Fear is such a strong motivator. I wasn’t aware of exactly how strong it is until September 11, 2001 when so many people suddenly began to act as if the sky would fall at any minute. They turned to the big mama (government) to protect them from all their fears. They gave her a lot of trust and she tussled their hair and kissed their scrapes and made them feel more secure by putting the Military in airports and confiscating their fingernail clippers. (No, it doesn’t bother me that I can’t take fingernail clippers on my flight, ’cause I know I’m safe and they’re protecting me.)
And they were happy, because they felt safe.
But the bogeyman bin Laden isn’t trying to hijack planes anymore. He’s smart, he knows it’s a one-time thing. After you fly their jets into some of their idols, creating a spectacular show, you can’t do it again — they are going to keep an eye on their jets and make sure you don’t take any guns, let alone box-cutters, or, God forbid, plastic knives on board.
See, they’re vigilent now. They’re onto you. They’re safe and they aren’t gonna live in fear of some cave-dwelling evildoer.
So, being bin Laden, you’ve got to come up with something else. What is your goal? You’re a reasonable man. You realize you can’t kill all three-hundred million Americans at once. You probably aren’t going to get much better than 500 a year, on average. But you are a great psychologist. You know that if you pull off great stunts (how to top those jets?) people’s fear of you will be completely out of proportion to the danger you pose. If you really wanted to kill them off, you would be much more effective giving them a dangerous, but easily accessible, and perhaps even useful, activity like, say, driving.
No, your goal is to alter their culture and the best way to do that is through fear. And, boy, does it work wonders!