Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Panic in Detroit

In my previous post I mentioned an an excellent post by Fareed Zakaria. In it he points out the sheer stupidity and counter-productivity of having a nationwide shit-fit over this failed terror attack—or any terrorism, actually.
In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, "I'd rather overreact than underreact." This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work. Alas, this one worked very well.

The attempted bombing says more about al-Qaeda's weakened state than its strength. In the eight years before Sept. 11, al-Qaeda was able to launch large-scale terrorist attacks on several continents. It targeted important symbols of American power -- embassies in Africa; a naval destroyer, the USS Cole; and, of course, the World Trade Center. The operations were complex -- a simultaneous bombing of two embassies in different countries -- and involved dozens of people of different nationalities who trained around the world, moved significant sums of money and coordinated their efforts over months, sometimes years.

On Christmas an al-Qaeda affiliate launched an operation using one person, with no special target, and a failed technique tried eight years ago by "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. The plot seems to have been an opportunity that the group seized rather than the result of a well-considered strategic plan. A Nigerian fanatic with (what appeared to be) a clean background volunteered for service; he was wired up with a makeshift explosive and put on a plane. His mission failed entirely, killing not a single person. The suicide bomber was not even able to commit suicide. But al-Qaeda succeeded in its real aim, which was to throw the American system into turmoil. That's why the terror group proudly boasted about the success of its mission.

[h/t Eric at ObWi]


Smitty said...

Amen. I love the point about how the attack shows Al Qaida in a weakened state...gone are the halcyon days of targeting 5 U.S. targets at once. Now they resort to guys stuffing bombs that you can't light with a lighter in their underpants.

These guys *knew* that an Alert Passenger would see some dude trying to light his dick on fire, and kick the shit out of him. And then they *knew* that our media moguls would go apeshit and Washington would lose their collective shit.

And now, instead of focusing on the U.S. education system, we have to spend a few hundred million on Total Recall-style 3-D X-Ray Underwear Fantasy devices.

Mr Furious said...

Whether they planned on a thwarted attack or not is almost irrelevant. The media and right-wing freak-out guarantees a win-win scenario for al quaida no matter what happens.

Smitty said...

The media and right-wing freak-out guarantees a win-win scenario for al quaida no matter what happens.

The shorter, better version of what I tried to say. That's it...exactly.

al quaida

I am almost certain there are as many was to spell that organization's name as there are ways to refer to the male anatomy.

Missives From Suburbia said...

While I agree with Zakaria on virtually everything, he (and the American people, frankly) are overlooking something important: the bombing of the Afghanistan base that cost us seven senior CIA agents.

Our fair citizens and the media are wetting themselves over the would-be underwear bomber, when what they should be worried about is the relative sophistication of the CIA bombing. Even members of intelligence community have said that this is something AQ was not capable of just a handful of years ago, and the loss of the braintrust in that room was a major blow.

As usual, the media isn't reporting the right story, and the general public doesn't know the difference.

steves said...

"I'd rather overreact than underreact."

This is a false dichotomy. I suppose if those were the only two choices then I would rather overreact, but when the gov't overreacts civil liberties go down the toilet.

I would prefer that instead of overreacting, a variety of people in the know analyze the data and develop pragmatic, intelligent, cost-effective strategies, instead of stupid shit like people can't get up 1 hour before the plane lands.

As usual, the media isn't reporting the right story, and the general public doesn't know the difference.

Excellent point. It is sad, but true.