The kids and I were at home today at 2:50 pm, having a playdate with another mom and her two small ones, when there was a reverberating boom. I leapt to my feet and ran towards the kids’ room, my friend close on my heels, although even in those seconds I thought “what could the children possibly have done to make such a loud noise?”
Indeed, the kids were playing in their own world, the noise hadn’t come from them. When I thought about it, the boom seemed to have come from the other side of the apartment. My friend and I peered out my front and back windows, but couldn’t see anything. The construction workers in the building facing mine were all looking past my building to the right. I returned to a back window and got as close to the corner as possible to look out at an angle. There was an enormous cloud of black smoke coming from a few blocks away.
People gathered on my street said that a gas canister must have exploded somewhere. My friend and I settled down. Awfully loud though for a gas canister, perhaps it set off something else? We flipped on the TV. Neither of us could understand the Arabic, from the images of twisted metal and injured passersby, it was clear this was serious. I turned on the computer. News slowly trickled in. A car bomb. One dead. No, two. No, at least eight.
From what we could tell from the images on TV, the explosion had occurred roughly between my apartment and hers – and she lives just 10 minutes away by foot. She waited at my house until 5pm, when her husband could get home. I then walked my friend and her children home. The usually bustling streets of our neighborhood were eerily empty (apparently the streets to our neighborhood had been closed, and just reopened as we were out).
We passed a street leading to the destruction, where the streets were busy with people and police. Glass was blown out of windows as far as three blocks away (although my friend was fortunate to find all her windows intact).
While my friend and I had been hunkering down in the afternoon, I’d told her about being in New York City during the September 11 attacks. As I walked past the shattered glass, I thought that as far as I can tell, terrorism doesn’t bend the will of those who it is meant to intimidate. I got home and googled my thought that “terrorism does not work,” with the idea that I might find a nice peace-loving, standing-strong quote to put into this blog post. Instead what popped up was a link to an article written by Harvard-based researcher Max Abrahms, published in 2006, “the first article to analyze a large sample of terrorist groups in terms of their policy effectiveness.” His conclusion?
“Groups whose attacks on civilian targets outnumbered attacks on military targets systematically failed to achieve their policy objectives, regardless of their nature. These findings suggest that (1) terrorist groups rarely achieve their policy objectives, and (2) the poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself.”
If you keep googling, you can find divergent opinions, but certainly from an academic perspective, terrorism is not a clear-cut winning strategy. I remember from New York the overwhelming spirit of people, there and across the US, to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and keep on going. I took this shot on my way back from walking my friend home, just two hours after the bombing – of a crane already working on the repair of a blown-out window. Like New Yorkers, the Lebanese pull themselves up and keep on going.