Through the enemy's eyes

Allow me the privilege of thinking aloud for a moment as I contemplate the strength and capacity of al-Qaeda in light of the dire-sounding news over the last few days.

We've been subject to so much misinformation and disinformation over the last six years that we have no way to identify whether this latest "threat assessment" is on the mark or not.  So let's just try to look at things the way bin Laden and al-Zawahiri would.

Their objective is a simple one:  to make Americans suffer so badly that they'll never again think about sending armies to occupy Muslim lands.  And while it might seem as though 9/11 failed spectacularly in that regard — U.S. armies are now present in Afghanistan and Iraq where they were not before — that is only the short-term view.  The longer-term view is that the American adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan is inflicting sufficient damage on the U.S. military that the objective of forever chasing it away is actually a little closer at hand.

So what now?  Al-Qaeda's thinking probably goes along the lines of this:  Would an attack in 2007 have the same effect as 2001 — uniting the American population behind a president who will then feel empowered to lash out yet again in ways that will bleed the country even further?  Or would an attack this time have the opposite effect — polarizing Americans, some of whom would react the same way as in 2001, but others of whom would blame Bush for bungling things so badly over the last six years as to make another attack nearly inevitable? 

I don't know the answer to that question.  But however bin Laden and al-Zawahiri answer it will determine whether, God forbid, another 9/11 is in the offing.  And when.