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According to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), the plotters of the September 11th attacks were “flexible and resourceful” with respect to their tactics.

The commission goes on to opine that the United States will never know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated their tactics. What the commission did confidently say, however, was that none of the counterterrorism measures adopted by the United States from 1998 to 2001 “disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al Qaeda plot.”

Across the government, numerous failures were identified to include failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management. According to the 9/11 Commission, the most important failure was “one of imagination.”

As a result, al-Qaeda’s new tactics presented some serious challenges that U.S. government institutions were not prepared to counter.

***In your initial post, consider this “failure of imagination” and this week’s reading, by providing your comments about how you feel the United States can get out in front of evolving terrorist tactics in order to prevent new and emerging threats.

***The two replies to other posts can either be a response to a question about your analysis or to the classmate whose work you reviewed.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.

Peer post 1

Looking at the “Failure of Imagination” mindset, it’s not too hard to see why it took place. For years prior to the 9/11, the U.S. never really had to be concerned about domestic terrorism from foreign entities. It was Friday, February 26, 1993, and Middle Eastern terrorism had arrived on American soil—with a bang (FBI, 2008). This type of warfare was not something we were accustomed to here on our own soil. Yet, America was now face to face with terrorism. From that point on, we had to shift our way of thinking from reactive to proactive. The attack turned out to be something of a deadly dress rehearsal for 9/11; with the help of Yousef’s uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda would later return to realize Yousef’s nightmarish vision (FBI, 2008). If this was the case, then why did 9/11 happen?

There were many things to learn from this attempt to topple American democracy. However, complacency had somehow taken over which played a part in 9/11. We somehow let our guard down due to the ongoing global situations between 1990 and 2001. Our focus should’ve been more ramped up instead of assuming it could not take place again. There were other incidents which had taken place such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing. The Oklahoma and Centennial happened on our own soil by American citizens. I mention these to show that if our own are able to commit acts like this, why couldn’t our foreign adversaries do the same? Counterterrorism has quietly taken a back seat in the hierarchy of U.S. national security interests (Jones, 2018). The threat level should have gone up which would have put everyone on notice that we’re watching.

Incidents such as those mentioned should’ve put us ahead or at least in a better situation when dealing with terrorism. But there are many issues which inhibit us from succeeding in this task. For one, we can’t even agree on what terrorism is. Another is we don’t truly understand the way a terrorist or terrorist group thinks. The isolation of attributes or traits shared by terrorists is a formidable task because there are probably as many variations among terrorists as there may be similarities. Even behavioral scientists attempting to understand the psychology of individuals who want to be a part of this violent and political behavior have not succeeded in identifying a unique terrorist mindset. In an unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy notes, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security” (Jones, 2018). If we want to get ahead of terrorism, we need to first have our government officials stop with this rhetoric about terrorist groups like the Islamic State have been defeated. The terrorism threat to the United States remains substantial at home and overseas just as the Islamic State nor al-Qaeda are dead. The use of special operations, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement tools to aggressively target extremists that inspire the type of mayhem and destruction at home and overseas needs to continue. Our lawmakers need to come together by agreeing on what terrorism is in order to effectively engage an enemy that’s constantly evolving. We need to be able to disrupt these same terrorist groups in a way that hurts them. Find their weakness and exploit it. At the same time, the United States also needs to compete with state adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, China and Russia to protect U.S. interests.


Eland, I. (2018, December 20). A Damning Measure of the War on Terror’s Failure | Ivan Eland. Retrieved from https://www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=11…

FBI. (2008, February 26). FBI 100 – 1993 Trade Center Bombing. Retrieved from https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/stories/200…

Hudson, R. A., & Library of Congress. Federal Research Division. (2002). Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why: The 1999 Government Report on Profiling Terrorists. The Lyons Press.

Jones, S. G. (2018, July 26). America’s Counterterrorism Gamble. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/americas-counterterr…

Peer post 2

“Failure of Imagination” can be confusing to think about. How does this relate to terrorism and the 9/11 attacks on our country? The power of imagination has the ability to develop ideas other people aren’t thinking of. This is exactly what happened on 9/11/2001. We never dreamed of anything like the 9/11 attacks ever happening in America. Al Qaeda took advantage of our complacency and carried out an action developed in their imagination. It is critical for the United States to stay one step ahead of terrorists. Unfortunately, this is an extremely difficult task and can be impossible at times. Constantly knowing what terrorists are formulating in their minds is impossible. Intel and surveillance in the middle east is the best way to get out in front of evolving terrorist tactics. Terrorism may never be fully defeated, but surveillance can help us stay as vigilant as possible with their plans and evolving tactics.

As we discussed in last week’s discussion post, terrorism will never be defeated entirely. Working towards making terrorism more manageable and less unpredictable is a more realistic goal. It is critically important that we don’t get complacent when terrorism seems to be on the downfall. Constantly remaining vigilant will help keep our nation safe from terrorism.

Textbook: Global Terrorism, Chapter 3
This chapter discusses terrorism strategy, tactics, weapons, and targets.
As you read, consider the following questions:

  • As tactics evolve, do targets of terrorist also change?
  • What are some common trends with regards to tactics and targets that have emerged over the last decade?

PDF: Terrorist Tactics Around the Globe (Optional)
Read Chapter 4, “Terrorist Tactics Around the Globe,” from Mahan and Griset’s book Terrorism in Perspective. This chapter explores the various tactics employed by terrorist groups around the world.
As you review the report, consider the following questions:

  • How has technology changed conventional terrorist tactics?
  • Why do we see tactics used in some parts of the world not used in others?

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