What Islamist Terrorist Threat?

Al Qaeda doesn't have what it takes to hurt America

Know thy enemy is an ancient principle of warfare. And if America had heeded it, it might have refrained from a full-scale “war” on terrorism whose price tag is touching $2 trillion. That’s because the Islamist enemy it is confronting is not some hyper-power capable of inflicting existential—or even grave—harm. It is, rather, a rag-tag band of peasants whose malevolent ambitions are far beyond the capacity of their shallow talent pool to deliver.

The shock and awe of 9-11 was so great that Americans came to think of Islamist jihadists as a low-tech version of Dr. Strangelove, an evil genius constantly looking for ingenious ways of spreading death and destruction. America is so open and vulnerable and the Islamists so crafty and motivated that it was just a matter of time, everyone thought, before they got us again.

But this year marks the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and none of the horrible scenarios conjured then have materialized. Islamic terrorists have not flown more planes into buildings. They haven’t detonated “loose nukes” or dirty bombs. They haven’t released nerve gas into subway stations. They haven’t poisoned the water supply. They haven’t even strolled into one of America’s hundreds of malls or farmer’s markets and blown themselves up.

Maybe this is because enhanced post-9/11 security has made America invulnerable. Or maybe the Islamists never posed that a big threat to begin with.

Most intelligence experts interviewed by The Washington Post for a series on nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks (the easiest of the three) three years after 9/11 agreed that anything requiring scientific expertise is virtually impossible to pull off for Al Qaeda—the only group in the so-called global jihadist movement with any ambition to strike on American soil. If anything, Al Qaeda’s capacity has shrunk not grown since then. But even campaigns of conventional, low-tech terrorism that the Palestinian intifada unleashed in Israel or the Islamist insurgency has fomented in Kashmir is difficult to export across borders. They can’t be planned from overseas. They need people on the ground. And Al Qaeda has two ways to put them there. It can either recruit from within America or smuggle them in, as it did with the 9-11 hijackers.

The problem with the first option is that open societies are not good breeding grounds for radicals willing to die for the sake of 72 virgins in the other world. It is no coincidence that a decade-long FBI search has failed to find a single genuine Al Qaeda cell in the United States. Forget the U.S. where the local Muslim population is fairly assimilated: Glenn Carle, an operations officer or spy with the CIA for 23 years, notes that Al Qaeda has failed to do meaningful recruitment even in Europe, where Muslims are much more disaffected, attracting no more than a few hundred to training camps in Afghanistan over the years.

As for smuggling people in, that wouldn’t be a problem for Al Qaeda—no matter how many fences we build or how many visas we deny. Its main obstacle is finding individuals worth smuggling in given the skill set needed for the job. They would have to be: radicalized enough to die for their cause; Westernized enough to move around without raising red flags; ingenious enough to exploit loopholes in the security apparatus; meticulous enough to attend to the myriad logistical details that could torpedo the operation; self-sufficient enough to make all the preparations without enlisting outsiders who might give them away; disciplined enough to maintain complete secrecy, and—above all—psychologically tough enough to keep functioning at a high level without cracking in the face of their own impending death.

That emphatically is not the profile of an average Al Qaeda foot solider who is a semi-literate peasant with barely any experience of the world outside his province. According to Carle, at its height, Al Qaeda had maybe a couple of dozen individuals who could be regarded as officer material. Out of them, only a very small subset would even come close to fitting the bill for a trans-national terrorist. One big disadvantage inherent in the terrorist enterprise of course is that it expends its best people in every successful attack, something that is not conducive to building a deep bench of terrorist talent overtime.

It is hardly any surprise then that Al Qaeda can scrape together a team to stage something spectacular only every decade or so. There has been talk lately about it turning to a new strategy of small attacks or microterrorism such as the bomb packages from Yemen. But such attacks are probably not worth its while given that the international backlash they would generate would be far more enduring than the fear they engender in America. In any case, this is hardly the kind of thing that would justify a “war.”

An attack that kills 3,000 citizens—even if only once every 10 years—is nothing to ignore of course, and some limited effort to clean out Al Qaeda in Afghanistan might have been justified. But is it worth spending $1 trillion on two ongoing wars and $1 trillion on enhanced homeland security—America’s post-9-11 terrorism expenditure? America spends more on intelligence than the rest of the world put together.

John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, points out that chances of an American being killed by international terrorism during his or her lifetime is about one in 80,000. More people drown in bathtubs every year. “Even if there were a 9/11 scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would be among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent or one in 5,000,” he notes.

Security hawks—just like climate change warriors—maintain that no expenditure is too big to deter another attack. But that is utter foolishness. A country sacrifices lives when it ignores bigger threats to fight smaller ones.

Over 5,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq without on balance saving any civilian lives. It is time to call off the “war” on terrorism. Al Qaeda is not worth it.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and a columnist at The Daily, America’s first iPad newspaper. A version of this article originally appeared at The Daily.

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  • Almanian||

    Durka durka! Islamabad jihad hamas!

  • ||

    Nine.
    Eleven.

    /rousing applause

  • WTF||

    So, I guess the lesson is that even though they managed to pull it off once, for some reason it's foolish to think they could ever do so again, so no need to worry?

  • Obvious||

    Of course. Little brown people who don't live in the West can't possibly be that smart. They must have just gotten lucky once. It could never happen again. And the fact that it hasn't happened since we started the War on Terror is proof that the War on Terror doesn't work.

  • -||

    They've been successful more than once, of course.

  • Realist||

    Define success! What per cent of Americans have been killed by terrorists in the United States???

  • Neocon||

    Little brown people? Say, what kind of name is Shikha Dalmia anyway? Of course he wants us to think there are no terrorists.

    (just kidding Shikha)

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Uhh.... She.

  • ||

    The point is whether it justifies the full blown two trillion dollar War on Terrorism. It's like killing cockroaches with a shotgun. Sure you can brag about all the cockroaches you killed, but in the end you're just blasting holes in the floor.

  • DK||

    These neocons can't understand that and never will. Don't bother.

  • ||

    Holes, eh? Like the holes in Jesus' hands?

    Now, who would you call to fix the holes on the floor? A carpenter, maybe?

    *nods head while smirking*

  • ||

    Who will save us from the scourge of tub water?! Take all my money and freedom, just do something, anything!

  • leftneck||

    i've been saying this for literally years. the weakness terror-hawks project on america is shameful

  • Realist||

    Yes1 If this country really gets it's ass kicked....300,000 dead....0.09%...they will just roll over and DIE!

  • Esteban||

    Is this that ridiculous "The Daily" article from last week? Most Al-Qaeda terrorists involved in attacks or attempts have been either educated or wealthy, or both, not some uneducated peasant that has never been outside their village.
    Here's a collection of links to the wikipedia pages of known terrorists
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijackers_in_the_September_11_attacks

    Some were from poor areas, but had attended universities. Others were from wealthy and prominent families. Some had secular upbrinings.

    Abdul mutallab's father is one of the richest men in Africa
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar_Farouk_Abdulmutallab

    Faisal Shazad attended several universities
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faisal_Shahzad

    Najibullah Zazi was apparently not too smart but certainly had experience all over the world, including attending the HS in Queens that is closest to my house
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Najibullah_Zazi

    Ramzi Yussef studied electrical engineering in England.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramzi_Yousef

    Abu Zubaydah studied computer science in India
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Zubaydah
    reply to this

    I also enjoy the line that Al-Qaeda has only grown weaker since 9/11 but maybe fighting in Afghanistan was justified. I wonder if there's any connection between the two.

    The whole, oh you're more likely to be killed in a car accident or a bath tub than in a terrorist attack, is annoying, because what's the point of those statistics? Should we be unconcerned with terrorism then? Should we ban cars or bath tubs?

    Oh I posted this last night:For people that find it completely implausible that there have been attempted terrorist attacks or attempts to smuggle dangerous material in order to make an attempt:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ded#at=125

    Sure, this particular guy may be full of shit, but I don't get why people think that there hasn't been a single attempt that we haven't heard about.

    And to respond to Tulpa's criticism: The problem with releasing information of every attempt is that people, as a whole, are scared and prone to panic. The consequences of letting info get out would be more support for security over civil liberties. And as I said last week, my father's friend worked for the NYPD/ FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force and without giving details (because he can't) has said there have been foiled attempts that the public doesn't know about. Of course, you're free to think I'm lying or that he's not credible because he worked for a police department, but I choose to believe.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Yes, but what about Walid al-Hindi?

  • Gus||

    He's a very famous gay fashion designer.

  • Esteban||

    And to further add to my rant, a cell need not be financed by Al-Qaeda to be a threat. Inspiration is also a problem.

    I think Europe has seen plenty sympathy for violent extremist Muslim ideology.

    Here's a plot broken up in Britain in December
    msnbc.msn.com/id/40746655/ns/world_news-europe/

    There was the attempts to use FedEx planes as weapons (and it almost happened right?)

    There was the bombing in Stockholm
    bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11978389

  • Jim||

    It's not that I, or most people, don't believe that there have been NO credible threats over the last 10 years. It's that your response, supporting a trillion dollar War On Terror, is unwinnable, and completely out of proportion to the threat.

    You ask what's the point of giving driving and bathtub death statistics? It's to point out, why isn't there a trillion dollar War on Bathtubs? They kill more Americans than terrorists do. So why do you support bathtubs? Why do you like innocent people being killed?

    As a frequent poster on this website states, much as you may not like to hear this, some problems simply cannot be solved. Some things you just have to live with. The American Empire cannot control and subdue the entire population of every group which may wish us harm. We cannot. So the first step is to get that solution out of your head. Next, try to understand why they're doing it. We occupy and support dictators in their countries. We interfere and meddle in their affairs. We have no right. There were no anti-America jihads before WWI (and don't say the Barbary Pirates; that had nothing to do with Islam; they weren't even all Muslim. It was all about piracy, pure and simple, in the same way that modern Somali pirates are not part of the sinister "global caliphate" conspiracy).

  • Esteban||

    Strawmen are fun, aren't they. Why are the only two possible reactions to terrorist networks either turn the other cheek or subdue entire populations. Where have I voiced support for funding dictators? Sure we have, but we also funded dictators in South America, and there's no global Latino terrorist network, so stop trying to justify Al-Qaeda as a legitimate response to our foreign policy. The rise of violent extremist Islam has had many causes, and yes it is partly do to with hating our culture. Sayyid Qutb, who broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood, is one of the intellectual founders of violent Islam. He spent time in the US in the 50s and was thoroughly disgusted and became certain that westernization would not help the Muslim World. The ideology is not one of simple anti-imperialism.

  • Jim||

    You haven't offered any alternatives to the current War on Terror (at least in the posts I've read), but since you attack anyone who attacks it, I'm left to assume that you support the current policy of, as someone else in this thread pointed out, killing cockroaches with a shotgun.

    And who CARES if they hate our culture? I don't give two shits. The question is, is that a great enough reason, in the absence of an imperialist foreign policy, for them to go through the effort to come over here and attack us? I, and many other rational people, are betting the answer is, "no". However, since people like you get upset whenever anyone talks about scaling down our War on People Who Have the Gall Not to Like Our Culture (it isn't just a war on terror, because Iraq didn't have anything to do with terrorizing us, but we went after them anyway), we haven't been given the chance to see if ENDING that imperialist foreign policy would do any good.

    Since that is by far a cheaper and easier option, I don't understand why yourself and the neocons who share your worldview on this matter insist that military escalation is the more rational response, instead of trying the easier, and cheaper (both in terms of lives and treasure) way first.

  • Esteban||

    Iraq didn't start out as part of the War on Terror, but it certainly became part of it when Al-Qaeda fighters descended upon the country.

    You're right, though, I haven't proposed an alternative, and you're right that we should stop propping up odious regimes, and maybe over the long term, that will work. The problem is that these networks exist now, so I think it's reasonable to do something, and Afghanistan was certainly the correct move in 2001. Whether it's the correct move now is another story.

    I brought up the culture part to show that it's not just our foreign policy that causes violent extremist Muslim groups to want to attack us. Having studied the region and, in particular, terrorists groups in college, I saw that their ideology is scary and dangerous. It's even not enough to be Muslim for the poeple that believe the Salafist (and related) point of view. Moderate or secular Muslims are as evil as we are.

  • ||

    "Iraq didn't start out as part of the War on Terror, but it certainly became part of it when Al-Qaeda fighters descended upon the country."

    People forget what they thought and when they thought it, but I doubt we would have invaded Iraq if it hadn't been for the anthrax attacks.

    ...one of the most important but forgotten episodes of recent history!

    Iraq was sold as an important part of the War on Terror, and most Americans believed that Saddam Hussein had mobile WMD labs--in no small part because of the anthrax attack. At the time we invaded Iraq, most Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally complicit in 9/11. ...they still thought so six months after we invaded!

    But how can it be possible that more than 50% of the American people forgot what they thought and when they thought it?!

    I don't know. ...and I don't care. The fact is--they did!

    Just because they feel too stupid about it now to admit they thought that doesn't mean they didn't think it.

    ...and that's what we're dealing with now.

    There's about 150 million Americans out there right now who subconsciously try to come up with logical reasons for supporting things that ultimately had nothing to do with the facts. They created whole new philosophies out of thin air to try and justify the stupid things they supported in the past--as if they were smart back then too!

    Either there are whole new brilliant philosophies based on nothing but not feeling stupid--or the American people were completely suckered...

    ...and the simplest explanation really is the one that's most likely to be true.

  • ||

    "Iraq didn't start out as part of the War on Terror, but it certainly became part of it when Al-Qaeda fighters descended upon the country."

    In other words, that statement is a FAIL.

  • Esteban||

    Sure, the fear generated by 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks helped to create support, but if I remember, Iraq was sold as being part of the Axis of Evil with Iran and North Korea, not part of Al-Qaeda. There was a law calling for regime change in Iraq before Bush was in office. I don't think Iraq was sold per se as a response to 9/11, though I guess that's up for debate as to how you decipher statements from the Bush administration.
    http://www.factcheck.org/article203.html

    It is true that as soon as chaos erupted in Iraq(because the idiots of the Bush Administration (particularly the awful Rumsfelf) decided that only a invasion plan was necessary), Al Qaeda viewed Iraq as its next base and Al-Qaeda sponsored fighters did flock to Iraq.
    I don't see that as a fail. I would agree to difference of opinion though.

  • ||

    "Sure, the fear generated by 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks helped to create support, but if I remember, Iraq was sold as being part of the Axis of Evil with Iran and North Korea, not part of Al-Qaeda."

    The Iraq War was sold as a war of self defense...in the War on Terror.

    Read Colin Powell's speech to the UN in February of 2003...

    "Second, when Iraq finally admitted having these weapons in 1995, the quantities were vast. Less than a teaspoon of dry anthrax, a little bit about this amount--this is just about the amount of a teaspoon--less than a teaspoon full of dry anthrax in an envelope shutdown the United States Senate in the fall of 2001. This forced several hundred people to undergo emergency medical treatment and killed two postal workers just from an amount just about this quantity that was inside of an envelope. Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon-full of this deadly material."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....20503.html

    It was Colin Powell's speech to the UN, with the bogus photos of mobile WMD labs--along with George Bush's speech declaring that Saddam Hussein was after yellow-cake in Niger--that justified the Iraq War in minds of most Americans...

    "WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists' strike against this country.

    Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it's likely Saddam was involved. "

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/w.....iraq_x.htm

    That poll was taken six months after we invaded Iraq.

    Iraq was about the War on Terror--full stop. There's no difference of opinion--anybody who says otherwise is spinning or ignoring the facts.

    People came up with all sorts of other justifications for the Iraq War afterwards--many of them based on pure patriotism in my opinion. People just didn't want to think they could have been so enthusiastically WRONG about something that caused so much suffering...for the Iraqi people and US troops.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the Iraq War was about the War on Terror.

    All about the War on Terror. If people shifted its justification after they couldn't find any WMD, that doesn't mean it wasn't about the War on Terror. It was the War on Terror. Just because we were misguided and wrong doesn't mean that wasn't what it was about.

  • Esteban||

    I see what you're getting at. There was some talk about Saddam Hussein giving his stock of WMDs to some terrorist group, but maybe I'm just coming at this from my perception of what was happening. I think I separated Iraq from the War on terror in my mind because I felt that the War on Terror was supposed to be against global terrorist networks, led by Al-Qaeda. I felt Iraq, at first anyway, was a portrayed as a separate threat as a state actor that would threaten our interests.

  • Esteban||

    And for the polls for people that Iraq helped on 9/11- what can you say, lots of people are idiots.

  • ||

    "And for the polls for people that Iraq helped on 9/11- what can you say, lots of people are idiots."

    They believed what the President and the Secretary of State were telling them!

    I don't think they were being idiots--I think they were being patriotic.

    They were also wrong. Dead, flat wrong.

    I think Powell may have turned around and sabotaged Bolton at the time for misleading him, when the Bush Administration tried to elevate him to the UN...

    There's no shame in being lied to. Smart people get lied to too...

    The shame comes from refusing to admit your mistakes, and those people who became so frightened that they condoned torture by some other name?

    That's a character issue. When the President started telling that if we didn't support him--then we weren't scared enough?

    That was a character issue too.

    I've never in my life seen a good leader who encouraged the people he was leading to panic. When things started falling apart, George W. Bush started preaching cowardice like it was a virtue--like it was baseball and apple pie.

    Anybody who fell prey to that should be ashamed of themselves. But the facts of WMD and terror in Iraq?

    What were we supposed to do? Go on a fact finding mission of our own?

    We've all been fooled before, and we'll all be fooled again. They can't fool me out of my character though. I won't condone torture. I can be as scared as anyone, but I won't let the government flush my rights because I'm scared.

    Sometimes that's the very best we can do.

  • Jen||

    Iraq was about the War on Terror--full stop. There's no difference of opinion--anybody who says otherwise is spinning or ignoring the facts.

    That's not true at all. You're citing speeches and newspaper articles, and these things have to do with selling a war to the public, but they are not casus belli. The link below is the actual text of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, and if you read it, you will find several casus belli that have nothing to do with 9/11 or with weapons of mass destruction.

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/B.....114enr.pdf

    I believe it was the press that latched onto the WMD motive after it had been shown to be unjustified, and they retroactively spun it as being the only reason we went into Iraq in the first place. But that was false.

  • ||

    That's ridiculous.

    Am I supposed to think ObamaCare, AKA the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" actually protects patients and makes healthcare affordable?!

    I don't need to look at the text of some legal document to know why I thought what I thought and when.

    You don't look at legal documents to figure out what the American people thought or why either...

    Watch it yourself...

    George Bush gave his SOTU address calling for War against Iraq because of its WMD programs--attempts to procure yellowcake in Niger--and Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorism...

    A few days later, Colin Powell gave the details on Saddam Hussein's WMD programs (the speech I linked above), with bogus photos of WMD labs, and then we on and on about Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism.

    So the American people believed them! Colin Powell was the most trusted man in America. George W. Bush's approval ratings were extremely high...

    Did you see those poll results I linked? A majority of Republicans, Independents AND Democrats believed Saddam Hussein was complicit in 9/11 at the time--and that is why so many Americans supported the War on Terror--which meant Iraq.

    I don't need to read any legal document to tell me which way the wind was blowing. I remember what I thought. I remember what everybody I talked to at the time thought.

    Why is it so hard to believe that the American people believed Colin Powell?! He was the most trusted man in America. Why is it so hard to believe that the American people believed President Bush?!

    They did!

    Nobody was more surprised about Iraq not having WMD than I was--but they didn't have any. Before we invaded, there wasn't much of an Al Qaeda presence anywhere in Iraq--but the place is rife with them now!

    Seriously, there's no shame in being fooled. There is shame in not admitting you're wrong when you are. ...when you're not willing to admit when you made a mistake.

    Being fooled isn't a character issue. Moving the goal posts around to cover the mistakes you made in the past--that is a character issue.

  • Jen||

    Ken, I think you're confused. You actually think that, as you put it, the reason we go to a war, or adopt any other policy, is the same reason why ordinary people think we do it, and I'm ridiculous? LOL!

    You're making an anology with the health care bill's title, not its text. That makes no sense. I'm addressing the casus belli contained within the war resolution. Not analogous.

    The reasons we went into Iraq are the reasons Congress had. They made the decision. YOU did not. So your opinion, and everyone else's who had no say in it, is meaningless. I don't recall Congress doing a "man on the street" interview before making the resolution, and I sure as hell don't recall being asked if I thought we should go to war or why. Do you?

  • ||

    There are probably lots of people that still believe it.

  • DLM||

    I don't think Iraq was sold per se as a response to 9/11...

    That's how I remember it. Iraq was considered the best candidate in which to create the conditions to lead to a democracy which would then spread liberal democracy throughout the entire middle east. It was a long-term strategy, though it would have been nice if the planners had actually thought past the first week. When I first heard of the invasion of Iraq, I was left scratching my head.

  • ||

    What an excellent discussion. It's hard to know the correct path, but I am inclined to agree that we had to do "something". I just think Bush and his cronies over-reacted, over-spent, and used personal and business vendettas when deciding to attack Sadam.

    And so far, the new crew is not too discerning as well. We should remember to be careful in picking our enemies and our friends...

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Speaking of leaving innocent people alone, what have all those strawmen ever done to you? You just beat them and smash them. All those poor strawmen. There will be strawman blowback.

  • Jim||

    What strawman? I admit, there was one initially when I argued from the basis of Esteban's position being, "continue the War on Terror as-is", but that was due to lack of any alternative scenerio present on his part. Since he was intellectually honest enough to admit as much, there isn't a strawman.

    I understand the distinction between arguing against a certain point of view ("there is no Islamist threat"), and arguing in favor of the current WOT. They are two different things. However, if 1) one vehemently tries to convince others that a threat exists, 2) there is currently action being taken against that threat (WOT), and 3) one does not refute the action being taken, or indeed offer any criticisms of it or alternatives (in these posts at least), then essentially one is implicitly supporting the current action. That makes it fair game to argue against, IMHO. Others may disagree, and that's fine.

    I would be open to hearing alternatives besides the one I put forward, which is disengagement from the Middle East entirely except for commerce.

  • Esteban||

    Just a question: Would you have supported the War on Terror if Iraq had never happened? I think about $700 billion of the cost has been for Iraq.

  • Jim||

    Now THAT is a worthy and interesting question.

    Given that the reason Afghanistan was so screwed up to begin with was because we used it as a proxy battlefield in the Cold War, I could see an argument that we should help "clean it up", even if that meant military action at the beginning to eject the Taliban.

    The world wasn't that upset at us then; most of the additional terror shit in Europe started after we ignored the massive peace protests and launched the Iraq War, which since it wans't part of the "terrorist" network at the time, was seen as us basically declaring regime change on anyone we didn't like.

    It may be engaging in speculative history, but I think we'd be in a much better, more sustainable place today if we'd gone into Afghanistan, and then just used covert means and specfor teams in other nations, to fight terrorist networks in neighboring countries.

    Not to mention how much better we might have been able to do rebuilding AF correctly if we hadn't been distracted by, and diverting treasure towards, Iraq. Hell, even our allies might have committed more to the long-haul if their people weren't all pissy at us over Iraq.

  • Esteban||

    We probably would have been in a better place, considering that it seems like the fighters in Afghanistan learned a lot of techniques (IEDs, suicide attacks) from what was going on in Iraq. If everybody remembers, Afghanistan was relatively peaceful until about 2006 or so, and has been a mess since then when tactics began to cross-pollinate between Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I wonder how things would have turned out had the United States removed Saddam in 1991, when we had almost the entire world backing us.

  • Jim||

    You're undoubtedly correct about the Iraqi techniques passing over to Afghanistan. I was in Iraq personally, back in late 2003 / early 2004, and only did one tour, but my friend went to AF back then, and is just gearing up to go again in June, and has told me that things there are much more dangerous now than they were before (according to his briefings).

  • Fiscal Meth||

    What? I don't support a war on terror. Terror isn't someone you can defeat. Terror is a tactic or a means to an ideological end, like Kamakazi piloting. If we had declared a war on Kamakazi pilots, we would probably still be at war with Japan if we hadn't lost by now. If we had tried non-military trading solutions, the same thing. The proper thing to do is name the source of the attacks declare war and fight a decisive war(no nation building and forget exporting democracy).

  • Fiscal Meth||

    But no, we shouldn't have bothered with Iraq.

  • DLM||

    I don't support a war on terror.

    The "War on Terror" was just a stupid term Bush & Co. chose to counter assertions that it was a war on The Religion of Peace.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    The status quo strawman. Just like you were probably accused of being a proponent of the status quo every time you opposed Obamacare. It's always a waste of time to assume that commenters at a libertarian website are secret big government types who have been pretending to agree with you about the WODrugs, WOcrime, WOpoverty, WOobesity and WOimmigrants just so they can seem less partisan when they show full support for the WOterror. I don't agree with Bush or Obama or you about what should have been done in the past as well as what should be done now. If you wanted to have a conversation you wouldn't come out of the gates eager to slay Bushophiles or pants-pissing neo-cons. That's why the regulars who disagree with the rest about what is meant by "non-initiation of force" just ignore these articles now. because it takes too much fucking time to get to the point where you can actually start a conversation.

  • Jim||

    It isn't a status quo strawman if no alternative is presented. If you fail to offer different solutions, or even fail to criticize the status quo, then you ARE advocating for the status quo.

    If I just said, "Boo Obamacare! Defeat it!" and said nothing else, then I would not object to being attacked as defending the status quo, because that's exactly what I would have been doing.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Please. You had built like four strawmen before there was even anyone to argue with. Look for yourself.

    I came to say that I disagree with the assertion that there is no serious Islamic Jihadist threat. You yourself said you don't agree with the very same assertion, only you don't agree the way we've dealt with it. Well there's another thing we agree on. As for the honest nature of our disagreements, well... My fucking lunch break is over and I spent it on strawman cleanup duty. And no they wouldn't be strawmen at Heritage Foundation but they are here against the backdrop of an article titled "What Islamist Terrorist Threat?".

  • ||

    I understand the distinction between arguing against a certain point of view ("there is no Islamist threat"), and arguing in favor of the current WOT. They are two different things. However, if 1) one vehemently tries to convince others that a threat exists, 2) there is currently action being taken against that threat (WOT), and 3) one does not refute the action being taken, or indeed offer any criticisms of it or alternatives (in these posts at least), then essentially one is implicitly supporting the current action.

    Shorter Jim: *I* will decide the boundaries of debate! If you disagree with any of my points or fail to mention them, I will place words in your mouth and build numerous strawmen!

  • Jim||

    And for what it's worth Esteban, I somewhat agree with you that there is an actual, current threat.

    I simply don't think it's great enough to warrant anywhere near the response we've given it. I think it's a power-grab by a gov't that saw a golden opportunity with it's citizens frightened and willing to do anything to feel safe. We should try withdrawl from that part of the world BEFORE cranking up the bomb factories, and if that doesn't work, then explore other options from there.

    And yes, I was there. 413th Civil Affairs battalion out of Lubbock, TX (Reserves). 38A Civil Affairs specialist, E-5 when I got out.

  • DLM||

    I simply don't think it's great enough to warrant anywhere near the response we've given it.

    No, but it makes a great excuse to spend more money. Never let a crisis go to waste! (Where have I heard that?)

  • opit||

    It's an odd thing. 16 American intelligence agencies gave a National Intelligence Estimate to George W. Bush in 2003 that - whatever else we may not know about the document - was cited extensively as stating that the invasion of Iraq would increase terrorism in the world.
    What else would be necessary to show that a better argument could easily be made - and likely should be - is that meddling in faraway lands is better at putting military staff at risk and irritating the hell out of the locals....increasing 'terrorism.'
    Funny about that.

  • Realist||

    Hey, sign up and go get'em....tough guy!

  • Mike M.||

    Most Al-Qaeda terrorists involved in attacks or attempts have been either educated or wealthy, or both, not some uneducated peasant that has never been outside their village.

    I'm pretty sick and tired of hearing these morons described as "educated"; nothing could be further from the truth.

    Knowing how to make a bomb or fly an airplane into a building doesn't make a person educated in the true sense of the word. People who are truly educated don't believe that committing suicide in the jihad is the greatest possible achievement in life, and they certainly don't literally believe all of the garbage that appears in the Koran (or any religious text for that matter).

    For example, the part where a tree (a tree!) says "there's a Jew behind me, come and kill him". If you believe this can happen, I'm sorry, but you're not an educated person.

  • Esteban||

    Ok, the education they receive may be far different from what we receive in developed, secular nations, but the point is that they went to institutions of higher learning, contrary to Shikha's point that they can barely read or write.

  • Realist||

    "....read or write." Anything worth a shit!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Education and intelligence are mutually exclusive concepts.

  • ||

    Almost like a burning bush that talks.

  • sevo||

    "The whole, oh you're more likely to be killed in a car accident or a bath tub than in a terrorist attack, is annoying, because what's the point of those statistics?"

    The point is obvious; we're spending the national wealth and our freedoms *trying* to prevent something that's not very dangerous.
    Capiche?

  • DLM||

    The point is obvious; we're spending the national wealth and our freedoms *trying* to prevent something that's not very dangerous.

    The real problem is that this supports the mentality that it's better to devote tons of resources to prevent an activity than punish the perpetrators afterward. It's a statist position by its nature. All you need is something to 'prevent' to justify just about anything.

  • ||

    And to respond to Tulpa's criticism: The problem with releasing information of every attempt is that people, as a whole, are scared and prone to panic. The consequences of letting info get out would be more support for security over civil liberties.

    They have released plenty of information on "foiled" terror plots usually consisting of a few poor Muslim fools and a lot of FBI agents and know-how. The excuse that the government is holding back information to keep the public from demanding that the government have more power is simply not plausible.

    You are free to believe your father's friend if you wish, but anonymous vagaries are not enough for me, and shouldn't be enough for any thinking person.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    I'm so glad someone has the nerve to write articles like this. The whole "weapons of mass destruction" riff was invented by Republicans desperate for a new Cold War. Right-wingers like Bill Kristol and Ann Applebaum insist that we're threatened by Al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, and, probably, Brazil. 99% of Republicans refuse to consider any Defense cuts, and Obama bows his head to their will, with fear and trembling. Please, Shikha! Keep 'em coming!

  • ||

    You forget the dangerous, dangerous bathtubs.

  • ||

    That's why I only take showers, despite the risk of slipping and falling.

  • Realist||

    Absolutly.

  • Jim||

    I'm amazed. Usually there are enough, "I'm a libertarian, not a republican, but we must confront the Global Caliphate threat!" posters on these stories. Where are they hiding today?

    And please, no one trot out that old trope of, "Well we can't stop every murderer, but we still try" crap. Yes, we try...within a limited and reasonable scope of action. We don't outlaw all knives and guns, which would significantly reduce murder. We don't have secret police on every corner. We have a response proportional to the threat. Those interested in maintaining the endless War On anything have no sense of proportion.

  • Jim||

    Ha, I spoke too soon. In the time it took me to type that, Esteban stepped up to the plate.

    The threat of terrorism exists, so we MUST bankrupt ourselves attempting to destroy it! Damn civil liberties, and damn sound economics! Long Live the American Empire!

  • Esteban||

    Right, because I said we have to bankrupt ourselves. I think it's naive and wrong to say that the threat is minimal or not worth action. But of course, any support for any offensive or defensive measures against terrorist networks mean I think we should spend our way to oblivion.

  • Jim||

    Your constant rants supporting continuing the War on Terror equates to stating that we must bankrupt ourselves, because that is the eventual outcome unless we start massively cutting in other areas to keep the war machine cherry.

    Just admit that you want guns, not butter, and that you're paranoid enough of the "other" that you'd merrily live in a police state if it meant stopping the insidious Muslims from their nefarious schemes (I also hear they lust after our virtuous white women). You'd have made a great Cold Warrior if you'd come of age in the 50s (I'm assuming about your age, apologies if you really did come of age in the 50s).

  • Esteban||

    Screw you. I'm not scared of teh Muzlims, nor do I hate them, and have defended them quite a bit. Why don't you argue the points I brought up instead of assuming I'm a bigot?

  • Jim||

    I did, in a reply to you further up. You ignored me, presumably because you didn't have an answer, and instead went after Mike M. and the "education" question.

  • Jim||

    My apologies, your reply to my comments above appeared after I read this, so I retract my statement that you were "ignoring" me. I will reply up there.

  • ||

    What are we supposed to argue against? Your father's friend told you there have been attacks kept secret and you believe him. I can't prove a negative, let alone one with no specifics.

  • Surly Chef||

    AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!

  • ||

    We should just take advantage of economies of scale and have a War On Everything.

  • jtuf||

    It costs about $200,000 to raise a child to age 18 in a middle class American family. For 3 trillion dollars, we could have raised an extra 15 million Americans. It makes sense to cut back on the defense and have larger families. In other words, live dangerously and have more procreative sex.

  • Obvious||

    Yeah, but that wasn't my 200,000 that went to the War on Terror - it was someone else's. So if I procreate more, how am I going to afford to raise the kids? Or should the government pay people to procreate? Not very libertarian.

  • jtuf||

    The 3 trillion for the War on Terror came from Americans. We'll end up paying for it in higher taxes which will reduce the birth rate as couples decide that they can't afford to have as many kids. The 15 million births is one way of phrasing the opportunity costs of the War on Terror. You could also express it as 150 million new cars, but births are easier to compare with the deaths that terrorism causes.

  • ||

    But how many of those 15 million Americans would have become terrorists or energy drink manufacturers?

  • ||

    But “war” is the only paradigm though which america can accomplish anything

  • db||

    War may be the dominant paradigm for the United States Government, but the American private sector can accomplish great things through mutual agreement among stakeholders and without killing, strangely enough.

  • DK||

    Nice. Expose the ridiculous conflation of the United States with its government.

  • Almanian||

    I said it once, I'll say it again: "Durka durka!"

    That is all.

  • ||

    Not to mention that bin Laden is most assuredly dead. Unfortunately, the intelligence industrial complex refuses to tell us the fact.

  • DLM||

    Unfortunately, the intelligence industrial complex refuses to tell us the fact.

    Probably because they don't know. You want the 'intelligence' agencies to give us more information based on their own ignorance?

  • Jeff ||

    I guess the underwear bomber, the Time Square bomber and other failed attempts is a sign of a weaker terrorist network. The London bombing, the Spanish train bombing and the nightclub bombing in Indonesia, were successful terrorist acts.

    When I was in Iraq, I questioned some captured insurgents from the Sudan and the reason why they came to Iraq was to kill Americans.

  • Obvious||

    The question is - if they hadn't gone to Iraq to kill Americans, would they have gone to America to kill Americans? Or would they have just stayed in the Sudan and killed Sudanese Christians? Because I'm all for American soldiers dying to save Americans, but I don't know if they need to die to save non-Americans, because non-Americans are getting killed all the time, and that's beyond us to solve.

  • Tim||

    Apparently, as in the case of the underwear bomber you can just get on a plane anywhere in the world and fly to New York. No luggage, no passports, no questions.

  • opit||

    It helps to have the company put you on the plane.

  • ||

    Well, at least he prevented the replication of his own DNA.

  • jtuf||

    South Sudan's successful break up and the current revolutions in the Middle East might be positively affected by our Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With those wars draining the region of jhadists, the people in the region are more free to move towards democracy and freedom.

    I don't know if it worked out that way or if it is worth it. This is just an idea.

  • Kevin||

    Here is a question for the group? Name any terrorist group stopped by military action? You have ALL of history to pick from.

    GOOD LUCK it has never happened! The only way terrorist groups go away is by bring them into the political process. Look at the IRA in northern Ireland. The reason why they stopped bombing campaign was because they got a voice in gov't. Are you willing to sit down with Al Qaeda at the bargaining table??

  • l0b0t||

    The Jewish Zealots in 71, the Thugee in the 1830s, the Philippine Katipuneros in the 1890s, the Malayan Communist MNLA in the 1950s, the Mau Mau in the 1950s; all were defeated by military action. That's just off the top of my head, there are plenty more to be discovered with a little research.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    That just grants legitimacy to any claims made by anyone willing to kill people. The lesson is that for the price of a bomb, they can get half of anything they demand plus public praise as a "peaceful" orginization for having settled for half.

  • jtuf||

    The KKK? We never brought the KKK to the bargaining table, and they aren't a threat anymore.

  • jtuf||

    The Tamil Tigers in Sir Lanka a couple of years ago.

  • IceTrey||

    "or smuggle them in, as it did with the 9-11 hijackers."

    I think all of them entered the country legally.

  • ||

    Name any terrorist group stopped by military action?

    I seem to recall some South Pacific country ran down its local terrorist group (was that the Tamil Tigers?) and wiped them out.

  • ||

    (was that the Tamil Tigers?)

    No, they're still around.

  • Esteban||

    There may be pockets, but they're not the organized force they once were.

    "On May 17, 2009, LTTE official Selvarasa Pathmanathan conceded defeat, saying in an email statement "This battle has reached its bitter end". Several LTTE fighters committed suicide when they became surrounded."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....amil_Eelam

  • ||

    I think his point was that US-style military action (ie, civilian-casualty-avoiding) is ineffective against terrorist groups in the midst of societies unsympathetic to the terrorists' enemies.

    We could easily end the terror threat in Iraq by slaughtering every man, woman, child, and camel in that country. The question is, to what lengths are we willing to go to eradicate terrorist orgs.

  • ||

    [We could easily end the terror threat in Iraq by slaughtering every man, woman, child, and camel in that country.]

    At long last, a man with a solution!

  • DLM||

    At long last, a man with a solution!

    Well, it's worked before.

  • ||

    Not too many Carthaginians around these days.

  • opit||

    Extreme. http://www.justforeignpolicy.o.....eaths.html
    About this time you should consider whether the whole thing is not a crock. Seriously.
    http://www.alqaedadoesntexist.com/

  • ||

    And it wasn't military action, but any number of scrappy local terrorist cells have been cleaned up by law enforcement in this country. The one that comes to mind is the Symbionese Liberation Army, but I have no doubt there are others.

  • opit||

    LOL The Hearst Kidnapping group was resolved by jailing Patty Hearst as well as the rest of a group who were never heard from before or after except in conjunction with the kidnapping and some robberies. Motive ? Apparently rebellion against Murder Inc. control of the USA.

  • ||

    Stunning personal story of a WW2 vet not afraid of the enemy.

    >Clarence Meffert | Visit Guest Book
    Clarence Meffert, 83, passed away February 13, 2011 surrounded by his loving family.

    It was 67 years ago when the longing to reunite with his beloved brother took priority over personal safety amidst a foreign landscape of destruction and devastation. On July 25, 1944 war was already upon us, and Clarence, a young boy of only 16, wanted to follow in his older brother Dale's footsteps of enlisting to serve his country. Too young to be accepted into the military, he enlisted with the Sea Merchant Marines which consisted of volunteers. After completing his maritime service at Sheepshead Bay in New York he boarded the U.S.S. John Mitchell and set sail for South Hampton, England. Upon arrival, the crew received their orders to cross the English Channel to the Omaha beachhead and deliver vital supplies to our troops there. It was at the completion of one of these deliveries on August 26, 1944 that Clarence saw an opportunity to locate his older brother, whose whereabouts were unknown. A panoramic view of a war stricken foreign country was no deterrent for a naïve teenager, so he made the decision to jump ship. After scouring over the unfamiliar beach for several hours, he stumbled onto a unit from Lamans, France who informed Clarence that Dale's unit was still in Lamans and agreed to take him there. ``I was in the right place at the right time', recounts Clarence. He lay covered in the open bed of an army truck for the entire four hour journey to Lamans. The soldiers hid him from their 1st Sergeant and said he was a German POW to passing ally troops, looking after him as their own little brother. As the truck made its way, the harsh realities of war flooded the landscape. Clarence somberly remembers, ``There was total devastation everywhere. Buildings were reduced to rubble; fires were burning everywhere, everywhere. Hundreds of refugees, mostly women and children, were being led to other locations by Military Police.' Despite the circumstances the soldiers made good on their word and delivered him to Lamans. They informed the troops there of what was going on and they had Clarence hide in a small shed until they retrieved Dale. Clarence heard them ask Dale, ``What would you give to see someone from home?' At that point Clarence emerged from his hiding place, both of them bewildered at the sight of each other. It had been over a year since they last saw each other, and against all odds, Clarence had found his brother. Did they embrace with joy? Weep, even? ``Nope', states Clarence, ``we just shook hands. I think we were both in shock.' He stayed with Dale and his unit until September 10, 1944, all the while the other troops covered for him going so far as to dress him in one of their uniforms. ``Nobody cared that I was there, I think they got a kick out of the whole thing', remembers Clarence. He went back aboard the U.S.S. John Mitchell until he was court marshaled on September 18th. When he walked into the office for his hearing the Sergeant's mouth dropped in amazement at the sight of a skinny kid who couldn't possibly be the one the stories were about. ``Well you're not what I expected!' said the Sergeant. ``What d'ya mean? Wondered Clarence aloud. It took a lot of TUGS to do what you did, kid.' ``What's TUGS?' Clarence asked. ``That's the army way of saying GUTS backwards!' informed the Sergeant, who was so inspired by his bravery that he waived the 3 month suspension and even paid him the money they docked him for time off ship. Afterwards, he boarded another ship and continued to serve his country to the end of the war, as well as serving in the Korean War. And yet, praise and recognition for his actions meant little to this wartime hero who summed it all up by nonchalantly stating, ``I just wanted to find my brother, that's all.'

    Clarence was preceded in death by his loving wife of 30 years, Loretta; three sisters; and two great-grandsons. He is survived by his children, Brenda (Ronnie) Silcox, Ken (Toni) Meffert, Debbie (Mike) Wilson and Keith (Sue) Meffert; 14 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and brothers, Don and Dale Meffert.

    Cremation has taken place. Private services for the family will be held. Donation may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Clarence's name. To leave the family a special message online, visit www.NewcomerAkron.com.

    NEWCOMER FUNERAL HOME, 330-784-3334

    Published in Akron Beacon Journal on February 15, 2011
    http://www.ohio.com/

  • Almanian||

    tl;dr

    But you're giving Hercule a run for his money - way to go, Oral!

  • ||

    the greatest generation is almost gone now. one of the biggest problems we have is the lack of shared sacrifice like these guys.

  • ||

    If they're the Greatest Generation, why do they keep yelling at me to stay off of their lawn?

  • ||

    I was going to ask, if they are the greatest generation, why do they scream at me "I paid in".

    I consider the current generation of retirees as the most thieving generation in the history of mankind. The multi-trillion dollar wealth transfer that is Social Security makes the Soviets pikers by comparison.

  • sevo||

    OhioOrrin|2.15.11 @ 2:25PM|#
    "...one of the biggest problems we have is the lack of shared sacrifice like these guys."

    Gotcher hair shirts; aisle 6, blue-light special.
    Right next to the tin-foil hats.

  • ||

    Also, Shining Path in Peru. Technically still around, I suppose, but a spent force at best.

  • RyanXXX||

    Has anyone here seen Four Lions?

    It illustrates the Islamist "threat" pretty well

  • ||

    Its in my netflix queue.
    From what I have read, a good deal of our drone surveillance shows the Taliban f*cking goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, goats (apparently, they REALLY like goats) and occasionally, each other, as long as hey scream "I am f*cking America!!!"

  • philmon||

    I don't support a "war on terror". "Terror" is a tactic, not an enemy.

    Al Queda is an enemy. A war on Al Queda would make much more sense to me. There are various ways to fight this, and though we've done it militarily, we've used espionage, infiltration, cutting off funding, P.R. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan from within the military.

    To suggest that we shouldn't put up physical resistance even to the point of offensive tactics to Al Queda and related groups is insane. "Turn the other cheek" does not work with them.

    Sitting down with them is not an option, either - because of what it is they want, ultimately. The IRA got a seat at the table of government - but they were not after the anihilation of the British Government and English culture. They wanted soveriegnty over their native land. By negotiating, they got at least SOME of that. There was something to be negotiated.

    In the end, there is nothing to be negotiated with Al Queda. Submission is their goal. Jihad is their way. Oh, sure, they might engage in Taqqia and give us little hints of detante along the way -- but their ultimate, stated, written, and completely internalized goal is for us to be them. There is no room for us in their world -- and by "us" I mean free non-Muslims, not living under Sharia.

    We can argue over the cost and effectiveness of certain tactics, but I do find it amusing that the author seemingly with a straight face declares that the fact that we have not seen another major attack since we started seriously fighting back is proof that we didn't need to in the first place.

    Bath tubs don't attack people, incidentally. Bath tubs are inanimate objects which people sometimes misuse or are too comfortable with to take proper precautions to keep from injuring themselves. Bathtubs can do no wrong. A war on them would not change their [lack of] incentive, and we'd end up smelly and diseased (not to mention the fact that we'd lose some valuable inspiration for pinup art.)

    There are no "solutions". Only trade-offs. The flu and the common cold continue, and yet people continue to take medicine for them. Perhaps no military action ever "stopped" a terrorist group [from existing and continuing to plot, I presume, as military action certainly has stopped actual terrorist plots from coming to fruition] -- but the only other options are acquiescence or anihilation. What are you willing to give up?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: philmon,

    There are various ways to fight this, and though we've done it militarily, we've used espionage, infiltration, cutting off funding, P.R. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan from within the military.


    We could do a deal with the Golden Horde... it worked in the past.

  • Esteban||

    I agree with you, and will add, of course having a war on a tactic is stupid and impossible, but the problem with just saying War on Al-Qaeda is that AQ is just the most prominent of a network of connected groups that have the same ideology/goals. The people who make these slogans probably didn't think the War on Violent Extremist Muslims would play out as well.

  • philmon||

    "but the problem with just saying War on Al-Qaeda is that AQ is just the most prominent of a network of connected groups that have the same ideology/goals. The people who make these slogans probably didn't think the War on Violent Extremist Muslims would play out as well."

    You are correct. But I'm good with lumping them all together and calling it Al Queda, as by definition it consists of a loose affilliation of very loosely networked cells that encourages individual actors outside of its "official" network to carry out acts in the name of Islamism.

    If THEY'RE not good with that, I really don't care.

  • ||

    The problem is that our concept of warfare is predicated on fighting an enemy with a hierarchical military and easily identified head, the defeat of is seen as a victory condition. None of that applies to "Terror" or even "Violent Extremist Muslims".

    The closest analogy to terrorism in traditional warfare would be piracy, but even that analogy is strained. Pirates were indeed subject to immediate execution upon capture, but this required evidence of an overt piratical act (stolen goods on board, etc) and such evidence was usually available. That definition doesn't really apply to the average Gitmo detainee, the evidence against whom often consists of "Chieftain Achmed says he attended an al-Qaeda training camp" when for all we know the guy just brought the chieftain's daughter back after 11 one night.

    It makes more sense to treat the problem as a law enforcement issue, but apparently saying that is like putting a big "I AM A PUSSY" tattoo on your forehead in these parts.

  • Jim||

    "but the only other options are acquiescence or anihilation. What are you willing to give up?"

    Bullshit. Utter bullshit. There is no way some small groups, without access to military transports, can "annihilate" us. They may be able to cause some deaths, but your word choice states that if we do not destroy them, they will utterly overrun and destroy America. Even the Soviets couldn't do that, with a massively more powerful military than AQ could ever have access to (all the Middle Eastern states combined wouldn't be able to launch an overseas invasion of us, and besides, don't you think they'd go after China first? So much closer and easier.)

    Unless they get access to a LARGE stockpile of nukes, there is no "annihilate".

  • Esteban||

    I agree. Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups are not an existential threat to the US. The US would continue even if somehow a WMD was used in an American city. But how much fear is tolerable or would lead to a voters allowing even worse politicians than we already have to make this country a real police state?
    Jim, I don't know if you saw my question above, but would you be in favor of the War on Terror (without the stupid name) if Iraq hadn't been part of it?

  • Jim||

    I did, and thought it a very good question. I answered at length up there.

  • Esteban||

    Sorry, didn't see it at first. Thanks.

  • ||

    Esteban, your main argument seems to be that we have to allow power abuse to prevent power abuse. I get this to some extent (it's similar to the "you have to spend money to make money" adage) but I simply don't find the danger to be as great as you do. Unless there really is a significant danger of, as you say, a WMD going off in a major city, the spending liberty doesn't seem to be making us anything.

  • philmon||

    Not bullshit.

    I didn't say all at once.

    I am saying there are there are three possibilities:

    1) they beat us into submission because we tire of their attacks
    2) they don't beat us into submission and we fight back and discourage their advance
    3) they don't beat us into submission and we don't fight back, and they keep killing us off little by little until we're all gone.

    Anihilation is #3. Not a likely outcome, but it is one of the three possbilities.

  • ||

    You forgot this one:

    4) We fight back until our resources are depleted and we financially succumb to another enemy, such as China, indirecty (or directly) achieving their goals.

  • philmon||

    China is not suffering the kind of cultural identity crisis and self-loathing that is prevelant in the West. Al Queda et al are exploiting that weakness.

    You pick your battles. They've picked us. Our move.

  • opit||

    Oh dear. You seem so sincere and reasonable. If you wanted to say 'al CIA-da' was b.s. and bafflegab would a word that locally means 'the Toilet' do ?

  • ||

    There is certainly a good debate to be had over whether the US can reasonably expect to protect itself from future terrorist attacks, and/or whether it's worth the time and money to try, but the idea that there IS NOT threat is pretty laughable.

  • ||

    Given our response to 9/11, only a 'few more' of those and the terrorists will win because America will have killed itself in response.

    Imagine if a buffalo got nibbled by a wolf on the tail, and its response was to lay down and eat its own leg. Not many wolf bites more and the buffalo's gone. That's kind of America's response to terrorism.

  • ||

    I was thinking of a mosquito biting an elephant causing a stampede, but your analogy is apt too.

  • Tim||

    It says a lot that what follow ups there have been (shoe bomber, ball bomber) were both stopped by passengers. They easily penetrated the vaunted two trillion dollar war and it's security screens.

  • Esteban||

    I mean it's impossible to know if our security measures dissuaded or stopped other attempts from getting further. You can believe that the public has heard of all attempts or that there have been attempts we weren't told about, but either way, beyond anectdotally, it's not possible to provide evidence either way.

  • ||

    Occam's Razor cuts against the idea that there have been dangerous and potentially successful plots that have been stopped by govt action. True, the Razor is just a rule of thumb, but it's usually correct (and not applying it would mean one couldn't believe any causal explanation was true, as a more complicated contradictory one can always be dreamed up)

  • opit||

    Maybe so. What would you say to airport scanners that are ineffective at the job they do and cost ten times as much as Chinese handhelds that actually work ? How about the fact that they are being supplied by a company owned by the former chief honcho of 'Homeland Insecurity' - Mike Chertoff ? And airports are required to buy them.
    Get with the program. Read 'War is a Racket.' Then look up the fate of 'Iraqi Reconstruction.' Ditto 'Afghan Reconstruction'
    Might as well throw in 'the Foreign Aid Racket' for fun.
    Having established the Profit Motive all that is left is simple police work : "Follow the Money."
    That's standard detective work - no flamethrowers or tanks necessary.

  • Gregory Smith||

    "Over 5,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq without on balance saving any civilian lives. It is time to call off the “war” on terrorism. Al Qaeda is not worth it."

    ---Is another 9/11 worth it? How about a chemical attack or a dirty bomb? Those 5,000 soldiers knew what they were fighting for, they weren't innocent draftees but VOLUNTEERS.

    Like a firemen or a cop, being a soldier is a dangerous job, specially if you go into infantry as opposed to administrative duties and other functions that don't include combat.

    So let's not dishonor their deaths by saying they fought for nothing. They fought and died for freedom, we should respect that.

    RACIST QUOTES FROM THE LEFT
    http://libertarians4freedom.bl.....acist.html

  • Jim||

    Really? Because I believe we're substantially LESS free than we were before. Did we fight for the Iraqis freedom? If so, was that worth our lives? If so, why don't we fight for other people's freedom, in other dictatorships around the world? Why didn't we feel the need to fight for the Iraqis freedoms before they invaded Kuwait?

    If we're fighting for our freedoms, please explain how we in America are more free now that a non-AQ supporting Saddam is no longer in charge of Iraq.

  • Gregory Smith||

    We fought in WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Korea, Panama, Grenada and Somalia. Let's face it, we're a war-fighting country, is it worth our lives? Well, if you CHOOSE to join the military then yes, it is worth your life.

    As for freedom in America, well, I never agreed with the TSA and some other abuses, but don't tell me that the response to 9/11 would have been to fight the Muslims with roses and kisses.

  • Jim||

    I did choose to join the military. E-5 in the 413th CA BN, USAR, out of Lubbock, TX. And no, foreign adventuring is not worth my life. I made a bad choice, did my deployment in Iraq, and left when my time was up (though I'm still in the IRR).

    Of all those wars you mentioned, arguably only WWII was legit for us to be involved with, because we were attacked (though you'll hear quite a few people point out that we provoked the hell out of the Japanese).

    The question is, are we the military guarantor of people's freedoms around the globe? If you believe so, I would tactfully suggest that that is not a libertarian position, but rather an old-school democratic, modern neocon point of view.

    If we are not, then why defend the actions you listed (again, excepting WWII)? And if we are, how do we pick and choose who to fight for?

    And the response to 9/11 shouldn't have been to fight "the Muslims", as you put it, at all. It should be to fight the specific terrorist networks that were involved.

  • RyanXXX||

    You avoided the question about freedom. How are our troops overseas making us any more free, or even preserving our freedoms, which I see disappearing every day?

  • DLM||

    Well, if you CHOOSE to join the military then yes, it is worth your life.

    The military is to *defend* America. The extent the various instances of foreign military involvement accomplish this central goal is what is in question.

  • IceTrey||

    In the last decade 500,000 Americans have died in traffic accidents. 9/11 was a blip.

  • jtuf||

    In the past decade 3,000 Americans died from hyperhydration. AQ has proven about as dangerous as drinking water. My video summarizes the relative risk of different deaths.

  • ||

    In the past decade a whole host of Americans died from accidental causes, natural causes, misadventure and many other reasons.

    Among them are those who died because someone deliberately took their lives. We call that murder.

    On 9/11 almost 3000 Americans were murdered by jihadis. By an act of their will.

    A tub has no will. A car accident has no will. Water has no will--and even those who drink themselves into death with water aren't having someone do it to them against their will.

    Stop comparing two very dissimilar types of death as if they are equivalent.

  • opit||

    Then why were they deployed in Iraq ?

  • opit||

    Then why were they deployed in Iraq ?

  • ||

    Here's how I would fight the war on Islamist nutters:

    (1) Bring our boys home. Not just from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from Korea, Europe, pretty much you name it.

    (2) Let the various people supporting the nutters know that if their pet nutters do any harm to an American, we will engage in our favorite sport - disproportionate response. Iran, for example, has a big old soft spot with its refineries, that could be taken out in a matter of hours.

    If their nutters do anything with an ABC weapon, we will activate our decades-old doctrine and retaliate with nukes against their sponsors.

    And, of course, we will keep the sea lanes open. Our guys can practice on the pirates in Somalia.

    Otherwise, we will leave them alone.

    Naturally, we will continue to flood the world with our decadent culture and goods, thus luring their youth into damnation.

  • Gregory Smith||

    That's not a bad idea, although I don't think the LIBERALterians like using nuclear weapons.

  • ||

    RC, have you had a non-interventionist conversion experience or something? Not that I'm complaining, but it's a bit shocking.

  • ||

    I would only change 'an' to 'any' American in (2)

  • ||

    As President, I vow not to attack any country that a majority of Americans cannot find on the map. Unfortunately, this leaves only the United States. We begin bombing tomorrow.

  • ||

    Wrong! Who says the majority of Americans can find America on the map?!!

  • DLM||

    Who says the majority of Americans can find America on the map?!!

    Doesn't that kind of depend on which map?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The various Wars on Common Nouns are nothing but exercises in futility. But dammit, we are America and we'll keep at it, no matter how much money or blood it costs because defeat is not an option. Really, how does one lose to a common noun? Can a common noun occupy your territory?

  • RyanXXX||

    This country is great at exaggerating threats: the USSR, Islamic radicals, Anthrax, Bird Flu, Mad Cow, Swine Flu, now China.

    We are a very panicky nation

  • ||

    You are a teenager, aren't you? The Soviet Union had literally thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at our country. How does one "exaggerate" total annihilation?

  • RyanXXX||

    Ah, did they make you cower under your desk as a child to prepare for the coming Commie apocalypse?

    It's been shown that the CIA repeatedly exaggerated the Soviet's military capabilities. The reasons why should be obvious

  • ||

    I am not quite that old, but the point remains. Even though the threat was certainly exaggerated, it was a real threat.

    Are you claiming that the Soviets didn't have hundreds of ICBM's? Thousands of warheads?

    Sorry, your point about exaggerating threats is appropriate. Claiming that there was never any threat from the Soviets, however, is absurd.

  • RyanXXX||

    Fair enough. It would be very stupid to say that the Soviets represented NO THREAT. The same with today's Islamists.

    Exaggeration is what the article is about.

  • opit||

    Claiming that the American military took it seriously is another matter. Did you ever get up to speed with what all those 'horizontal meteors' were on the Pine Tree Line and DEW Line radar screens ?
    Routine SAC 'nuclear patrols' in the U.S.S.R.'s airspace.

  • l0b0t||

    Actually both Langley & Foggy Bottom were routinely underestimating & downplaying the nuclear capabilities and posture of the CCCP. It got so bad in the early 1970s (both shops were trying to support Kissenger's plans for détente) that Team B was created to get a handle on the Red threat.

  • ||

    Don't forget Satanism.

  • RyanXXX||

    And heavy-metal inspired school shooters

  • ||

    Many neo-cons simply feel too ashamed that they were duped by some dumbass Texas rich kid.

    They just can't let it go....

  • Realist||

    You are quite right....and I really liked your part in "Blazing Saddles".

  • ||

    This is reminiscent of the discussion about random baggage searches at DC Metro stations. Since the searches were implemented, there have been NO terrorist attacks on the Metro system. But is that because the searches have scared away the terrorists, or because the terrorists haven't been interested in attacking the Metro, or because the terrorists aren't capable of attacking the Metro? Nobody knows. Short of capturing a terrorist who says "Well, I was *going* to attack the Metro but I was afraid of getting caught in a random bag search," you can't prove anything. I think you can say the same about most of the enhanced security that's been in place since 9/11. You can't take credit for something that *didn't* happen.

    On the other hand, we've heard of several "foiled" attacks over the years. Do those indicate that post-9/11 security has actualy succeeded?

  • Mohammed elBaradei||

    Oooh... now you start to get it... I tried to make you take a chill pill in 2001. And another one in 2003. But of course you wouldn't, because suicide pact! And also, Munich!

  • ||

    Shut up and go back to house arrest!

  • ||

    So it's 72 virgins now, according to whom? In the movie "Postal" it was first equivocally stated that 99 virgins were awarded to martyr jihadists. When did this change?

  • sevo||

    Hey, that evil western music shows up, and pooof! No more virgins!

  • ||

    Maybe they get the aborted fetuses, in which case every abortion is rewarding a homocidal jihadist, even for those who delude themselves into thinking it isn't homocide in the first place.

  • opit||

    'delude themselves into thinking'
    Murder presupposes a human being i.e. an entity of independent physical construct which can survive without direct augmentation.
    Unlike the poor unborn who seem to some to be much more worthy of legal protection than real and actual - rather than potential - people.
    I find it confusing... wanting to prosecute one activity as crime while ignoring the real thing.

  • Liquamen||

    Sadly, the whole WOT edifice will be left in place for another thirty years, until the last islamofascism-masochist rolls into his casket, and at which point the entire bureaucracy is retooled for War On Drugs III

  • opit||

    'Waste not, Want not'
    That seems to go for rationalizations/excuses as well.
    The first time I heard 'Islamofascism' I nearly choked on my coffee : it's an oxymoron, or 'contradiction in terms'. Such are the inane tools of modern religious Crusaderism.

  • ||

    Why has it taken Dalmia seven years to rehash a 2004 article from The American Conservative?

    readers and The Daily's editors may wish to see "Weaker than we think" for themselves :

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2004/dec/06/00020/

  • Matt||

    As shocking as the 9/11 attacks were, they were actually very unsophisticated and low-tech.

    Really the hardest part of the operation was probably learning how to fly the planes. Other than that it was just exploiting a few easily-correctible security lapses on airplanes, the element of surprise, and the ability to con the passengers into thinking you had a bomb on board.

  • opit||

    That's the cover story the government announced before the ashes had time to cool, complete with lists of perps and tale of how Bu$hCo's 6'4" Saudi prince banker for the CIA employees in Afghanistan/Pakistan dying of kidney failure and requiring dialysis was responsible yet managed to disappear.
    This was the chap whose family the FBI escorted out of the US a week after 9/11.
    The debris from the 'crashes' never were subjected to legally mandated forensic analysis, either. Convenient that the government already knew what had happened, yes ? ( That's more than a touch of snide in that comment, if you had any doubt )

  • ||

    Yes, it was convenient that the culprit was a known known and he was known right away. Luckily his passport was indestructible, unlike the concrete, steel, marble and people that got pulverized to fine dust. I'm so glad we got the right guys and were able to torture them into admitting responsibility. As long as my tax dollars are spent killing men, women and children who might be terrorists in muslim countries, that's money well spent because it makes me safer. It's much better that my tax dollars go towards the killing of those who might try to kill me than those who might try to help me.

  • ||

    The war is only a few hundred years old, It's just getting started. Wait another 50-100 years until it really gets going.

  • ||

    An attack that kills 3,000 citizens—even if only once every 10 years—is nothing to ignore of course...
    ************************************
    Well, thanks for telling us this important fact. Why does a publication like REASON MAGAZINE let someone like this file a report that is going to be sympathetic to the terrorists? It's like obama not being able to say anything, anything, negative about blacks OR terrorists. They just can't do it. Guess what, shikha dalmia? 3,000 AMERICAN lives lost is a big deal....I wouldn't trade them for 2,000,000 from IRAN, IRAQ or any of those terrorists playgrounds. REASON: get rid of this guy!

  • Hardaway Abernathy||

    A worthy position to take, possibly true, and at minimum a serviceable counterbalance to paranoid and reactionary opposite numbers.

    But do consider that the degraded capabilities of Al Qaeda might well be the result of our military and intelligence agencies treating the threat as clear, present and significant, and that to no longer do so -- as your article suggests -- will ultimately serve to disprove your thesis.

  • Jeffersonian||

    In the past year or two alone there has been one successful jihadist strike in America (Major Hassan) and two other near-successful attempts (Times Square and Underwear Bomber). That is evidence enough that there is an active threat.

    Also, the level of sophistication in the 9/11 attacks was its simplicity: 19 Muslim High jackers, Box cutters, and the skill to fly a plane to a target. Simple and deadly.

    This article also does position the argument in utilitarian concerns as far as number killed by terrorism versus bath tubs. The difference of course is that one is a major violation of rights and the rule of law.

  • OnlyNumbers||

    Good points all of them. The author ignores many counterpoints, including falling into the trap of painting a rosy European picture. (How's that political cartoonist gig going?)

    Libertarians have a lot of good ideas, and as an engineer I appreciate a calculated & considered approach, but theres a time to drop the utility function and decide what things will never be tolerated, even in small amounts.

  • OnlyNumbers||

    "...chances of an American being killed by international terrorism during his or her lifetime is about one in 80,000. More people drown in bathtubs every year. “Even if there were a 9/11 scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would be among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent or one in 5,000,” he notes."

    1 in 5000? Why that's only like 60,000 Americans. The author (thankfully) cares about the servicemen who've lost their lives in the Middle East, but happily throws around low # percentages of civilian deaths. Everyone is a fracking number. Yeah. YOU too. Your articles, your comments with your precious thoughts? 99.9% are useless. Blather on, Number, you are insignificant.

    Oh, by the way, that super smart terrorist you described...do you really think he'd be a suicide terrorist if he was that smart? Way to make assumptions where convenient. THAT is how you build a bench: smart enough to do the dirty work without dying. Sure, most people in an open society won't buy into that, but "most" isn't very safe. Just a few smart ones who don't die when they sting makes for a real mess. And oh, you also assumed they have to be very smart--one of the pre-9/11 problems was our security was too dumb/hamstrung to put 1+1 together. Those fanatics could have flown "terrorist-in-training" banners behind those flight school planes and all they'd have gotten was an FAA citation.

  • ||

    Some of the 911 hijackers didn't know that it was a suicide mission.

  • Mr. Mark||

    The reason that al Qaida does not blow people up in American shopping malls is that al Qaida likes extremely spectacular attacks. (See Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology by Lee Harris in Policy Review.)

    But that's just al Qaeda. For them, shopping malls just don't cut it. Anybody could do THAT...for al Qaida, it's all about them - they aren't really pursuing a realistic grand strategy, they are living out a fantasy of being some sort of Islamist version of Beowulf. They need 9/11s to get their fix.

    But al Qaida is only ONE Islamist terror group.

    What about the threat of being beheaded, stabbed, or shot by an Islamist wacko for insulting Mohammed? What about people having to go into hiding because of death threats after holding an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"?

    What do you call that?

    What about groups like Hezbollah, an arm of Iran's genuinely evil regime?

    Sure, the Department of Homeland Security is involved in a lot of time-wasting, innocent citizen-harassing, control-freakism and just-for-show gimmicks, but that does not mean that an Islamic menace does not exist.

    Note that there were still people who tried to blow-up airliners in mid-flight in 2006. Note that we still have had people flying with bombs in their shorts.

    One can easily make the argument that TSA is an ineffective, incompetent joke - because it is. But that doesn't mean there aren't people trying to kill Americans for nutcase religious reasons.

    Furthermore, there are some aspects of the fight against Islamist goons that are very effective. For example, take killing them. That works pretty damn well, from what I've seen. I don't think we've had a single repeat performance by any terrorist yet blasted to smithereens by a Hellfire missile. I've gotta give credit where credit is due, and that approach seems to work pretty well. I'm for it, and subscribe to the school of the thought that say's it's a good idea to reinforce success.

  • David||

    Indeed. Terrorism is *not* an existential threat to this country. If something on the scale of 9/11 happened *every other day* it still wouldn't kill as many Americans as heart disease. It'd have to be every week to top auto accidents. It's just simply not a major threat, even if its frequency was radically increased. Should we still put forth some effort to prevent it? Possibly, if it'll reduce it more than comparable effort might reduce heart disease or auto accidents or any of the other threats to our lives. But with $1 trillion, we probably could have put a bigger dent in something else (directly or indirectly).

  • opit||

    Shh. I'm not sure this lot knows what 'risk assessment' is; or causality either, for that matter.
    BTW Make that 3 trillion or better. If you're willing to add enough to allow for misplaced enthusiasm for murder in faraway places over a long enough time, I doubt there's enough money in the world to account for the total.

  • One Thing||

    I enjoyed the article and find it to be well done. However, I do have a problem with the author calling out climate change proponents. It is foolish to ignore that we have an exponential increase in green house gases today than even 50 years ago.

  • YC||

    I don't think the author was suggesting we should ignore it, but rather that such "warriors" would "maintain that no expenditure is too big to deter [it]". Next to the deniers and the cap-at-any-cost'ers, there's this third group that acknowledges climate change, but thinks we can't afford what it takes to stop it, and so we should adapt to the change instead...

  • ||

    Interesting article. Only thing that spoiled it for me was the gratuitous swipe at climate change "warriors". It left me wondering whether the author was in fact a climate change denialist, which, if so, would damage his credibility more than a little. (Incidentally, the only climate change warriors I've encountered are the denialists, but let's not go down there.)

  • ||

    Its so easy to say all this on hindsight.
    What if OBL had been caught back in 2001-02 itself. What if a single other high-magnitude attack had happened in the US?
    What other options did teh US have anyway, post 9-11?

  • ||

    This argument is full of holes. First, the costs in lives and dollars he listed include Iraq, which didn't really involved dealing with al Qaeda (at least until Saddam was toppled). Second, as with so many war critics, he just says "let's go home." Uh, sorry, if you are going to let Afghanistan or Yemen turn into jihad central, I'd like to hear what you plan to do in response. Yes, the jihadists that are capable of carrying out a major attack are constricted today precisely because of the expenditures this guy bemoans, I'm not so sure they would be as conscripted if we followed his prescription. Now, if he wants to make the argument the entire Middle East isn't worth it, I'd be cheering him on, but that isn't the argument he is making, rather to take him literally we would lower our guard and keep on doing pretty everything else that drives the Islamist rage, I don't hear any call for ending our aid for Israel or our military presence to guard the oil supply.

  • ||

    Wake up. Osama Bin Laden isn't wanted by the FBI for 9/11 because they have no evidence that he or Al Queda was responsible. 9/11 was a false flag operation designed to create an endless war on terror--an ill-defined global conceptual enemy. We're at war with a concept, not known enemy or hostile nation. This war against the concept called terror has no definite end, we just keep killing people we call terrorists indefinitely. The only way the three World Trade Center towers (1, 2 & 7) collapsed at near free fall speed was through some means of controlled demolition. Again, wake up!!!

  • ||

    Am I the only person on this thread that knows the only way for WTC 1, 2 and 7 to collapse symmetrically at near free-fall speed is through some form of controlled demolition?

  • Cognito||

    I'm more worried about the NeoCon terrorist threat.

  • Vancouver_BC||

    As a muslim, I do not understand why "relatively-educated" westerners (not referring to average Joes) do not have any idea about what Islam is and its principles. There is no such a thing as 72 virgins in Islam. Please educate yourselves!
    Secondly, in Islam, a person can not kill another. There is a clear rule against killing innocent people. You can not bend the rule. Those who kill innocent people in the name of God will be punished severely by God. This is the real Islam which almost all Muslims (except a few extremists) are subscribed to. Islam and Muslims are no threat to Western world.

  • ||

    The cost of 9/11 was not only the lives, it in fact WAS the $2 trillion dollars.

    We cannot change that stupidity.

    Al Qaeda is smarter than you think. They may be weak, but they cost us $2 trillion in damage!

  • dr kissinger||

    The Islamists are a mortal threat to Israel our only chosen ally.

    You can see their websites and they all support the middle east Islamic revolutions.

    http://www.islamist.com/p20630.....rising.cfm

    dr.k.

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • قبلة الوداع||

    ThaNk U

  • دليل||

    azsasc

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