I found this article really striking a chord with me.
It provides an explanation for many of the questions that have been bugging me since September 11th:
- Why have there been no serious follow-up attacks? (Crashing a SUV into a McDonald's occasionally in the name of Al Qaeda would have a substantial terror effect, and would be very hard to thwart.)
- Why have I heard no coherent demands or new threats from Al Qaeda?
The article offers an explanation: that I'm asking those questions out of a view that violence is a means to an end, whereas the September 11 attacks were an act of violence to fulfill an ideological fantasy. It made a lot of sense to me.
On the other hand, some of the implications scare me. It implies that the perpetrators of these attacks are fundamentally alien to me; they think in ways I do not comprehend. And it implies that my ideas about ways of dissuading such terrorists from further violence (either by negotiation or by force) are fundamentally not viable.
Which scares me.