Orin Kerr speculates on possible pre-election attacks on America by Al Qaeda:
I think it’s somewhat less likely than it used to be that Al Qaeda would try attacks focused on killing lots of people or destroying symbolic targets. The U.S. response to 9/11 taught that the U.S. isn’t going to back off its policies in response to that sort of attack. Violence perceived as a general “attack on America” boosts morale among those who hate the U.S., but it only stiffens U.S. resolve.
I think the more likely Al Qaeda move would be to try to destabilize the U.S. political system.
Whatever Al Qaeda does next next will be far less impressive than the attacks of 9/11, and they may not be able to do anything. They’re on the run, they don’t have the resources they used to, and they have to waste more time and energy keeping the operation a secret. Also, much of their leadership is dead or captured. Whatever they do will have to be done with little effort.
Also, I don’t think Al Qaeda leadership is likely to understand politics in a democracy well enough to try to disrupt the political process. In addition, government offices are likely to be well-defended. Besides, most of us aren’t too emotional about our leaders: we like some of them, but we don’t love them. Sure, we’d be pissed off if they assassinated a few candidates, but we wouldn’t be heartbroken.
And that’s what I think they will want to do. They will want to break our hearts, so we no longer have the will power to continue the war. No matter who wins this November, if enough Americans want the war to end, it will end.
So, what targets will break our hearts?
Obviously, children. Compared to government agencies, school children are soft targets. Blowing up a few school buses or even schools would hurt us tremendously. Only fifteen children died at Columbine, and it still haunts us.
Of course, that could backfire. Of all the things Al Qaeda thought might happen after 9/11, they probably never thought we’d invade two Middle Eastern countries. They may have thought through the aftermath more carefully this time. Who could they kill that would break our hearts enough to increase the anti-war fervor, but that we don’t love enough to use their names as a rallying cry?
Celebrities. Just pick a few popular names: David Letterman, Jay Leno, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Tom Hanks. You’d hate to see something happen to them, but would you want to avenge them?
Many of these people may actually oppose the war, but that works to Al Qaeda’s advantage because it would radicalize their fans. Killing, say Rush Limbaugh, wouldn’t engage the left and the right would just become more pissed off than before.