Interesting how distance changes the way we talk. The explosive device found in Times Square last night is called in the US media a 'car bomb' in a sport utility vehicle. In Iraq those are called Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, and they were one of the insurgent's favorite weapons.
Fill a car or truck with an explosive (mortar rounds, C-4 or even simple gasoline) and initiation device (blasting cap, firecracker or a grenade) and power (usually the vehicle battery) and you have a mobile IED. You can drive it and park it where you want it, get out and detonate from a distance, or put a shaheed inside and you have a modern day Kamikaze.
Although the media seems to be keeping this calm, think for a minute about how bad it could have been. The ATF puts out this handy VBIED blast radius chart to show how big the bang might be-
While it is hard to tell from the information released so far about the composition of the device (3 propane tanks, 10 gallons of gasoline and fireworks for the initiation) it would probably fall somewhere inbetween the full size sedan and the passenger van. So a blast range of 150 feet (anyone inside this range would be hit by the overpressure wave, which blows out ear drums and causes TBI), a shrapnel range of probably 2000 feet (anyone inside that range would be subject to small bits of glass and metal moving as fast as a bullet).
Of course, the blast would have been limited by all of the buildings in Times Square, but that means that many of the buildings would have sustained heavy damage. As much as New Yorkers are fearful at this failed attack, a successful attack in the heart of New York wouldn't just kill and injure people, it would make them afraid to go out in public.
Many Americans cringed in fear on 9/11, and it took months for the country to stop looking for terrorists around every corner. But the sad truth is that Bin Laden doesn't need big shock and awe attacks. He just needs lots of little ones that make people afraid to go about their daily lives. Remember the DC sniper? Parents keeping their kids home from school, people afraid to go to work. Imagine that on a larger scale, regional or even national, and you have the potential to cripple the already ailing US economy.
For all of President Obama's talk of understanding with the Muslim world, this is a time to find the perpetrators and crush them ruthlessly. Send a signal that this wont be tolerated, otherwise we will be inviting more attacks. This minor incident (as far as the media seems concerned) could be a pivotal event in the Obama administration.