You know what is really scary. Last summer (around June/July) a friend and I were chatting over coffee just talking in general about what it would take for the U.S. to be pulled into a full scale multi-national conflict (this is a normal type of thing for two very conservative pro-military young men to casually talk about on a quite summer evening). One of the scenario's we discussed was the effect a massive terrorist attack on the U.S. would have in the Middle East and South-east Asia (specifically regarding China and Indonesia). An attack of significant enough scale (we had imagined something along the lines of an attack on the California power grid, the water supply, or on a major financial center) would force the United States to use military action against the party responsible, which would serve only to destabilize that region. A destablization of either the Middle East or Asia would naturally lead to a destablization of the other as the two are very tightly linked through years of social and religious tension. The United States would be forced to fight on two fronts in a way we've never had to fight before, against a very elusive enemy. At that point, it would be easy for a country such as Israel, China or Russia to take advantage of the situation and "take care of" the problems they've been having with regards to various disident groups (e.g. the Palestinians, the Chechans, the Taiwanese, etc) and justify it under the banner of "fighting terrorism!". Eventually, the U.S. would get pulled into a much broader conflict with a very difficult task: hanging on to old aliances while trying to maintain some sort of international order. What we see happening in Israel today is a prime example of the types of things my friend and I were envisioning. Neither Israel or the Palestinians are in the right, both are merely taking advantage of the destablized state of the region, justifying their actions as "fighting terrorism".
The scary reality of all this is that the innocent conversation my friend and I had almost a year ago has become frighteningly all to real. Living as I do 14 miles from the largest naval air base in the country, a good number of my friends have served or are serving in the military. In fact, we just had dinner the other night with an F/A-18 pilot who was part of the initial wave into Afghanistan. Scary stuff.