Post 9/11 it's fair to say that most people expected quite a few al Qaeda attacks on the US (though immediately post-Afghanistan some analysts thought al Qaeda was in very bad shape). John Arquilla is professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. He discounts the theory that al Qaeda by reviewing their records of successful attacks, and he concludes that al Qaeda has strategically chosen to focus on Iraq and abroad:
So it seems that the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which many of us opposed beforehand, have become both our Achilles' heel and the single most important reason al Qaeda has chosen not to resume its terror campaign in America. Iraq provides our principal enemy with a place to fight us directly and a reason to mount an indirect campaign against our allies.Hmm. I thought he made sense until he wrote "well-nigh impossible for the terrorists to attack America again". Only a police state to shame 1984 would make terrorist attacks truly impossible. Special forces hunter networks sounds more interesting, though he doesn't provide nearly enough detail about how that would work.
Some might now say that this makes our presence in Iraq worthwhile. As the president has put it, "We fight the terrorists in Iraq so that we do not have to face them at home."
Perhaps. Yet for a small fraction of what our involvement in Iraq has cost us in blood and treasure, we could have shored up our homeland defenses and made it well-nigh impossible for the terrorists to attack America again.
The rerouting of an even tinier fraction of these vast resources in support of a proactive campaign by small teams of special forces hunter networks would keep the terrorists perpetually on the run, unable even to think about coming back here or about striking elsewhere.
But we're still in Iraq, and we'll be there for years to come. Oddly, this probably means few, if any, attacks will be attempted on American territory. It also means there will be more Madrids and Londons. This should remind us that, in a war fought for all that we call civilization, feeling more assured about our own safety is hardly a sign that victory is near.
The UK went without an effective attack for years -- but al Qaeda was trying very hard. UK police and security forces were said to have stopped at least six serious attempts in the past five years. The post-911 "peace" in the US may be a combination of post-Afghanistan disruption of al Qaeda, reduction of their leadership and technical ingenuity, relative strategic deemphasis by al Qaeda, effective action by US security forces, distance from Eurasia, and a relatively small and loyal US Islamic community. It's a statisical phenomena in other words; it could persist or change at any time.