It is believed that Osama bin Laden nixed the cyanide attack on NY subways because it wasn't spectacular enough. His vision is for every attack to escalate the terror felt by the American people by escalating their overall impact, both physically and psychologically, thereby creating an increasing arc of terror. So, if cyanide wasn't showy enough to clear the bar, what does that leave? How can you top the iconic image of that plane hitting the second tower? Or the image of the two towers shrinking into their growing concrete blooms? I'm an imaginative guy, but I have a hard time thinking up something more spectacular. More damaging, maybe, but not more spectacular.
The 9/11 attacks were spectacular enough to realign our entire ideological system. Your placement on the ideological spectrum is no longer tied to your opinions on social programs, government spending, education, labor and tax policies, but only by your adherence to the radical governing philosophy advanced by this neoconservative administration. Challenging neoconservative ideas makes you an instantly and inarguably liberal, as people like William F. Buckley and George Will have discovered. Senators Hagel and McCain have found themselves cast as moderate mavericks, when they are, in fact, strong traditional conservatives. Instead of the old measurements, we're now placed on a spectrum determined by your views on detainee treatment, torture, pre-emptive war, and whether the President can violate criminal law with impunity. It's made for some strange bedfellows. Who'd have thought that I'd admire Bruce Fein so much?
So, if the images of 9/11 have had that powerful an effect, what can compete with them? What will be the next attack?