurgency." And probably even before; asymmetrical war had fascinated me ever since Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
I'd had a bet with myself that the 'States -- a high-value target for every nutjob of every stripe for decades upon decades -- would lose a major city within my lifetime and sooner rather than later. But I was starting to think I was wrong. After all, the Cold War had wound down, Communism was uncooler than ever and Gulf War I had ended with the good guys victorious. Things were looking up!
...It's always brightest before the storm, hey? Free people, high-technology societies, are vulnerable by their very openness and technology. I knew that...and I was still blindsided by the bloody-minded insanity of highjacking perfectly good airliners and flying them into perfectly good buildings. I forgot a Neolithic goat-herder has no use for either -- and less use for the ideas they represent, free trade and easy global travel.
I'd like to think I wasn't stunned long; certainly my first comment to my then-hubbie was, "The bastards finally did it, didn't they?"
Another bit I'd garnered from my reading was that one purpose of terrorism is to provoke a harshly repressive response from the victim; this is of enormous PR value to the terrorist and image is what such persons are expending human lives and human achievement to obtain. Territory cannot be taken by terrorism and material is rarely directly got by such means -- but hearts and minds are another story. And in that respect, it looked for awhile as if the bastards had been wildly successful. Now, no, not so much; but at first it seemed a near thing.
If there's any lesson to be taken from the events of 11 Sept 2001 in New York City, Washington D. C. and high over Pennsylvania, it is not "stick a flag on your car and leave it there, rain or shine, until it is tattered to rags,"* but rather to understand not just the battle but the war -- and to realize that as terrible and tragic as that day was, even if we did nothing, they'd run out of ijitaheen willing to get to heaven on a pillar of jet-fuel smoke long before we ran out of targets. Destroyers fueled by superstition and rage against free societies will fail, no matter if they grew up in Riyadh or the American Midwest.
...Not to mention, the next weasel who tries to take over an airplane will go down under a human wave. When the prospect was only a thrilling trip to Cuba, passengers went along; but when cooperation means death, hijackers are doomed.
There are other means and other ways and we have not seen the end of it; we may never. But the barbarians are few and the future does not belong to them.
* I am not moved by symbols as much as many other people are and yet I would so very, very much like to run the morons flying flayed and tattered flags on their car off the road, yank them out from behind the wheel and flog them, there on the spot. Dammit, that's just plain wrong!
1 month ago