Al Qaeda: So Over

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In Foreign Policy, John Mueller has the perfect article to read while standing in line for a plane, dumping out your scary liquids, and watching the latest Fox News Alert on one of the airport TVs. Is there still a terrorist threat? How much should we actually worry about it? Is the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists equivilent to that of 1930s fascists? ("No" to the last one, obviously.)

Although it remains heretical to say so, the evidence so far suggests
that fears of the omnipotent terrorist—reminiscent of those inspired
by images of the 20-foot-tall Japanese after Pearl Harbor or the
20-foot-tall Communists at various points in the Cold War (particularly
after Sputnik)—may have been overblown, the threat presented within
the United States by al Qaeda greatly exaggerated. The massive and
expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be
persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all
to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists.

It didn't take long for Reason to poke holes in the terrorism hysteria (most recently here and here). It's taken five years to make that point in the pages of a musty, serious journal. How long will it take to point this out in the mainstream media, in politics, at Thanksgiving dinner? (I realize some people might not want to ruin their Thanksgivings by talking about this. Well, 9/11 changed everything.)

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  1. The War on Terror will be over when al Qaeda has its own reality show.

  2. “How long will it take to point this out in the mainstream media, in politics, at Thanksgiving dinner?”

    How long will it take for you to remind of this post ofter the next terrorist attack?

  3. Speaking of the War On Scary Liquids, it seems terrorists have struck without actually stiking:
    http://www.startribune.com/467/story/629345.html

    Air at MSP airport being tested after 19 fall ill inside

    “Pepper spray or Mace was likely to blame for closing the area around a checkpoint.

    Discarded pepper spray or Mace was the likely culprit in a chemical alarm Tuesday morning at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that sent 19 workers to area hospitals.”

  4. The airport security is misguided, a roust that is a theater of inconvenience to prove authorities are doing something, but most of it is in fact working.

    You can’t pull off something really dastardly without an organization of size B.

    But an organization of size B is easy enough to detect and subvert that it is killed off before it does anything.

    Once you’ve got the financial hassling and chasing around going well enough, you can catch all the size B bad guys, and you’ve won.

    One of the side effects is that there’s no threatening organization, which is what we see, so that isn’t a good yardstick.

    Now, there’s a keeps-the-elephants-away trap, but al Qaeda actually did have a pretty big organization once, and they don’t now.

    What happens in the background is that organizations start up, and grow, and before they do anything, get caught, owing to the ongoing program.

    That, you can look for.

  5. One reason al Qaeda and “al Qaeda types” seem not to be trying very hard to repeat 9/11 may be that that dramatic act of destruction itself proved counterproductive by massively heightening concerns about terrorism around the world. No matter how much they might disagree on other issues (most notably on the war in Iraq), there is a compelling incentive for states — even ones such as Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria — to cooperate in cracking down on al Qaeda, because they know that they could easily be among its victims. The FBI may not have uncovered much of anything within the United States since 9/11, but thousands of apparent terrorists have been rounded, or rolled, up overseas with U.S. aid and encouragement.

    Okay, so the article admits that the reason why Al Quaeda is no longer a threat is because the U.S. government and other governments around the world responded and “roounded or rolled up” thousands of terrorists. Yet, that response was unnecessary because Al Quada is no longer a threat? Seems to me that the security actions taken have been largely successful and Al Quada is having a hard time launching anymore terrorist actions. And that is an argument for ending those very same security precautions how?

  6. “How long will it take to point this out in the mainstream media, in politics, at Thanksgiving dinner?”

    I’m guessing that if your turkey is cooked at a nice even temperature of 375 degrees for 3 to 4 hours, you’ll probably be talking about it this Thanksgiving. On the other hand, if it is cooked in milliseconds after a thermonuclear device is exploded in your neighborhood by one of those whacky, inspector Closeau terrorists, you may have to wait a while to do the pully bone thing.

  7. How long will it take for you to remind of this post ofter the next terrorist attack?

    Define “Terrorist.” Define “Attack.”

    Since the current trend is to label burnt-out, south-Florida losers as “terrorists” and to label a handful of Brits (most without passports and without even a nebulous grasp of high school chemistry) as masterminds of an “imminent attack” on America, who knows?

    The plot behind the recent airline scare is turning out to be almost hilariously unrealistic as stoners leveling the Sears Tower, UN onservers finding WMDs in Iraq or anyone anywhere locating the whereabouts of Lemuria.

    I’m not saying there is no attack possibility. But if putting people on alert for obvious, politicially-driven silliness like this only to have them later “aw shucks, not again” some genuine threat, that will hardly be opportunity for you to level an “I told you so.”

  8. Mossad just hasn’t given the word yet.

  9. Madpad: the “military lawyer” won’t understand what you wrote. Please make a note that, for him, it’s spelled “looser”. Probably his way of communicating the transformation the screw in his head is undergoing…..

  10. ‘s foreign affairs

    not

    foreign policy

  11. there is a compelling incentive for states — even ones such as Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria — to cooperate in cracking down on al Qaeda, because they know that they could easily be among its victims.

    Not really. States like that only get concerned about threats to their power, and then marginally threats to their markets and populations. The occasional blown up embassy (which tend to kill more locals than they do foreigners) is not a threat to their power or their perceived ability to wield it. When they start blowing up secret police headquarters or army barracks, then it becomes a problem and the crackdowns begin – and it is very easy for repressive regimes to excise the stability threats as they aren’t too worried about throwing innocents in jail.

    They also keenly understand their role as B-list targets. And like the wankish comedians populating the neverending parade of ‘review’ shows on VH-1, terrorists know it looks better to bring down the big game than to harangue the Anna Nicole Smiths and “Road Rules”-stars of world politics. Thus the smaller states’ chances of being significant victims of terrorism are directly proportional to their usefulness to the big list players.

  12. We’re all terrorists now.

  13. The War on Terror will be over when al Qaeda has its own reality show.

    That may be a while. I’m still waiting for the MLK Day furniture and carpet sales.

  14. The plot behind the recent airline scare is turning out to be almost hilariously unrealistic as stoners leveling the Sears Tower,

    That sounds like what FBI headquarters was saying to that Arizona special agent when he wrote them a memo about a bunch of middle eastern guys signing up for time on 767 flight simulators. I mean, where are they going to get some of *those*?

    My point is that hindsight is 20/20, and without the attack in question actually happening, it’s easy to label it as ‘laughable’. And then when it does happen, we look for someone who “should’ve known” and label *them* as incompetent. What’s the solution? I don’t know. Are we in imminent terrorist danger? I don’t know. But I don’t blame some spooks for taking this stuff too seriously these days.

  15. How long will it take for you to remind of this post ofter the next terrorist attack?

    Not long I should think; that is precisely when we need be reminded that a terrorist attack is a very unlikely way to die. I will feel no less assured of the vanishingly small chance of being killed in an airplane crash when my friend who is afraid of flying calls my attention to the next airline disaster. That an event will certainly happen does not undermine an argument that the current assessment of the risk is greatly exaggerated, nor that the costs borne to mitigate the risk are, therefore, largely wasted.

  16. Perhaps one reason there have been no further attacks is that Al-qaida and Bin-Laden have gotten what they said they wanted in the first place. They wanted the US to withdraw our troops from Saudi Arabia.

    We did.

  17. My point is that hindsight is 20/20, and without the attack in question actually happening, it’s easy to label it as ‘laughable’.

    Your excellent point notwithstanding, the “laughable” aspect is (for me) twofold:

    First: that the abilities of the “british air terrorists” were hardly at the ‘imminent’ stage. Most had no passports or access to funds and hadn’t even purchased tickets.

    Second: the mechanics of creating and detonating a TATP chemical bomb require several hours of cooking after they’re mixed.

    IOW, it’s unlikely they would have been able to pull something like this off given the publicly known facts.

  18. It seems true the specific “al Queda(TM)” threat is nothing like the 1930’s fascists, but Islamism(radical islam, whatever the P.C. buzzword is) is a lot closer to being that level of threat, and terrorism is merely a political tool of it. Iran’s Aminijan, or whatever the heck his name is, is about as close to A.H. in his promises to kill the Jews first, then everyone else after, as anyone and needs to be taken seriously. History should have taught us that words like this are not empty words.

    Both left and right have politicized the threat, to our detriment. Repubs by using the word terrorist to describe virtually every person who fights the US. The Dems on the other hand seems to feel that there is no real threat, except Bush. Bush is irritating, but I’d rather be irritated than blown up.

    This post seems at first reading to be in the “there’s no more threat” camp. There is no omni-potent terrorist, for sure, but there are enough determined mediocre ones to ensure that the threat still is in fact, very real. The name al Queda is no longer important. So what if al-Queda, the official club is beaten. You don’t have to be a member of the club to pull off an attack.
    After all that, I still think it’s dumb to take away my toothpaste. If I’m going to die, at least I can die with fresh breath. I was okay with long fingernails, I could chew those off.

  19. “Al Qaeda: So Over”

    Yes, but the War on Terror still gets two snaps and a hip swivel. [/In Living Color reference]

  20. I like Andrew’s thinking.

    I don’t want to withdraw our troops from Iraq – that would just be giving the terrorists what they want.

    Instead, as the next mission in the Global War on Terror, I propose that we invade and occupy Diego Garcia.

  21. Hey Joe, I think we already occupy Diego Garcia. Need to come up with another one.

  22. OK, Kuwait. There’s a lot of space in Kuwait that would be just perfect for parking Abrams tanks.

    We’ve accomplished our mission in Iraq. If you don’t want to liberate large, vacant stretches of the Kuwaiti desert, you’re with the terrorists.

  23. “The FBI may not have uncovered much of anything within the United States since 9/11, but thousands of apparent terrorists have been rounded, or rolled, up overseas with U.S. aid and encouragement.”

    Apparent terrorist? How is it “apparent” that anyone is a terrorist?

    Did you mean suspected terrorist? That’s a different ballgame. Anyone can be suspected of anything. They say you can indict a ham sandwich. Particularly when the term “terrorist” is loosely defined, it could mean anything the powers that be want it to. Ambiguity favors the tyrants.

    The current FBI definition would imprison our founding fathers and all who fought against the ruling power of England for the purpose of political change. I cannot agree with that. It is an impeachment of the creation of this country.

    In some cases it?s as if the ?terrorist patrol? knocked on your door and said ?terrorist says what? and when you say ?what?, you?re a headline in the newspapers and your fodder on the Rush O?Hannity show. Kinda like the lawyer from Oregon(?) who?s fingerprints linked him to the Madrid attacks, then we find out that wasn?t true. How do you screw-up fingerprint evidence? Well, we did. The so called war on terror has taken false accusations to new level and if you care about those being falsely accused, you?re called a traitor.

  24. “The FBI may not have uncovered much of anything within the United States since 9/11, but thousands of apparent terrorists have been rounded, or rolled, up overseas with U.S. aid and encouragement.”

    Apparent terrorist? How is it apparent that anyone is a terrorist?

    Did you mean suspected terrorist? That’s a different ballgame. Anyone can be suspected of anything. They say you can indict a ham sandwich. Particularly when the term “terrorist” is loosely defined, it could mean anything the powers that be want it to. Ambiguity favors the tyrants.

    The current FBI definition would imprison our founding fathers and all who fought against the ruling power of England for the purpose of political change. I cannot agree with that. It is an impeachment of the creation of this country.

    In some cases it?s as if the ?terrorist patrol? knocked on your door and said ?terrorist says what? and when you say ?what?, you?re a headline in the newspapers and your fodder on the cable news shows. Kinda like the lawyer from Oregon who?s fingerprints linked him to the Madrid attacks, then we find out that wasn?t true. How do you screw-up fingerprint evidence? Well, we did.

    The so called war on terror has taken false accusations to new level and if you care about those being falsely accused, you?re called a traitor.

  25. joe

    What do you take to be my thinking?

    I think the mission in Afghanistan is over – the Taliban has been dispersed, and are unlikely to ever regain control of Afghan…and if they did, we can deal with that contingency then. Chasing Bin-Ladin with an army isn’t worth it – it just isn’t that important to arrest or kill him (and never was).

    I think the mission in Iraq was ill-conceived, and is now a failure. (Or – on account of removing Saddam – you can call it a fully-realised success…if that makes anyone feel better.)

    I don’t otherwise see any reason to station troops in Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen or Saudi…or anywhere else in the region. And I don’t think it’s wise.

    I DON’T believe the “terrorists” will follow us to the homeland if we disengage promptly.

    No one credits BL for being good to his word. He attacked the USS Cole, the African embassy, and finally targets in the US because – HE SAID – he felt having on significant “infidel” force on the soil of the Arab Nation was an affront to the homeland of the Holy Cities.

    We DON’T have significant numbers of troops in SA anymore…and he hasn’t attacked.

    Sometimes life can be just that simple.

    I guess that’s just not in the Democratic play-book of talking points, because it sounds whimpy, or something.

  26. Andrew,

    “joe

    What do you take to be my thinking?”

    That we need a good cover story when doing something in our own interest that is also desired by Islamist fanatics. Such as pulling our troops out of Saudi Arabia.

    If we refuse to do anything they want, regardless of whether it is best for us, then they are controlling our behavior just as much as if we were going out of our way to accede to their wishes.

    Also, you display the same state-centric blindness as Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld. Overthrowing the Taliban was a second-tier objective. The major objectives were to deny Al Qaeda the use of a country’s land and resources, to destroy as much of their infrastructure and personnel as possible, and to bring bin Laden’s head back to Washington on a platter. Routing the Taliban was merely a means to an end.

    I think we need to maintain a presence in the region to be able to respond effectively to crises. I just don’t want to be all up in the faces of people going about their daily business.

    I think much of what bin Laden says is propaganda, to try to link his global milleniumism with the particular grievances of Muslims on the ground. Unlike Hezbollah, Iran, or the Taliban, Al Qaeda really does have global ambitions, and not just regional ones.

  27. (I realize some people might not want to ruin their Thanksgivings by talking about this. Well, 9/11 changed everything.)

    Over at our place, we change the topic to politics and religion to cool things down. …Thanksgiving must be awesome over at the Weigel’s house!

  28. David Weigel cross-posted this at a blog where last week Andrew Sullivan was pulling a nutty conspiracy theory out of his ass that the terror arrests in Britain were just a bunch of hype to distract from…Ned Lamont. No surprise he thinks there’s not much of a threat from Islamic Terrorism in America.

    A comment in this thread: I will feel no less assured of the vanishingly small chance of being killed in an airplane crash when my friend who is afraid of flying calls my attention to the next airline disaster. That an event will certainly happen does not undermine an argument that the current assessment of the risk is greatly exaggerated….

    This person agrees with the silly editorial Weigel links to that pretends that an Amerircan should not be so worried about 10 airpliners being blown up over American cities because you’re far more likely to die in a car crash.

    I scratched my head at this. Since 9/11 I’ve not thought that the chances were high that I’d personally be killed in a terrorist attack. Yes, there was a foiled plot in my state of Ohio where terrorists were plotting to blow up a shopping mall, but the odds would be extremely low that I’d have been blown up if that plot had been carried out.

    What I’ve thought about is what will happen to America beyond just the immediate victims of an atrocity if an even larger-scale attack occurs in one of our cities.

    On 9/11, it could very well have been the case than 50,000 or even 100,000 people might’ve been murdered, considering how many people worked in the WTC and the possibility that the buildings might have fallen sideways. Furthermore, the 9/11 plot attempted to “decapitate” our government by slamming a plane into the Capitol building. As awful as 9/11 was, it was intended to be far more awful and very well might’ve been.

    Let’s say the ten airlines had exploded over U.S. cities in the foiled terror plot. Thousands might’ve been killed, the airline industry would be in complete crisis, it would’ve cost billions to our economy, and who knows what other consequences.

    If we woke up tomorrow and some sort of attack killed 100,000 people in Los Angeles, what would America be like afterwards? Would there be martial law? Would there be a Patrioc Act Times 10 passed the next week?

    Look at how poorly the government was able to handle a natural disaster in New Orleans – a hurricane they KNEW was going to hit in advance. Choas, confusion, incompetance, etc etc. I remember when my city (Cleveland) was part of that massive blackout in the poweer grid a couple years ago. It was only a few days without electricity or water yet I sensed how quickly things can fall apart as I scrambled in competition to grab the last few water bottles at one of the few grocery stores with a generator.

    The reason I support Bush’s foreign policy is because the large-scale terrorist attacks – particularly with state-sponsorhip – have the potential to have destabilizing effects on our society and economy. I’ve not supported everything this administration has done. I thought they rushed too quickly into sweeping legislation, for example, before we even knew what had occurred on 9/11. But that’s what governments always do after a crisis. And I think the way they’re handling searches at airports is a joke designed for show.

    But if, in the last 5 years, we had been hit by an even bigger attack, the Patriot Act, the NSA program, etc., would look like the good old days. You’re dreaming if you think otherwise. We might not be able to prevent every terrorist attack, but the large-scale ones HAVE TO be foiled. And Bush had it exactly right that the way to do that for the long-term is to change the status-quo in the Middle East. Because America is an open society and needs to remain an open society.

    It’s difficult to work out what we should be accepting and what we should be protesting with regard to the War on Terrorism. But I do not take people seriously when they wanna tell me there is nothing to worry about. It’s far too easy for someone like Weigel to say such things, since he has no responsibility should worst case scenerios occur. I wonder if he’d be so carefree it if he was sitting in the White House and it was his job to protect America.

  29. This person agrees with the silly editorial Weigel links to that pretends that an Amerircan should not be so worried about 10 airpliners being blown up over American cities because you’re far more likely to die in a car crash.

    I think the point is that we’re over-insured, so to speak, not that there isn’t any threat. There’s a devastating threat of an incoming meteor–how much should we spend to stop that from happening? I think the answer is not more than we need to, and I think they’re saying that we’re spending too much.

    If we woke up tomorrow and some sort of attack killed 100,000 people in Los Angeles, what would America be like afterwards? Would there be martial law? Would there be a Patrioc Act Times 10 passed the next week?

    I know someone who won’t eat any ice cream because she’s afraid she’ll get diabetes and won’t be able to eat ice cream.

    I reject the argument that we should trash the Constitution and the Bill of Rights becaue if we don’t, the denziens of the future will trash the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    …and I think the American people are less cowardly than that. That if we were properly led, we wouldn’t throw away the best part of being American just ’cause somebody killed some of us. We’re a stand up bunch. ..and we’ve stood up to worse than that.

  30. I think the mission in Iraq was ill-conceived, and is now a failure. (Or – on account of removing Saddam – you can call it a fully-realised success…if that makes anyone feel better.)

    Are you the same Andrew that I used to argue with all the time? The email address seems to be the same, but the sentiments are surprising.

    I would say that there is still some work to be done in Afghanistan, given that the London group apparently got assistance from people on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

  31. joe

    “to deny Al Qaeda the use of a country’s land and resources, to destroy as much of their infrastructure and personnel as possible, and to bring bin Laden’s head back to Washington on a platter”

    Mission accomplished!!!

    Except for the last…which – does no one else dare say this? – is NOT all that important.
    Of course we could kill some more AQ’s in the hills, or something…but don’t pursuits like this show diminishing and even negative returns at some point? Is it sensible to keep an army in Afghanistan for that?

    The only crises in the region our presence would be “needed” to respond to, are the crises in the region our presence would provoke.

    We should never have sent troops to Afghanistan in the first place: we should have relied on air-power, Special Ops and the Northern Front…and this would have been a great time (better late than never) to normalise our relations with Iran.

    And we should never have made catching Bin-laden the benchmark for success – that was to truly become HIS hostage.

    You talk this shit because it’s the mac of the Democratic Party – Me Too Tough On Terror! It is the way the opposition got sucked into the open-ended GWOT from the very beginning.

    “as much…as possible” is always an unfortunate turn of phrase.

  32. joe

    “unlike Hezbollah, Iran, or the Taliban, Al Qaeda really does have global ambitions, and not just regional ones.”

    All islamists, like all Marxists, have global delusions and global wet-dreams. Fidel and Raul still believe in World Revolution…someday.

    It doesn’t make any difference.

    BL had regional goals too…he just had a series of them, because he was an “on-the-make” kinda guy. Afghanistan, Somalia, Kashmir, Chechnya, Saudi, Iraq. He was a bored millionaire, like Perot.

    Hello thoreau!
    And – alive or dead – he’s history.

  33. QUOTE from above….
    If we woke up tomorrow and some sort of attack killed 100,000 people in Los Angeles, what would America be like afterwards? Would there be martial law? Would there be a Patrioc Act Times 10 passed the next week?

    No, but there would be an incremental improvement for us in San Diego……

  34. Hello Andrew!

    LoafingOaf-

    You say that if we are attacked again, and it’s severe enough, we’ll find ourselves in a situation that makes the Patriot Act look mild.

    You’re probably right. But what makes you think that the Patriot Act, or any of the other bad things done by our government since 9/11, would actually foil terrorists? Giving the gov’t more power and blunt instruments is not the way to go. Stopping terrorism will require good detective work and good intelligence, not stumbling around with blunt instruments.

    Sadly, I fear that if we are hit hard enough the American people will surrender their freedom. But I don’t think that loss of freedom makes us safer. It’s an illusion. Just look at how much damage the Chechens have done in Russia, which is a fairly illiberal place last I heard.

  35. Andrew,

    We most certainly did not destroy as much of Al Qaeda’s personnel as possible. Remember Tora Bora? There were 30,000 American troops garrisoning Kabul when Osama and hundreds of his followers walked out the back door under the careful guidance of the local warlord.

    In addition to the ability to attack us that these escaped terrorists represent, their ability to very publically live to fight another day is a blow to our prestige, and a boon to theirs.

    I supposed “at some point” we’d see diminishing returns, but that point comes well after the President goes on television, rolls footage of Osama’s corpse, and reminds people of his promise to destroy the people who attacked us on September 11.

    “The only crises in the region our presence would be “needed” to respond to, are the crises in the region our presence would provoke.” I disagree. Not everything bad that happens is our fault.

    “You talk this shit because it’s the mac of the Democratic Party – Me Too Tough On Terror!”

    I talk this way because I saw our greatest city put to the sword and the torch, and it would be bad business to allow the people who did it to get away with it.

    “It is the way the opposition got sucked into the open-ended GWOT from the very beginning.” Quite the opposite, it was the refusal to define their own affirmative plan for fighting terror that allowed the Democrats to be sucked into the idiotic Bushite War on Terror.

  36. …You can’t pull off something really dastardly without an organization of size B…

    I disagree. Unless by ‘organization of size B’ you mean a size of one.

    Imagine one guy who carries hand cream into the airport and runs for the gates when the guards tell him to drop it.

    Security will shut the airport down for hours. People may have to de-plane and be re-screened.
    Hundreds or maybe thousands of people will be delayed and discouraged from flying again.

    The news media will report it across the nation and several thousand (million?) more people will be upset.

    All these ‘dastardly’ events from one guy with hand lotion who runs when confronted. Imagine if they guy set off some firecrackers at the screening gate instead. Multiply the ‘dastardly’ events by 1,000 I figure.

    20 years ago the firecracker thing may have gotten him arrested (probably) and that would be that. No news story, no panic, no airport shut down.

    To my mind no amount of WoT as it is currently being waged will resolve this problem.

  37. Andrew,

    There is a difference between believing that it would be nice, someday, for the whole world to be Muslim, and actively working to make it so.

    Iranian and Hezbollah intellectuals may dream of a world caliphate, but in practice, they are quite content to stay in their own backyard.

  38. The war in Afghanistan was a war of self-defense and I have no problem keeping troops in Afghanistan at least as long as we’ve kept them in Japan.

  39. joe

    To respond to your last point:

    “Iranian and Hezbollah intellectuals may dream of a world caliphate, but in practice, they are quite content to stay in their own backyard”

    This is just as true of B-L…although I don’t think OBL or the remnants of his transnational organisation are serious players anymore.

    OBL believed he WAS playing in his back-yard, when he bombed the twin towers, so long as we had troops in Saudi…no one takes him at his word on this, despite all the nonsense about ME “expertise”.

    His actions make sense from his own world-view. 1.) He wanted US out of Saudi, for reasons that seemed compelling to him.

    2.) Like every terrorist he rationalised his choice of soft targets based on the assymetrical nature of the contest, while actually being mindful of security and availibility.

    3.) He proceeded step-wise, with a significant time-lag between events, to give us a face-saving opportunity to heed his wishes.

    4.) He proceeded from an American associated target in Saudi itself – Khobar – to an American military asset in the region – the Cole in Yemen – to an American political asset ouside the region – Kenya embassy – to a target within the US itself. All attended with lots of fanfare. Of course, much depended on the availibility of targets…but the progression is unmistakeable.

    5.) Finally we got our troops out of Saudi. No more attacks on the homeland, and no more attacks on American assets anywhere…

    …EXCEPT FOR THE TROOPS WE HAVE PLACED IN THE REGION, IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.

    Apart from us, AQ and its affiliates have attacked all sorts of parties, for all sorts of reasons, but they have left all American targets – civilian or military, inside or outside of the US homeland – well alone.

    Except for the troops in Iraq, and the troops in Afghanistan (who, after all, are chasing them).

  40. “The only crises in the region our presence would be “needed” to respond to, are the crises in the region our presence would provoke.”

    I disagree. Not everything bad that happens is our fault.

    Got it wrong there joe.

    A “bad thing” happening in the Mid East (eg. the destruction of Gaza or Lebanon) is NOT a crisis for the United States – not a crisis our “presence” would be needed to respond to.

    We don’t need to respond to “bad things” in the Mid East…Israel isn’t bombing OUR infrastructure – Hezbollah isn’t firing rockets at us.

  41. joe

    the world is filled with unrepentant murderers who escape justice..including thugs who have brutalized and murdered Americans in bunches (civilians, and soldiers in circumstances where it was not honarable to harm them) and who have escaped OUR justice.

    Among them you can ponder Chinese and North Koreans during the Korean War and the North Vietnamese. Also the PLO and like factions, Hizbollah, the Somali islamists, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iraqi insurgents.

    Make a speech about how it isn’t over in Iraq until every insurgent who brutalized an American soldier or civilian is brought before our justice?

  42. We DON’T have significant numbers of troops in SA anymore…and he hasn’t attacked.

    Sometimes life can be just that simple.

    I must’ve missed the tape of Bin Laden thanking Bush for getting out of Saudi Arabia and saying it was all cool. You’d think he would be pissed about America putting his buddies the Taliban out of power and reducing his existance to cave hoping but apparentley he’s a forgiving kind of guy.

    In all seriousness, I’m more inclined to agree with the recent foreign affairs article and believe Bin Laden hasn’t attacked the US because he simply hasn’t been able to. I certainly don’t think its because he’s had a change of heart.

  43. What pages could be mustier than those of the December 6 2004 issue of The American Conservative, bearing an article entitled :

    ‘Weaker Than We Think
    Al-Qaeda may have already fired its best shot.’

    By Russell Seitz
    Whole thing at:
    http://www.amconmag.com/2004_12_06/article.html

  44. Loafingoaf eloquently laid out the best reply to the nonsensical argument of Weigel and other Reasonoids that the threat of serious terror is over. 9/11 could have been much worse. The ability on the part of intelligent people to deny what is staring at them never fails to amaze. Yes, we should avoid silly measures, continue to lead our normal lives – that is a good way to give the finger to terrorism – but to pretend that the danger has gone away is the luxury for those with 20/20 rearview vision.

    No wonder libertarians have a hard time getting taken seriously on foreign policy issues if they write complacent articles like this.

  45. It is not a question of Bin-Ladin’s “change of heart” – his heart has always been here.

    OBL and AQ don’t CARE about the outside world, and never have. North America didn’t EXIST when the Koran was written. Osama doesn’t give a fuck about us, our decadence or our freedom. He isn’t trying to change us at all, except to change our behavior toward him, and the world he inhabits. He just wants us to leave.

    He has definable, finite, and even achievable goals…and it is senseless to try to thwart him (or successor Islamists) because they aren’t goals we would choose for our own lives, if it doesn’t otherwise serve our national interests.

    There is no supreme national interest in capturing or killing OBL or the rest of the surviving AQ. joe’s “hundreds of followers” likey pose less of a threat to the American homeland, or American intersts anywhere outside of the ME region, than the Sunni insurgents, the Mahdi militia, or Hisbollah and Hamas.

    OBL ceased to be a threat when the Northern Front took Kabul, and no significant Coalition troops had yet arrived in Afghanistan.

    It is reasonable to want to get him. We should never cease making every diplomatic and law-enforcement effort – probably every covert intellegence and special ops effort – to get him if we can.

    But is senseless to leave an army in the region to chase kangeroos in the outback, for “as long as it takes”.

  46. Andrew,

    “This is just as true of B-L.”

    Um, no, not really. He has both spoken about his global ambitions, and ordered attacks in the United States, Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

    “Apart from us, AQ and its affiliates have attacked all sorts of parties, for all sorts of reasons, but they have left all American targets – civilian or military, inside or outside of the US homeland – well alone.”

    What?

    “Make a speech about how it isn’t over in Iraq until every insurgent who brutalized an American soldier or civilian is brought before our justice?” It ain’t me, babe. There’s a world of difference between killing soldiers in a war and killing civilians in their homes and workplaces.

    “joe’s “hundreds of followers” likey pose less of a threat to the American homeland, or American intersts anywhere outside of the ME region, than the Sunni insurgents, the Mahdi militia, or Hisbollah and Hamas.” Neither Iraqi Baathists, nor Iraqi Shia, nor Hizbollah, nor Hamas have ever even attempted to launch a single terror attack on American soil. This is what makes Al Qaeda a unique threat, and why I believe they, as opposed to those other groups, warrant a strong response from the US.

    Jonathan Pearce, “The ability on the part of intelligent people to deny what is staring at them never fails to amaze.” Tell the truth, Jonathan – you said the same thing about Iraqi WMDs, didn’t you?

  47. Jonathan, No one here is pretending that the danger has gone away. I think everyone here would agree that OBL, AQ, and other groups dream and sometimes plot to attack us. Terrorism has been with us for over 26 years.

    Most of us simply question the amount of danger posed to Americans.

    You are more likely to be struck by lightning, hit by a car, murdered by a spouse, die needlessly in a hospital, than killed by terrorism.

    So if the question becomes one of saving the most lives, investing in almost everyting other than anti-terrorism would bring you a better return on your money.

    If you look at the numbers, terrorism is not as big of a problem as it is being sold to us. Governments use emergencies to amass power for themselves. Many laws passed by Congress have been desired by Justice for a decade or so. The government has dreamed of ways to get around the Bill of Rights and have been waiting for an opportunity to do so. 9/11 made it ripe and they acted. One truth to terrorist attacks you will not hear is that a good plan, well executed, will almost always succeed regardless of the obstacles. We could fly naked with no baggage and they could still bring down a plane. So the question is, how authoritarian do you want to go?

    What is wrong with libertarians asking if it?s worth it?

    Many people have been talking about the ?balance? between liberty and security. Not one of those people believes liberty is as important as security. They use the word ?balance? to try to make us feel better about it. The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act requires a committee to ensure civil liberties are protected. Not one individual has been appointed to that committee to date. Nor have I heard of any rejection to an anti-terror tactic by this government because of civil liberty concerns.

    So much for balance.

  48. joe,

    AQ has NOT attacked an American target since 9/11…that’s the point of this thread, right?

    The only places where Americans get killed by AQ is where we have committed troops IN their region.

    BTW And – in my case of Iraqi insurgents – this includes journalists, aid-workers, returning Iraqis with American citizenship and soldiers in captivity…NOT legitimate targets of even a guerilla war

    Even the “international” events turn out NOT to be AQ The Bali bombers, the Madrid bombers and the London bombers had about as much to do with AQ as the Algerian kids burning cars in Paris. Sure everything in the Moslem world is “connected” to AQ…and Mossad, the 12th Imman and the Illuminati.

    You have not given one substantive reason to leave troops with the Coalition in Afghanistan.

    We may confront Iran…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    We may get trapped in a sectarian war in Iraq…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    Mushariff may be killed and Pakistan becomes the looniest Islamist state yet…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    India and Pakistan may go to war…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    Denmark may publish more catoons, and another nerd may find Jesus, and the Afghan street goes nuts…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    Israel may bomb Lebanon again, and the entire region could go ape-shit…how does it help to have troops in Afghan?

    We haven’t caught Bin-Ladin in five years, what makes you think it will be easier to catch him in the next five?

    And he hasn’t attacked our homeland, nor any of our assets outside the region for five years – all our problems since have been of our own making.

    It just goes to show how the Democratic policy is “neo-con lite”. You think you can build a nation more easily in Afghanistn…but Afghan is going nowhere.

  49. Andrew,

    “AQ has NOT attacked an American target since 9/11…that’s the point of this thread, right?”

    I guess Richard Reid doesn’t count. Nor the recent plot against airliners flying between Britain and the US.

    Having troops in the region gives options in case of a contingency. Do I know exactly how they are to be used? No – it’s called “keeping your options open.”

    I don’t want to keep troops in Afghanist for “nation-building” – I want our troops to stay the hell out of that country’s internal affairs as much as possible. I want them there to achieve military objectives – to fight the resurgent Taliban, to chase bin Laden (which I never said would be easy, just necessary), and to generally be available to deal with the unexpected. I’ve been consistent, going back to before the Iraq War started, that I don’t believe an invading and occupaying army can impose democracy, that democracy has to come from within each society through its own organic process, and that the presence of meddling Americans only retards this process.

    I don’t really blame you for not understanding the Democratic position on these matters, and filling in the blanks incorrectly. It’s not as if there has been a great deal of effort by the Democrats to lay out their vision, and it’s not as if the press has been paying attention when they do.

    But you’ve made several guesses about what my beliefs and motivations are, and you’ve struck out across the board. Maybe you don’t really understand what Democrats believe, and should stop assuming that you do.

    BTW, are you actually asking me why having troops available on the ground in a region is useful in case of a crisis that might require our troops in that region? Really? You don’t see how it’s more useful to have them there than to ship them from the states?

  50. Andrew,

    Richard Reid and the recent attempt to bomb planes flying between England and the US both count as Al Qaeda attacks on the US in my book.

    “You have not given one substantive reason to leave troops with the Coalition in Afghanistan.” That’s the point of being prepared for a contingency – keeping your options open because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

    I didn’t say it would be easy to capture bin Laden. I said it was necessary. But to answer your question, the upcoming withdrawal from Iraq will allow us to return the material and personnel to the job that we removed and sent to Iraq. Had you ever bothered to pay attention to what Democrats have to say, instead of what you JUST KNOW they believe, you might have noticed that this has been a constant theme from them for the last four years.

    ‘It just goes to show how the Democratic policy is “neo-con lite”.’ It just goes to show how ignorant you are of the Demcratic positions on these issues.

    “You think you can build a nation more easily in Afghanistn…” I don’t think we can build a nation in Afghanistan – that’s up to the Afghans. I’ve been saying since the Iraq debate started that we can’t use our democracy to impose democracy and liberalism, that those things have to develop from within a nation’s own political sphere. I’ve made it very clear that I want to retain a military presence in the region for military reasons, not for nation-buiding, and that I want our troops to stay as far away from other country’s internal politics as possible. That you’d rather assign me an argument instead of contending honestly with my actual argument just demonstrates how incapable you are of refuting my position.

  51. joe

    Having 100,00 troops in Afghanistan may or may not make a LITTLE more sense than having them in Iraq. In Iraq they could probably be extracted more easliy in a real disaster scenario like a shooting war with Iran or a regime change in pakistan, because they have a choice of friendly borders with Jordan, Turkey or the Gulf states (hard to believe none of these would be available). In Afghanistan they head which way? toward Iran or toward Pakistan?

    But having troops in the region ON A MISSION doesn’t make them available for anything – they would be readily available for any assignment you can imagine at staging areas in Europe and North America, or at bases in the Gulf States or Central Asia.

    And available isn’t the point anyway. In the disaster scenarios I sketched above, my concern was not that the troops would not be free to put another foot in the Big Muddy, it is that they would actually be at risk in Afghanistan. Even if they would not be overwhelmed, it’s easy enough to picture a bigger Mogadishu or Beirut.

    For what? It isn’t necessary to catch Bin-Ladin. We haven’t caught him, and we’re OK – that can go on forever…and it may. We don’t need to chase him with an army. The mission was accomplished before the coalition even had an army in Afghan.

    Thanks to the Northern Front. The surest way to guarantee that the Taliban never retakes Afghan is to cooperate with the regional power that was fighting them – Iran – rather than the regional power that created them – Pakistan.

    You KNOW I’m right…and no Democrat (or in fairness, no Republican) has the balls to say this in just so many words.

  52. ” I want our troops to stay as far away from other country’s internal politics as possible”

    Bullshit joe!!!

    The Cliche of the Day in September 2001 was the tripe that our supposed “mistake” in Afghanistan after the Soviets departed was to leave the country alone. It was THE favorite talk-show talking point of every Dem – in part, because it could be spun as a slap at Reagan, and because it distinguished the “sophisticated” Democrats from Bush’s cowboys, who only wanted to round up Bin-Ladin.

    A nation-building mission-creep was built into the Afghan Coalition from the first day.

    Our troops are not necessarily fighting, and dying, on the hills to catch Omar and OBL. They are pacifying war-lords for Karzai.

    For a guy who mistrusts the Administration on so many matters – for the purpose of this post anyway – you show a touching credulity about every Pentagon dispatch concerning shoot-outs with “suspected Taliban”.

    Also pretty unskeptical whenever Scotland Yard backs up Tony Blair’s claims that Pakistanis in London are AQ-affiliated.

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