Democracy at War with an Enemy without a Face; Terror War on US: Terrorism Is Now War. before, It Was a Weapon of the Weak but with Yesterday's Attack, the Threshold Has Been Crossed, Says Dr Magnus Ranstorp, Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrew's University: Terror Tactics - Terrorism USA

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Byline: DR MAGNUS RANSTORP

WHEN it strikes, terrorism is always shocking, but nothing could psychologically prepare anyone for yesterday ' s synchronised kamikaze attacks. Since the Sixties, America has been curiously insulated from acts of international terrorism.

On 11 September 2001, America's luck ran out. The unthinkable is now reality, and reality has proven more horrific than fiction.

These attacks have changed everything. Normal counter-terrorism measures are founded on the assumption that the perpetrators intend to escape and preserve their own lives. As the Israelis, Indians and various other states have discovered, you cannot protect yourself against someone who has no regard for his own life in carrying out an attack.

Yesterday's attacks struck at the very nexus of the vulnerabilities which exist in the most developed and powerful nation in the world. Tony Blair stated officially that these attacks were not just against America but free democracies everywhere.

This statement cannot be truer. Terrorism challenges the very foundations of democracy. The scale and devastation wreaked by yesterday's attacks is first and foremost a human tragedy of enormous proportions.

More than ever, it brings in the dilemma democratic states face in both respecting their citizens' civil liberties and at the same time protecting them against the horrors that we have witnessed on the eastern seaboard of the US.

The consequences are so severe, it is no longer difficult to contemplate a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction against the US.

Indeed, the escalation has been quite apparent.

The 1990s witnessed the trajectory of lethality of international terrorism.

The World Trade Center building in 1993 became the target of Osama bin Laden and his associates.

But it narrowly failed to topple these icons of American capitalism and power.

Americans had always been the target for terrorists abroad. The synchronised attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1999 saw a huge loss of life and destruction.

However, the American psyche still remained insulated, the perception being that it was primarily a problem occurring abroad.

Of course, the 1995 Oklahoma bombing was initially thought to be the work of Islamic terrorists. When it was later determined that the perpetrators were homegrown Americans, this perpetuated the fourth perception of invulnerability from foreign terrorists.

Indeed, many commentators felt that US intelligence, with its eavesdropping capability, could muster the necessary defence before these foreign terrorists could act.

The first wakeup call about the potential danger of mass casualty terrorism came after the Tokyo subway attack in 1995 and began a massive race among US security and intelligence organisations to prepare-themselves against nuclear, chemical and biological terrorist threats. …