Why Orange You Grateful?

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New at Reason: Brian Doherty explains the real function of the color-coded threat alert system.

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  1. >SUV and was running a metal detector device under
    >its carriage.

    I’ve seen those, and I believe it is nothing more than a mirror to see the undercarriage; presumably to find bombs and whatnot.

  2. The Sci-Fi channel is running a “Twilight Zone” marathon today, check out “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”. The terrorists don’t have to attack anything anymore, just increase their “Chater” and issue a couple of warnings and we go into a panic. Do that every couple of of months and eventually we bankrupt ourselves.

  3. For Brian

    On the premise that “our policies” caused attacks on our soil, why haven’t attacks become more common? Have “our policies” been modified to the satisfaction of potential terrorists?

  4. It’s a roust, giving space for the real security guys to do their job while Homeland Security provides misdirection. The more hassle the better it works.

  5. This article receives my vote for best use in 2003 of the all too-underused word “retcon”.

  6. The interesting part is the schizophrenia demanded of civilians.

    Pay close attention to this necessary information provided by your government about how likely it is that you will be blown up by a terrorist, then go about your normal business without doing anything to counter it. Spending billions of tax dollars to keep nail clippers off passenger (but not cargo) airliners is perfectly reasonable, but spending a couple of hundred bucks getting a concealed handgun license is paranoid.

    Meanwhile, all of TM Lutas’ new recruits are learning Terrorism 101’s first rule: Strike where the government isn’t.

  7. Raising chatter for false attacks is great fun but it doesn’t solve Al Queda’s basic problem of maintaining organizational strength. The terrorists need constant recruits because they’re losing their current operatives. The attrition rate comes from

    1. moderate muslim clerics who convince a certain number of al queda members that what they’re doing is contrary to the will of Allah

    2. wives and other family members who talk them out of it.

    3. a loss of nerve, too worried about a knock on the door from the CIA/MI-5/Mossad/whoever

    4. a real knock on the door from CIA/MI-5/Mossad/whoever

    5. Normal illness, old age, accidents, the normal stuff of life.

    To counteract that, they have to constantly replace members, recruiting new ones to do everything from being simple couriers to high level planners. It’s a daunting task. The one big thing they have to offer is successful operations. Without major blows struck against the West, especially the US, their recruits will go elsewhere.

    If we can hold together another year without major US incident, Al Queda will implode as their attrition rate far exceeds their ability to recruit with stale old tales of 9/11. The death knell for Al Queda will very likely sound like “Sure, old man, you were good, but you kicked over a hornets nest and never did anything big again. What use are you now?”

  8. Provoking false alarms from al-quaida may be the point of the exercise. To supply even disinformation to an opponent involves some exposure to risk. These are costly games, but al-qaida’s resources are far more finite than ours.

    Both Brian Doherty, and the Nation’s Van Babe seem to think– based on not much of anything– that they share a deep insight into the point of the alerts. I am less than sure of this, myself.

  9. To go along with the “scare us into obeying the government” theory – Fox News has started to keep the terror level on their screen permanently, as if it’s part of their logo. No other stations are doing so.

  10. Andrew:

    Our policies have definitely been modified to reduce terrorist activity.

    Under the last administration, we had no policy. We almost randomly responded with appeasement, embarassingly and uselessly weak military “gestures”, or simply by ignoring the problem.

    Under the current administration, we do have a policy. The policy is “We kill people who are trying to kill us.” It’s simple, it’s clear, and it seems to be working.

  11. As far as our policies re: terrorism – I have a sneaking not-quite-a-conspiracy-theory that the Bush administration likes keeping our troops in Iraq because they serve as a very visible, very intrusive public symbol of the US and help draw off attacks that might otherwise land someplace more damaging. Terrorists don’t like doing more work or spending more money than necessary any more than the rest of us – why should Walid the Suicide Bomber take the time and effort of getting to America when he could just travel a few hundred miles to a big juicy target in Iraq? Who knows, it could be on the minds of the administration…

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