The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.
And we're doing [by being all panicky] exactly what the terrorists want.
Why the hell should I believe this? Why, by labelling people who are responsible for certain past or potential murders "terrorists", do we suddenly have the right to infer things about their motives? Why does it sound reasonable that terrorists uniformly have certain motives because they are called the same name by us? Suppose there is some person P who has killed a bunch of american civilians. If the resulting pychological reaction of everyone else in the country, be it fear or anger or ennui or whatever, causes political or social changes that are in line with P's goals, then P has succeeded. If it causes fear or anger or ennui or whatever in such a way that causes entirely opposite political changes, then P has failed. The emotions themselves don't fucking matter, as far as I can tell. I suppose theoretically P could simply be interested in causing a bunch of people to pee their pants with fear, but it just doesn't seem psychologically plausible. P wanting American foreign policy to change in some way does.
If someone tries to rob me by cutting me superficially with a knife, I am going to be scared I'll get stabbed subsequently, and hand over my wallet. But if I had my own knife, then my reaction to being scared might be desperately attempting to cut my attacker from here to Tuesday in self-defense. Same emotion, different results. The emotion doesn't fucking matter to the attacker; my wallet does.
As for "hatred", now, I can conceive of (several different, including christian!) radical religious positions that might well despise the (perceived) sexual licentiousness and lack of sufficient and appropriately directed deistic fidelity of American society. For these people, the downfall of western civilization as such could be a goal. A goal that I would not like to see achieved, let me hasten to add!
But come on. Do we really think there are people out there, not just borises and natashas with turbans on, who cackle with glee every time we miss our connecting flight? Who would give each other high fives were our past political associations on record in the form of checked-out books at the local public library? If we wind up with a society with just as much Maxim and just as many of us heathen unbelievers, but with inconveniences at the airport and a weakened set of civil liberties, then it isn't the "terrorists" who have won (and indeed "they" may keep up their efforts): it's just us who have lost.