As the family and I sat at the dinner table last night, ABCs World News with Charles Gibson was on in the background. Listening to the coverage of the unveiling of President-elect Obamas economic team and discussion over the potential size of his jolting stimulus package, it struck me what a daunting set of challenges await the young President come January 20th. With each new day, news of record housing foreclosures, rising unemployment, failing economic institutions, skyrocketing budget deficits, community-devastating plant closures, volatile stock markets and once unfathomable governmental bailouts add to the increasingly pessimistic outlook of millions of Americans. A recent Rasmussen poll puts flesh on the bones of a weary public, fearful and haunted by the uncertain and tumultuous economic conditions that confront them. Seventy-three percent (73%) of poll respondents believe the economy is in a recession, with 70% saying it is getting worse. Fifty-six percent (56%) say their own personal finances are getting worse, while 57% say theyre eating out less now than they were six months ago. Meanwhile, elevating stress levels among already anxious retailers is the finding that 66% expect to spend less on holiday shopping this year. As speculation mounts that his two year stimulus package may land in the $500 billion to $1 trillion range even as projections point towards a current fiscal year federal deficit quickly approaching the $1.5 trillion mark, one wonders if in the darkest hours of the night the President-elect doesnt lie awake, restless and haunted by the question, What have I gotten myself into? An economy teetering precariously on the precipice of collapse, a beleaguered and dispirited nation led by a young, untested president and then it hit me. Collectively, these conditions lay the groundwork for a dramatically increased possibility of a spectacular terrorist attack on the United States next year on par with those of September 11, 2001. One of the greatly overlooked but key objectives of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks was to inflict maximum economic damage on the United States. Including the costs of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the overthrow of the Taliban and subsequent years of operations in Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, increased spending on domestic security, the loss of economic activity and the recovery and insurance expenses triggered by the attacks, the total cost of 9/11 quickly approaches $1 trillion. That being the case, with the American economy teetering on the edge of the abyss, Bin Laden may believe that the moment is rife with opportunity. Were he and his jihadist followers able to replicate the success of their 2001 attacks, could they perhaps send America spiraling headlong into a depression? Could they unseat the United States from its position atop the global economic order and open for the door for the ascension of economic competitors in the European Union and Asia? Do they believe that the already weary and disheartened American spirit can at long last be broken for the glory of Allah and the inspiration of the Muslim faithful? With Bin Laden deputy Ayman Zawahiri condemning the President-elect as nothing more than a house negro that has chosen to stand in the ranks of the enemies of Muslims and pray the prayer of the Jews , there is little doubt that Al-Qaeda fails to share the same joyful exuberance and giddy optimism that Obama has otherwise inspired across the globe. In truth, they see Obama as little more than the winner of the political version of American Idol, singing the same old song as his despised predecessor once he takes the stage. Furthermore, with his stated commitment to refocus American military forces and intelligence assets on the Afghan battlefield and the hunt for Bin Laden, it is certain the Obama administration will move to the head of the list of targets of the self-appointed Muslim holy warriors. Knowing that the untested president and his fledgling administrations focus will be centered on Americas economic travails, Bin Laden and his associates may seek to reprise the sensational attacks that rocked the Bush administration in its freshman year. Calculating that Obama may overreact in order to demonstrate his mettle and resolve, another attack on par with 9/11 may well result in the further stretching and possible over-extension of an already frayed American military. In addition to inflicting massive economic damage, such an attack may ultimately result in a diminished American military capability along with a greatly eroded strategic position globally. Such an occurrence would greatly embolden Americas adversaries while increasing doubts about her ability to meet her strategic and military commitments among her allies and friends. In his long term analysis, Bin Laden may well believe an economically crippled and militarily emasculated United States would be unable to maintain support for the apostate Saudi monarchy and the blasphemous and humiliating Jewish entity in Palestine. This would be significant progress toward Al-Qaedas long-standing goal of driving the United States and its Western allies from the heart of the Muslim world. What little solace there is to be found for the President-elect lies in the fact that Al-Qaeda has demonstrated a propensity for attacks that are meticulously and patiently planned over the course of several months and years. That being the case, any attack that would occur during the new administrations first year would most likely have already been in the planning and preliminary groundwork stages. This allows for the possibility of detection and disruption by Western and American intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Accordingly, while the nations attention is transfixed on the dire state of the economy, the neophyte president and his administration must be especially diligent lest it find itself sorely tested on the national security front even as it seeks to find its footing in the murky and putrid bog of the economic swamp in which the nation precariously finds itself mired. Should the fledgling administration avoid the curse of a major terrorist attack during its freshman year that has visited its two predecessors, it should nonetheless remain resolutely on-guard as Al-Qaeda has demonstrated a remarkable patience that is steadfastly rooted in its long term objectives and its unwavering faith in the righteousness of its cause. The more things change, the more they stay the same, faithful readers. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the President of Change meets the Defender of the Faith on the world stage.