Terrorism

Gut Feelings and Real Threats

Why civil libertarians shouldn't be cavalier about terrorism.

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Ever since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the terrorist threat to the West and to Americans in particular has been the subject of contentious debate. Is there a grave and urgent danger, or is it vastly exaggerated by the media and by politicians out to take advantage of popular fears? Does the real danger, as many civil libertarians argue, lie in the temptation to restrict liberties in response to this threat? Do we, in other words, have nothing to fear but fear itself?

There is little doubt that the terrorist threat has been exploited by politicians—including the Bush administration, which has used the specter of September 11 to justify questionable policies both foreign and domestic. Half-baked plots by incompetent wannabe jihadists are hyped as imminent attacks with devastating consequences. Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff incurred much ridicule when he spoke of his "gut feeling" that a terrorist attack could be imminent.

This situation has led some civil libertarians, most notably Ohio State University political science professor John Mueller, to declare what left-wing enfant terrible Michael Moore was excoriated for writing a few years ago: There is no terrorist threat. In a 2006 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, Mueller notes that radical Islamic terrorists have not made a major attack on U.S. soil since September 11, and argues that this is unlikely to be due to the vigilance of homeland security. Mueller concludes that the Al Qaeda has been largely defanged and that terrorists are clearly not as determined, effective or ubiquitous as they are made out to be. Thus, he asserts, we may have authorized massive surveillance and detention programs and other restrictive policies in response to a phantom menace.

Yet a new National Intelligence Estimate contradicts Mueller's assessment of the threat level: according to the report, the Al Qaeda has regrouped and is now the strongest it has been since 2001. This is not Bush Administration propaganda. In fact, Bush critics, including The New Republic and New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, were quick to seize on the NIE as an indictment of the administration—for going after Saddam Hussein while failing to capture Osama Bin Laden, and for turning Iraq into a terrorist launching pad and recruiting tool.

This indictment may well be accurate, and quite damning for an administration that has used keeping Americans safe from terrorists as a catchall rationale. But is also a reminder that the terror threat is more than mere hype.

Most of the recent failed terror plots may have been inept exercises in fantasy. But even if one out of a thousand such plots succeeds, it could be a tragedy of horrific proportions, especially if biological weapons or suitcase nukes are involved. Clearly, not all terrorists are inept; besides, even the most inept of bumblers sometimes manage to get lucky. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which did only minor damage, was the work of amateurs of almost comical ineptitude. Eight years later, no one was laughing.

How to deal with this threat is another question. Civil libertarians (and others) have made plenty of legitimate criticisms of specific policies pursued under the umbrella of the War on Terror. We can point out that confiscating baby bottles at the airport does not make us safer; that torture not only debases us all but is quite likely to generate false and misleading information; that we don't have to resort to Kafkaesque indefinite detention of suspects to protect ourselves from terrorists. We can point out that the National Security Agency's post-September 11 monitoring of some telephone calls to foreign countries did not have to be carried out illegally and without minimal judicial safeguards; the administration's insistence on circumventing the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts seems to have been rooted in arrogance rather than necessity.

All these are vital arguments that must be heard. What's not going to help is dismissing the risk of a terrorist attack—an argument that can easily backfire, in a reversal of the story of the boy who cried wolf, if a major strike does happen. An even greater mistake is to is downplay the consequences of such an attack. Thus, in his Foreign Affairs article, Mueller writes, "Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000)."

But this argument ignores the impact of such attacks on the friends and families of the victims—and the psychological impact on the entire nation (not to mention the economic devastation). It is true, as some have pointed out, that even in Mueller's extreme scenario, the annual casualties would still be far below the toll of auto accidents. But that does not mean we are irrational in our response to terrorism. For one, a large-scale disaster, even a natural one, draws more attention and thus elicits far more shock than many small incidents with a higher cumulative death toll. Perhaps more importantly, there are many things one can do to reduce one's risk of dying in a car crash. There is nothing one can do, short of moving into a bomb shelter, to minimize the risk of being killed or maimed in a random terrorist attack.

No society can regard large-scale casualties from terrorist acts as an acceptable risk. An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an attack over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.

In the past, wars and other national security threats led to far worse assaults on American liberties than anything being contemplated now. Already, the majority of Americans seem willing to accept at least some curtailment of civil liberties in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Even one more major attack, let alone three a year, could usher in some very dark days for freedom. If champions of civil liberties want to prevent that, they need to take a different approach: to show that the compromises we are being asked to accept will not make us safer, or that there are ways to make us more secure without sacrificing our bedrock principles. If they want to be heard when they warn about loss of liberty, they cannot afford to sound cavalier when they talk about loss of life.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor for reason.

NEXT: And How Are You, Mr. Wilson?

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  1. The brutal truth is that short of stripping every American of every liberty, we will be hit again, and it will be ugly.
    There’s nothing we can do. Literally.

  2. It is true, as some have pointed out, that even in Mueller’s extreme scenario, the annual casualties would still be far below the toll of auto accidents. But that does not mean we are irrational in our response to terrorism. For one, a large-scale disaster, even a natural one, draws more attention and thus elicits far more shock than many small incidents with a higher cumulative death toll. Perhaps more importantly, there are many things one can do to reduce one’s risk of dying in a car crash. There is nothing one can do, short of moving into a bomb shelter, to minimize the risk of being killed or maimed in a random terrorist attack.

    So, overreacting to an irrational fear of an unknown and unpredictable event is not, in itself, irrational. Gotcha.

  3. Terrorist threats do exist, but the number and scale of them has been drastically overstated by the Bush administration and their policies in response have ranged from oddly irrelevant (banning breast milk on planes) to borderline racist (closing the borders, creating the “Islamo-fascist” label to blur distinctions between groups) to horrifyingly totalitarian (legalizing the torture of prisoners and the detention, without trial or charge, of American citizens). Few of them have made us any safer. Many of them have been used for purposes completely divergent from the war on terror.

    Jamie is right, it is likely inevitable that we will be hit again by terrorists, and there is nothing we can do about it, short of murdering every man, woman and child outside our borders (something I am NOT in any way advocating).

  4. Underestimating the threat is the best defense. It is the terrorists ability to terrorize us that makes terrorism effective. If we don’t get terrorized, that removes any incentive for doing destructive acts of terror.

    If we aren’t afraid of terrorism, we make ourselves less of a target. The more afraid we are, the more of a target we become.

  5. No society can regard large-scale casualties from terrorist acts as an acceptable risk.

    Then societies are going to have to learn to live with some “unacceptable” risks, because this is not a threat that can be removed.

    I’m a bit amazed that Cathy Young would write this article; this reads like a warblogger’s post from 2002.

  6. I am more likely to be killed and eaten by a bear while riding my bicycle than to be blown up by a terrorist; the probability of either of these events is effectively zero, compared to the likelihood that I might be killed by another motorist while riding (helmetless) my motorcycle to lunch some Saturday.

    There is no existential threat posed by “terrrism” more significant than its ability to inspire moronic hysteria in high government officials. The damage is done by our government’s overreaction, not by actual physical destruction.

    We have been operating a terrorist recruitment and training facility in Iraq far better than anything Al Qaeda could have managed on their own. And yes, I expect some sort of attack on American soil in consequence.

  7. Defense against invading armies is a legitimate government function. Security against individual terrorists should be handled by the private sector. Government reaction against terrorist acts should be dealt with as a criminal matter.

  8. All Cathy seems to be saying is that if you want arguments for protecting civil liberties to be effective, don’t be a dick about it. Acknowledge that there could be another strike, and don’t alienate the people you are talking to by downplaying or deriding their fears. Just point out that the liberty-curtailing methods aren’t helping anyway, so why permit them?

    That seems to be the gist of it to me.

  9. I’m a bit amazed that Cathy Young would write this article; this reads like a warblogger’s post from 2002.

    You’ve got that right. Are we sure they just didn’t get the first name wrong?

  10. Mueller in his book “Overblown” does not say that the terrorist threat does not exist, his argument is that it’s important to keep it in perspective. Radical Islamists just do not have the fundemental capability to severely impact our society, only we can do that in our overreaction to their attacks.

    For example, if there was a WTC attack every year since 2001, we’d still need to wait until approximately 2014 before they equaled the number of drunk driving deaths this year alone. And that was the most successful attack in history, taking advantage of the fact that we were taught not to fight hijackers. They will not have that opening again.

    Are drunk drivers capable of destroying the country? Of course not, they cause significant damage and suffering but we have not found it necessary to waive our freedoms to combat it.

    Yes, there is a threat. Yes, we need to be vigilant and yes, we need to do our best to hunt terrorists down. But no, they are not capable of destroying America.

  11. “No society can regard large-scale casualties from terrorist acts as an acceptable risk.”

    I suppose it depends on how you define the word “terrorism”, but my bet’s on those of us who would emulate the defiant during the Blitz. …not that what we’re living through, at this point, is anywhere near as bad as that.

    …my definition of terrorism has something to do with targeting civilians specifically.

    “An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an attack over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.”

    It’s a winning argument with me. It really is. I’d rather take my chances on another 9/11 than see our Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights degraded so.

    …that’s what I mean when I say I’m “patriotic”.

    We’ve braved greater threats. Just because something is frightening, that doesn’t mean we have to behave like cowards. We’re a brave people. We shouldn’t give up what we care about, what makes us special, just because some wackos senselessly murdered some of our people. The murderers should be the ones to pay for their crimes–not us. Let’s not give them anything.

    …that’s a winning argument where I come from.

    Our civil liberties survived the Cold War. They’ll survive this too. Sure, there’s plenty to be afraid of, but for goodness’ sake, never trust a fear monger to lead you where you want to go.

    “This situation has led some civil libertarians, most notably Ohio State University political science professor John Mueller, to declare what left-wing enfant terrible Michael Moore was excoriated for writing a few years ago: There is no terrorist threat.”

    Honestly, this looks like a diversion.

    Just because there’s a real threat doesn’t mean we have to behave like sheep.

  12. Epsiarch,

    If you tacitly accept that fears of terrorism are justified, then you give weight to the argument that “even if there’s a 1% chance of this working we should give it a chance” being used to justify ridiculous security measures. If the expectation value of a terrorist attack are vastly overestimated, even ineffective, expensive security measures will look like a good deal in comparison.

  13. Episiarch,

    The problem with that argument is that the fears many of these actions are based on are utterly irrational, as are most of the people who subscribe to them. I still know people who still rabidly support the war in Iraq and advocate going to war with Iran simply because someday they MIGHT have weapons of mass destruction (even though neither of those countries had anything to do with 9/11). To many of them, the idea that another terrorist attack might someday take place is sufficient justification to invade any country at any time and kill as many people we don’t like as possible, regardless of how unfounded, irrelevant or hypothetical the threat may be.

    How do you reason with someone who basically gives in to panic and refuses to have a rational discussion on a subject like this? You can’t…I know, I’ve repeatedly tried. Most times the only way to get through to them is to alienate them by pointing out how ridiculous and nonsensical they’re being or to sneer at their logic until they abandon their position out of embarassment. Basically, it’s the verbal equivalent of slapping them across the face until they come to their senses.

    As for the lack of courtesy in that approach, I suppose I’d rather be a dick living in a free country than be well-liked in a police state full of panicky idiots. That’s not really a tough choice to make.

  14. My buddy Justin is getting his PHD in physics, and so I trust him with numbers. He says that the odds are very small that someone will bring a bomb on an airplane that he’s on. But, the odds are quite minute that there’ll be TWO bombs on the plane. So, whenever he flies he brings his own bomb with him, to reduce the chances of anyone else bringing one. He’s a smart man.

  15. Are drunk drivers capable of destroying the country? Of course not, they cause significant damage and suffering but we have not found it necessary to waive our freedoms to combat it.

    Hmmm…you might want to rethink that example.

  16. …we have not found it necessary to waive our freedoms to combat [drunk drivers]…

    Oh, yeah? Just you wait…

  17. “There will be successful terrorist attacks” does not mean “we should not try to reduce the risk, hence the likley number and severity, of terrorist attacks”. There will be rapes and murders in every state in the country (plus DC!) next month; should we therefore fire all the cops?

    Arguing that we should ignore terrorism and NOT adjust security to account for it, is a losing argument for at least two reasons: security will surely prevent some, even if not all, attacks; and you can count on one hand the number of people who can get elected to ANY office nationwide on a no-security platform. All you accomplish is to alienate the electorate (Lib Party, I’m lookin’ at you!), and to set yourself up to look like an idiot when a marginal attack succeeds.

    Cathy’s not arguing in favor of the “security” measures now in place; she’s arguing that the position “don’t worry about terrorism” is a loser and that it undermines serious efforts to rein in inappropriate security measures. And she’s right.

  18. Government reaction against terrorist acts should be dealt with as a criminal matter.

    How did that work out for us in the past?b

  19. No society can regard large-scale casualties from terrorist acts as an acceptable risk. An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an attack over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.

    I don’t see how the libertarian position is telling others to make the same choice. It’s just telling others not to force their choices upon others.

  20. …Security against individual terrorists should be handled by the private sector. Government reaction against terrorist acts should be dealt with as a criminal matter.

    I see your point. However, I do believe that breaking up the Taliban in Afghanistan was a good idea that decreased the likelihood of another terrorist act.

    I am also convinced that had we not gone into Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have silently joined the Jihad by stepping up the funding and support of terrorism against the U.S. and Israel. (I also believed he had WMD, as did almost everyone …including his own generals).

    The question is whether going into Iraq ended up making the terrorist threat worse than leaving Saddam in power. Particularly, in light of the fact that having our Armies stuck in Iraq has allowed the Taliban to begin reforming.

  21. You’re right, the M.A.D.D. frenzy has had it’s excesses but I was trying to come up with an example and drunk driving seemed like a good parallel of something we want to stop but are only willing to go so far to prevent.

  22. Some of the criticisms of Cathy’s essay I see here don’t make sense to me. Are you folks really saying that just because in terms of body count, an every day activity causes more deaths per year than terrorism that we shouldn’t do anything to protect ourselves?

    Look, if an attack occurs the damage done isn’t going to be measured purely in terms of deaths. We only have a few data points to go on in terms of terrorist attacks in western nations but if an attack occurs it will likely be aimed at doing one or more of the following:

    1) Killing as many people as possible (malls, sporting events)
    2) Doing damage to infrastructure (subway bombings, attacks on the power grid)
    3) Psychological damage (lets say blowing up the statue of liberty or some such)

    It is probably the case that attacks of the first type would be difficult to prevent, but those of the second and third may be preventable if we direct our security resources appropriately.

    Criticisms about the manner in which we may go about combating terrorism are legitimate, but throwing up ones hands any saying it’s impossible to do anything is ridiculous. Again, as Cathy said in her essay, the damage these attacks do is not limited to the scope of the actual killing. This much should be obvious.

  23. This very thread seems to confirm everything Cathy wrote in the article. I’m not willing to throw away my civil liberties, either, but I don’t see a whole lot of constructive advice around here. “Learn to live with it” isn’t going to sell.

  24. Ken Schultz,

    Attitudes like yours are the reason that the news media needs to run graphic footage of people jumping out of the towers more often.

    Can anyone think back to their mental state as they watched that happen, live and in real time, on 9/11?

    The scaremongers want you to be in that state all the time, because it serves their political and social agendas.

  25. SIV,

    How did that work out for us in the past?

    Let’s see…

    First WTC bombing–convicted, currently in jail.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramzi_Yousef

    2nd WTC bomber…bombers dead, but plotters currently building forces in Pakistan.

    ;^b

  26. Well, I’m being told “learn to live with it” every time I go through the hassle of airport security, so how come I’m not allowed to give what I get?

  27. Shelby,

    And for the record, I’m not saying that we can’t do things to manage our risk or that the system didn’t need a few tweaks after 9/11. One of the best ideas the government had was to eliminate the ban on the intelligence community and law enforcement sharing information…which was one of the major reasons the hijackers were able to avoid detection (the FBI didn’t have access to intelligence databases, which was a result of the Church commission’s overreaction to Watergate). That loophole is now closed. Same with the old idea that you don’t fight hijackers on a plane anymore, as someone noted…that cushion for the terrorists is pretty much history as well. Just those two changes on their own would have made 9/11 almost impossible to pull off, and you wouldn’t have needed to wiretap everyone’s phones, or run secret prisons in Europe, or strip detainees of their human rights to accomplish it.

    Terrorism is a horrible thing, but not so horrible that we have to throw away our civil liberties, the rule of law, and our way of life just to combat it. That’s just a case of trying to win the battle only to lose the war.

  28. Neu Mejican,

    But Saddam is dead too. That has to count for something. 😉

  29. “No society can regard large-scale casualties from terrorist acts as an acceptable risk. An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an attack over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.”

    Gee, with that argument, you can justify costly regulations to reduce greenhouse gasses because “no society can regard large-scale casualties from climate change as an acceptable risk. An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an instance over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.”

    Heck, you could use the same argument to justify spending money to stop planet killing asteroids.

    I agree that civil libertarians shouldn’t put their heads in the sand, but you are vastly overstating the risk. Considering the fact that minor modifications to current law, allowing FBI agent greater latitude in conversing with other agencies, would have been able to stop/reduce the original attacks without eliminating civil liberties.

    Also, why should someone else’s irrational fears of a highly unlikely terrorist attack override my rational fear of losing my civil liberties?

    Weak, weak argument Cathy.

    P.S. All the terror plots that have been stopped were stopped by good old fashioned investigations that were all legal on 9/10. So the extra powers granted to the government have eroded my freedoms without making me safer.

  30. How is this substantively different than Cathy’s column from Sept. 2001?

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/31970.html

  31. “….that we shouldn’t do anything to protect ourselves?”

    I don’t see anyone saying that. What we are saying is that like with all risks, we need to be appropriate in our response and not just start screaming, “The sky is falling! We’re all going to die!”

  32. I think this applies.

    http://dirtbaggery.blogspot.com/2007/04/fun-with-numbers-how-to-pass-off-total.html

    The war on terror is a joke. It’s also reprehensible and embarrassing.

  33. “Attitudes like yours are the reason that the news media needs to run graphic footage of people jumping out of the towers more often.”

    I’m sorry, you mean the attitude where we don’t give up on our civil liberties?

    “Can anyone think back to their mental state as they watched that happen, live and in real time, on 9/11?”

    I was so angry that day, and for some time thereafter, that if Bush had nuked Afghanistan, I would have supported it. I would have regretted my support later, but at the time, I would have supported it.

    …I would not have supported suspending our Constitutional rights.

    “The scaremongers want you to be in that state all the time, because it serves their political and social agendas.”

    I’m not sure it’s their agendas, so much. The fear mongers want us to be in that state all the time because they want us to support them.

    …whoever they are in doing whatever they want to do. …they’ll fill in the amount later.

    P.S. There’s no “c” in Shultz.

  34. One day or another, kid
    Our world will be gone
    One way or another, kid
    Our death will be done

  35. “Attitudes like yours are the reason that the news media needs to run graphic footage of people jumping out of the towers more often.”

    Honestly, I don’t think people use the word “coward” as often as they should.

    Next time you get a chance to see a morning news show, count how many times the “bad guys” of the piece are the people who won’t give in to fear.

  36. Next time you get a chance to see a morning news show, count how many times the “bad guys” of the piece are the people who won’t give in to fear.

    That piques my curiosity. What do you mean by that?

  37. Neu Mejican,

    So you are saying it didn’t work out too well at all as we were hit repeatedly after WTC I until we switched to a military response after 9/11.

  38. Ken,

    I’m sorry, you mean the attitude where we don’t give up on our civil liberties?

    Exactly. Not to mention, you don’t seem terribly impressed by Commander Guy’s war. Obviously, this can only be explained by a lack of terror, which has allowed all sorts of reason and principle to poison your brain.

    Personally, I was only anrgy enough to want Bush to nuke Afghanistan for a couple of minutes. Still, bad enough.

  39. As for the lack of courtesy in that approach, I suppose I’d rather be a dick living in a free country than be well-liked in a police state full of panicky idiots. That’s not really a tough choice to make.

    Again, I think Cathy’s point is that you’re going to end up being a dick in a police state if we don’t couch our message better.

    I would be nice if we could be condescending and contemptuous of those who would sell their–and our–freedoms down the river for illusionary temporary safety. But this is too important to engage in what is satisfying, and needs to be approached with the method that makes the most sense and is most effective.

    That’s what I think Cathy is saying, and I guess I agree.

  40. “Terrorist threats do exist, but the number and scale of them has been drastically overstated by the Bush administration”

    No, the media contantly reports that the terrorist have grown stronger and that there are more incidents than ever before in a perpetual attempt to pain Bush as a failure.

    Not the Bush administration

  41. The terrorist threat is like the 5-gallon bucket threat, except that you’re more likely to lose a kid to a 5-gallon bucket full of water than to a terrorist.

    Personally, I was only anrgy enough to want Bush to nuke Afghanistan for a couple of minutes. Still, bad enough.

    I wanted it to be Mecca. What a dumbass I am.

  42. SIV

    So you are saying it didn’t work out too well at all as we were hit repeatedly after WTC I until we switched to a military response after 9/11.

    No that is not what I am saying.

    You are confusing your point with mine.

  43. “That piques my curiosity. What do you mean by that?”

    If you catch one of those shows a few times, it becomes pretty clear, pretty quick that the “bad guy” is the one who wasn’t sufficiently frightened of whatever tragedy they’re exploiting at the moment.

    …it could be the guy who didn’t want state mandated whatever; it could be the guy who should have been more afraid of what would happen when the levee breaks… Recently, it was a certain wrestling promoter who wasn’t sufficiently worried about what his wrestlers were doing.

    If there’s another terrorist attack, when they’re doing their follow up interviews, believe me, the civil libertarian isn’t gonna be the “good guy”.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story on a morning news show about somebody who didn’t give in to fear, but then they’re in the business of exploiting rapes and murders and hurricanes and terrorist attacks to sell toothpaste–so by their very nature, they’re all about covering victims. …not people who didn’t become victims.

    Still, I’d love to see some of these interviewers called out as cowards. …somebody should say, “Well at some point you gotta let your kids learn to take risks, Matt, you big coward.”

    Nobody, even among the easily frightened, wants tabloid terror all the time, so, anyway, I think Cathy’s wrong to suggest that it’s necessarily a losing argument. …saying that some things are really important–even if there are some serious risks.

  44. SIV,

    hit repeatedly after WTC

    Repeatedly? Citations of specific events this is referring to?

  45. Seems both sides of this debate is claiming the middle ground and accusing the other of being the extremist.

    Part of what I see as wrong with Cathy Young’s argument is her use of the words, “not acceptable”. When you say something is not acceptable, it seems to imply that you won’t accept it under any circumstances. When you say that (if indeed that’s what’s meant), you are carving out an extreme position. If that’s not what you mean, back carefully away from that word use and start acknowledging pros and cons, give and take, proportional response, etc.

    Personally, if I’m going to take an extreme position, it will be on the preservation of our constitutional rights. If we ask our soldiers to risk their lives for our rights, why not accept some degree of danger ourselves? If that’s “unfair” to those who disagree, well I think it’s clearly a situation where the winners have no choice but to be “unfair” in such a matter to the losers. At least my position doesn’t allow government coercion against which, once allowed, none of us have a choice about.

    All that said, I will acknowledge the potential for a risk so great that I might be okay with abandoning Constitutional protections in the name of fighting it. I would agree with others here who have made the point that there is simply no reason to believe we are anywhere near that level of danger at this point.

    All that, if Cathy Young’s point is just that we should choose the articulations of our arguments with the danger of being misunderstood in mind, well, duh. Perhaps the same could be said for her.

  46. SIV,

    If you count “hits” outside the US after the switch to military response, you might want to look here

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/121607.html

    for a rough idea of how many hits have occurred. You can do your own analysis as to whether that counts as more or less hits in the 1993-2001 period.

  47. “than in the 1993-2001 period.”

  48. Can anyone think back to their mental state as they watched that happen, live and in real time, on 9/11?

    Honestly?

    It looked like an awesome video game graphic….and gave me the same emotional reaction I would get from seeing a video game graphic.

    Plus I had no idea if this was an attack or if it was who was responsible.

  49. Joshua C,

    Really?
    I watched from the streets of NYC.
    Didn’t have a video game feel at all.

    Planes hitting were not nearly as emotionally difficulty to see as watching the jumpers during the fire.

    1st plane.
    People on 5th avenue discuss how the “accident” could have happened, and how many people were likely to be at work that early. Pretty calm, but concerned.

    2nd plane,
    Consensus that is was a terrorist attack. The emotional tone on the street went way up.

  50. “”There will be successful terrorist attacks” does not mean “we should not try to reduce the risk, hence the likley number and severity, of terrorist attacks”. There will be rapes and murders in every state in the country (plus DC!) next month; should we therefore fire all the cops?”

    This example doesn’t really support your point. Cops don’t prevent rapes and murders; at best, they clean up the mess afterwords. Nobody says that we shouldn’t try to mitigate the risk. The issue is a question of means rather than ends.

  51. All kinds of deaths are acceptable, because we accept them. We accept deaths due to alcohol that would be prevented by prohibition all the time. Why? Because the cure is worse than the disease. To my knowlege, no civilization has ever been destroyed because it accepted the risk of terrorism. Honestly, when was the last time terrorist took out an entire civilization?

    We could easily tolerate some risk of terrorism and survive. If you would give me back the half-trillion dollars we spent in Iraq, I would be more than happy to accept the minimal risk of a terrorist attack that Saddam presented, especially if you would also remove the risk associated with a Saddamless Iraq.

  52. I watched from the streets of NYC.

    Me too. I exited the subway to see a big flaming, gaping hole in the WTC. By the time I got my coffee, made it to my building, and lit up a cigarette, I saw the 2nd plane hit from 1 block away. I never saw jumpers but getting rained on by people’s desk papers evoked a similar emotional reaction in me.

    Even one more major attack, let alone three a year, could usher in some very dark days for freedom. If champions of civil liberties want to prevent that, they need to take a different approach: to show that the compromises we are being asked to accept will not make us safer,

    I don’t recall being “asked” to accept any curtailment of my liberties. Anyway, I think the burden belongs on the government to prove these curtailments WILL make us safer, not the other way around.

    or that there are ways to make us more secure without sacrificing our bedrock principles.

    There aren’t any. But a good start might just be to stop butting in everywhere around the world.

  53. I think Cathy’s argument is that even though terrorism is a fraction of the threat of other dangers we live with every day, terrorism may warrant more active intervention because it has a relatively simple cause (unlike say, auto accidents). I would say that national security, “terrorism” in modern parlance, involves a complicated web. Using terrorism to justify taking away civil liberties is exactly like using the commerce clause to control everything under the sun. When you think about it everything could involve “commerce” and just like it could involve “national security.” I think this is the problem that civil libertarians have with the constant emphasis on terrorism. I don’t think that anyone would advise allowing terrorist to get away with murder.

  54. I don’t think anyone is advocating that we just stop all effort to prevent terrorist attacks, though certainly such an argument could be made. The better approach seems to me to be that the current Adminstration is wasting money and making us more vulnerable to attacks not less. Rather than argue that lives are worth less liberty, the argument should be that we can prevent terrorist attacks through smarter police work using pre-Patriot Act, FISA reviews, etc. better than we can by wasting time scanning for liquids in bags and listening to people call their families overseas.

  55. I think many people are missing the point. If there is another attack (I recently read a suggestion that it might be multiple simultaneous car bombs at large gatherings like sports events, Disneyland etc.) the result would be drastic curtailing of civil liberties that would make what we have now look like Galt’s Gulch. Americans will overreact.

    This is, perhaps, irrational, but it seems to be a natural response. Bruce Schneier argues–in The Psychology of Security–that it’s natural for people to be much more afraid of spectacular, unlikely events than everyday more deadly ones, and we’re stuck with this psychological quirk and need to develop public policy that takes account of it.

    On the other hand, Schneier (and many other security experts) argue that virtually everything that Homeland Security does is ‘Security Theater’ that has no effect on the likelihood of another attack, but is done just to make us feel better. Unfortunately, the only really effective anti-terrorist measures are things like infiltration, targeted assassinations and other dirty stuff.

    Still, if I thought I could trust the FBI and the CIA I’d prefer that to being strip searched three times in three hours because I had to fly from Warsaw to Detroit on Monday. Ugly choice. Don’t have any brilliant suggestions given the current political and emotional climate.

  56. The reinforcement of the failed 1993 WTC attack by the Oklahoma bombing engendered the Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act of 1995.

    It addressed the problems posed by low tech terror in great detail, but as we saw , events proved its irrelevance. Terror is more easily redirected than stopped

    Full disclosure : I testified on CAA 1993, and Muller’s book quotes my 2004 TAC article

  57. Plans were laid for a citizen’s militia movement like none this country has ever known. It’s a movement that has already led to the most destructive act of terrorism in our nation’s history (the Oklahoma City bombing). Unless checked, it could lead to widespread devastation or ruin.

  58. The terrorists want all of us dead, and the only way to prevent that is a hawkish foreign policy.

    You all know that the Islamists would like nothing better than to outlaw abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, and drugs right? They are against our libertarian values, so we should go fight their asses wherever they are! Not stick our head in the sand.

    Europe is already seeing the results of an appeasement policy towards Muslims. Today it is York, England, tomorrow New York, USA! Don’t wait until it is too late. Let us confront them now as we did the Nazis and Communists!

  59. Eric,
    Need I remind you that our own Christianists “would like nothing better than to outlaw abortion, homosexuality, prostitution and drugs” so until you propose a hawkish policy of imprisoning into Gitmo the imams of the American fundamentalist movement like Phelps, Robertson and, dare I say it, Bush, your hawkish “Islamist” bullshit rings false.

  60. Just to be safe, I’ve installed a terrometer in my living room. When it gets up to orange I duct tape all the windows and spend the day cowering in the closet. You guys should really buy one; they’re only $19.95 on the home shopping network.

  61. I suppose my previous post was a bit inaccurate since Bush is not a spiritual leader anymore than Saddam was. He’s just an authoritarian asshole looking to conquer the Middle East.

  62. “The terrorists want all of us dead, and the only way to prevent that is a hawkish foreign policy.”

    Don’t we have a hawkish foreign policy now?

    Are we safer now because of it? …or is the safety bit going to come more later?

    Are you suggesting we’ll get safer if we do more of what we’re doing now, in terms of foreign policy? …or are you saying we need to get real hawkish?

    …and if it’s the hawkish foreign policy that’s going to save us, is it okay if we go ahead and jettison the hawkish domestic policy already?

  63. The scaremongers want you to be in that state all the time, because it serves their political and social agendas.

    Unlike the _________, who rarely, if never, use fear to serve their political and social agenda.*

    * Except for socialized medicine, gun control, anti-abortion terrorism, global warming, the evils of Bush & Co., Iraq WMDs and terrorism (in 1990s), tobacco companies, the politics of personal destruction, hate crimes, Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, the Culture of Fear perpetuated by the Right Wing, etc. etc.

  64. ” we should go fight their asses wherever they are!”

    What are you waiting for, Earache? Pack your overnight size Depends and get on a plane.

    Chopchop!

  65. As a middle easterner I do not mind being “racially profiled” at airports, for example, since, after all, those behind 9/11 were middle eastern. Actually I have only once been pulled out of line to be “interviewed” a couple of months after 9/11 and rarely have I had to undergo “random” searches. The low occurrence of such occasions, I think, may be due to the fact that I heavily travel and the government, I am happy to report, finds me good. I do not mind it when this happens at airports. I find this reasonable, as long as the interaction is respectful towards me. Officers have always been respectful — that is partly why I do not mind.

    But there is stuff that scares the hell out of me. Most of the above comments discuss foreign policy and some liberties. But there are really scary stuff that could affect me, and others of my own origins, that are very uniquely scary.

    For example, the new Homeland Security provision (I do not think it is ratified yet) that protects any citizen from getting sued for falsely reporting suspicious behaviors. Clearly I do not have anything against the reporting of suspicious behavior (I wouldn’t hesitate to report something suspicious myself), but eliminating the liability in doing so is very scary. For example, a neighbor of mine may simply hate my guts. He could report suspicious behavior in my house. The FBI comes over and it would be ages before I am able to clear myself of any wrong doing, let alone reclaiming my reputation. That is quite alarming I think.

    Check this link out.

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZmRmM2VkMzEyZjhhY2QyYTMwNWQxOTMwMGI1Y2E0Mzc=

  66. Really?
    I watched from the streets of NYC.
    Didn’t have a video game feel at all.

    So why did middle America want war and not NYC?

    One of two things happened with the other 290 million people of the US…either they had an emotional experience similar to the one joe was describing or one like mine…in which it was not irrational anger that drove us to war…but something else.

  67. Eric,
    Need I remind you that our own Christianists “would like nothing better than to outlaw abortion, homosexuality, prostitution and drugs” so until you propose a hawkish policy of imprisoning into Gitmo the imams of the American fundamentalist movement like Phelps, Robertson and, dare I say it, Bush, your hawkish “Islamist” bullshit rings false.

    More Bush-bashing. Whens the last time Christians flew jet aircraft into buildings and killed 3,000 people in the streets of New York? Come on, is this Reason or Daily Kos?

  68. “An individual can personally prefer a higher risk of death in such an attack over some expansion of government powers, but telling others to make the same choice is not a winning argument.”

    This statement really grates on me. [For one thing, “prefer” is an exceptionally sloppy choice of words; insert “accept” and see how it reads.]
    Do these “others” think they somehow will live forever if only we can reduce a negligible risk to a slightly more negligible risk by throwing an infinite amount of federal government resources at it (and in the process irretrievably alter the essence of our nation)? Do they believe they will be somehow less dead if they die from falling down in their bathroom, or are killed by that funny “spot” on their leg they always meant to ask the doctor about?
    If you electrocute yourself cleaning your gutters, nobody will care; if you get blown to bits at the Super Bowl, you’ll be famous.

  69. joshua corning,

    Are you referring to the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq? IIRC most Democrats supported the war in Afghanistan.

    You don’t seriously believe that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, do you?

  70. Mr Dondero,

    You do realize that prostitution and drugs are already illegal here, right?

  71. They are against our libertarian values, so we should go fight their asses wherever they are! Not stick our head in the sand.

    If we were interested in fighting those who were destroying our Libertarian values, the two best targets would be at either end of Pennsylvania Ave.

  72. Please tell me that’s a parody Eric Dondero. Seriously. Please tell me that Dondero doesn’t really now define “libertarian” as “somebody who supports drugs, abortion, prostitution, homosexuality and Rudy Giuliani.”

  73. “The terrorists want all of us dead, and the only way to prevent that is a hawkish foreign policy.”

    oh yeah they can totally kill all of us and everything.

    as seen above, they can’t even suicide bomb people correctly.

    don’t you have a pile of rubble to dry hump somewhere?

    “So why did middle America want war and not NYC?”

    the same reason they still come here to take their picture in front of what is now a construction site, and why they started when it was still a smoking crater.

    (fun fact: the site was still smoking for a long time afterwards. i remember because i worked in the 120 building on broadway and got to look into it every single day.)

    to round up:

    mediation allows editing.

    editing allows manipulation.

    repetition drives home the message.

    rinse and repeat.

  74. Please tell me that’s a parody Eric Dondero. Seriously. Please tell me that Dondero doesn’t really now define “libertarian” as “somebody who supports drugs, abortion, prostitution, homosexuality and Rudy Giuliani.”

    Actually, as I’ve said in previous posts I think being pro-choice is one of the defining principles of a libertarian.

    A libertarian is someone who supports lower taxes, less government, and hates Jerry Falwell. Thats how it was when I joined the party back in fucking 1985!

  75. Joshua Corning,

    So why did middle America want war and not NYC?

    One of two things happened with the other 290 million people of the US…either they had an emotional experience similar to the one joe was describing or one like mine…in which it was not irrational anger that drove us to war…but something else.

    I am not sure I am following your point, but I can assure you that the emotional reaction I had on 9/11 did not fill me with “irrational anger that drove” me to support the war.

    Quite the opposite.
    A rational sadness that drove me* to reject the use of violence.

    *It would be more accurate to say “confirmed for me” that I have always been right to reject the use of violence for political ends.

  76. I’m gonna be totally honest, and I’m aware that this may mean that I’m a sick, twisted fucker deep down, but I recall a tinge of excitement, that something big was finally happening, as my dominant emotion on that day.

  77. I recall a tinge of excitement, that something big was finally happening, as my dominant emotion on that day.

    Ya I got that also….not dominant…but there and tangable.

    A rational sadness that drove me* to reject the use of violence.

    I was referring to joe’s hypothesis. That like him “America” was pissed and wanted action. My experience with how i felt seems to conflict with this….your’s does as well.

  78. mediation allows editing.

    editing allows manipulation.

    repetition drives home the message.

    rinse and repeat.

    Yeah i don’t buy it…broad support for the war or wars came from the people…it is foolish to think it is all a fabrication of Rove’s political machine.

  79. You don’t seriously believe that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, do you?

    I think the argument was failed states are a threat.

  80. “You all know that the Islamists would like nothing better than to outlaw abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, and drugs right? They are against our libertarian values, so we should go fight their asses wherever they are! Not stick our head in the sand.”

    Sign me up–I am ready to fight Rick Santorum wherever he may be found.

  81. “One of two things happened with the other 290 million people of the US…either they had an emotional experience similar to the one joe was describing or one like mine…in which it was not irrational anger that drove us to war…but something else.”

    I think people forget what they knew and when they knew it…

    “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.”

    —-September 6, 2003

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-09-06-poll-iraq_x.htm

    …so I always keep this link handy.

    We invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003.

    I suspect that we might not have invaded Iraq had it not been for the anthrax attack.

  82. I was noticing how the terror alert graphic reminded me of the gay pride colors.

    Which made me think of the satirical bit about the Rainbow Islamic Jihad.

    Team America! Fuck Yeah!

  83. Dondero,
    It’s not quite planes into the WTC, but Christians bombed the Atlanta Olympics and OKC. In fact, pre-911, most domestic terrorism came from abortion clinic bombings. Yet, the abortionist Democratic president, Clinton, didn’t make the FBI infiltrate churches to find out who was behind them.

    Do Muslims deserve more scrutiny because they hit a bigger target?

  84. I expect that everyone here saying things like “the probability of being killed in a terrorist attack is effectively zero” will not say a damned thing if another terrorist attack happens in the US. They will not criticize the government, because why would the govt even think about the zero-probability incidents that are terrorism? They won’t talk about the people who died, because there’s no chance of that happening. They won’t talk about the war in Iraq, which has, according to them, made us much LESS safe from terrorists, which somehow continue to be no threat at all. How could you be less safe from something that has no chance of happening, you might ask? Beats me.

    The war on terror is a giant joke/disaster that has made us more vulnerable.
    Al Qaeda has been so totally “defanged” that we are at no risk.
    Keep those two ideas in your head at the same time and they should call you Sybil.

  85. Dave, here’s another brain teaser for you. The odds of you winning the lottery are negligable, but the odds of someone winning are 100%. How is that possible?!

  86. Crimethink,

    You are a sick, twisted fucker deep down.

    You asked for it!

  87. I was on the west coast during the 9/11 attack, listening to accounts on the radio as I drove to work. I was shocked, surprised, astonished, etc.

    An hour or so into the event it became evident that it was some sort of coordinated attack, but I had no idea that it was the work of Al Qaida or even for that matter who Al Qaida was. I did not want to nuke anybody or attack anybody because, as I said, I had no idea who was behind it.

    Those who claim to have momentarily wanted to “nuke the Taliban” while watching the event are inventing memories of thoughts they did not have. Nobody knew for days who was behind it.

    My preference with how to deal with the terrorist threat is to undo the laws restricting civil liberties, roll back the idiotic TSA “no finger nail clippers” style rules. I would like to see more focused efforts at security; yes profiling. I would like to see military force liberally applied to terrorist encampments and other infrasturcture.

    I have no problem with Gitmo, or with holding terrorists in a jail cell until they expire of old age, or morbid obesity, provided that exceptional due diligance is done to justify holding them.

  88. “Dave, here’s another brain teaser for you. The odds of you winning the lottery are negligable, but the odds of someone winning are 100%. How is that possible?!”

    Max, here is a fact for you. Individual lottery drawings are quite often without a winner of the big prize.

  89. Do Muslims deserve more scrutiny because they hit a bigger target?

    Yes. And because they are better organized, and dedicated to destroying the west.

    And McVeigh was an agnostic, not a christian.

  90. Max,

    That last post of mine was unnecessarily snide. My apologies.

  91. “Mueller notes that radical Islamic terrorists have not made a major attack on U.S. soil”

    And I will note that we have not been attacked by Nazi Germans or Japs since 9/11

  92. Ivan,

    “And I will note that we have not been attacked by Nazi Germans or Japs since 9/11”

    We have had to suffer the drivel of dimwits though.

  93. “The odds of you winning the lottery are negligable, but the odds of someone winning are 100%.”

    If you accept this claim as true, would you sell your house to buy lottery tickets, in hopes of improving your odds? Would you borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy lottery tickets? Would you sell your soul?

  94. There is a simple and 100% effective way to guarantee you will never be killed by a terrorist. Commit suicide today.

    How does that look in your cost/ benefits calculator?

  95. “Yeah i don’t buy it…broad support for the war or wars came from the people…it is foolish to think it is all a fabrication of Rove’s political machine.”

    who said anything about rove?

    but when you have people saying “you should play clips of people dying 24/7” (and would certainly not support that argument coming from those who want to play clips of dead iraqi civilians 24/7) its not much of a wonder why.

  96. Wayne,

    My preference with how to deal with the terrorist threat is to undo the laws restricting civil liberties, … I have no problem with Gitmo, or with holding terrorists in a jail cell until they expire of old age, or morbid obesity, provided that exceptional due diligance is done to justify holding them.

    I have a hard time reconciling these two propositions from your post.

  97. Al Qaeda shouldn’t be called a “terrorist” group as they don’t seek to simply terrorize us. They seek to destroy us. Thankfully, they are pretty inept at this. On the other hand, they are taking a long view of things and will keep trying until they succeed.

    Attacks like 911 aren’t done so much to terrorize us as to encourage al Qaeda supporters that America is weak. This is why they strike symbolic targets and prefer large attacks, and don’t bother doing simple things that could really scare a lot of people.

    This is why the war in Iraq is such a big deal to al Qaeda. If they can force America to retreat before Iraq can stand on its own, and then contribute to the fall of the Iraqi government, then they will have proven that America can be defeated and that more Iraqs are possible. Afghanistan would be next, and then possibly Pakistan, which would be especially nice given Pakistan’s nukes.

    The point is that al Qaeda doesn’t have to govern what it overthrows. It simply needs to show that America is impotent at stopping it, and thus they will encourage more and more to join their cause.

    At some point though, they expect to get their hands on WMD’s, and when they do they plan to use them to cause the collapse of America’s economy, proving once again that the tide of history is on their side.

    Al Qaeda isn’t a terrorist group. It’s a radical movement bent on changing the world, regardless of how long it takes.

    The only way to stop them is to put a halt to their momentum and prove that all their suicide murdering of fellow Muslims doesn’t actually achieve anything. This would sap their support and they would then be the ones in retreat and not us. This is why the war in Iraq has to be won, regardless of whether it was a good idea to have ever started it.

    There has been a lot of mention of “irrational” fears, but in my mind, there is more irrationality in saying our civil liberties have been significantly compromised. I am quite familiar with the usual litany of civil liberty abuses, but rarely do I see anybody talk about all the surveillance cameras being used, most notably in London, but increasingly in our own large cities.

    They are currently working on facial recognition software that will enable them to identify suspects as they pass in front of these cameras, something that seems a LOT more damaging to our civil liberties than many of the other claims, but people don’t seem to care.

    My point is that we need to be a LOT more rational in our approach to what is reasonable in regard to the balance between civil liberties and protecting against attacks, and we have to realize that al Qaeda is not just another terrorist group, but a real enemy that is attempting to swing history on their side and eventually collapse our economy.

  98. There is nothing one can do, short of moving into a bomb shelter, to minimize the risk of being killed or maimed in a random terrorist attack.

    Not true. Move to BFE little town mid-America and stay away from large public events and I’d say your risk is virtually indistinguishable from zero (like odds of winning the Powerball).

    My prescription: Leave the UN to nation-building. US military intervention only for imminent threats to US national security. Take 1/4th of the DOD budget and reallocate to training foreign intelligence agents, interpreters, cultural specialists, etc. and improving cooperation/upping the capabilities of every allied foreign intelligence agency.

    Each allied country to interdict internal terroist threats as a police matter, external ones as a military matter CONSISTENT with THEIR national interest.

    AZ, I have a real hard time buying that Jihadist philosophy even if fomented across the middle east, could ever represent a more severe threat than was the Axis in WWII or nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. Even if you assume no pursuit of Al-Qaeda, and their reestablishment of the Caliphate (not that I’m advocating that), we would maintain the annhilation deterrent. The outcome in Iraq with either encourage or dissuade Al-Qaeda, but our victory there sure as hell isn’t going to stop them.

  99. Attacks like 9/11 are done to goad the victim-nation into making a misstep out of rage and fear. The hope is that we will over-react in a manner that produces hatred towards us and support for the terrorists. If they get really lucky, we might even respond by attacking them on ground that is favorable towards them, thus allowing them the opportunity to actually beat us.

    This is why the war in Iraq has to be won, regardless of whether it was a good idea to have ever started it.

    What if it can’t? Do you think our military and government haven’t been trying these last few years? “It HAS to work!” isn’t actually a plan, outside of Scooby-Doo.

    I’ll tell you, if we stick with Total Victory or Absolute Defeat, we’re going to get the latter. We do need to deny al Qaeda a victory, but we need to come up with a more plausible means of acheiving that than “Shoot Bad Guys Until Iraq is a Warm Minnesota.”

    Were you worried about losing in Iraq before the war began, AZ? Sometimes the stock market goes down, too.

  100. “Even if you assume no pursuit of Al-Qaeda, and their reestablishment of the Caliphate (not that I’m advocating that), we would maintain the annhilation deterrent.”

    Tbone, al Qaeda isn’t a nation, so who are we going to nuke if they nuke several of our cities at one time? They can establish their Caliphate AFTER they collapse us…

  101. Eric Dondero,

    Would it be too much to ask to shoot for a foreign policy that is strong and wise?

    The last time we listened to you people tell us how important it was to have a hawkish foreign policy to keep us safe, we got the Iraq War and a resurgent Taliban.

    One can be hawkish, and still exercise some judgement.

  102. Attacks like 9/11 are done to goad the victim-nation into making a misstep out of rage and fear.

    Actually, I believe that AQ got lucky there. I think OBL just wanted to take down the towers. He had a hard-on for the WTC the way Rumsfeld & Cheney had a hard-on for Saddam.


  103. One can be hawkish, and still exercise some judgement.

    Judgement like surrendering to our sworn enemies in Iraq, so America will look weak in the eyes of the world and our enemies?

  104. “What if it can’t? Do you think our military and government haven’t been trying these last few years?”

    Good grief Joe, the main plan has been to build up the Iraqi army and police force so that they can handle the situation. The enemy has been tough because they have fomented civil strife, but time works against them because people can only bear suicide bombers for so long. Eventually, the locals tire of the al Qaeda types and throw them out.

    Some things aren’t easy, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible.

  105. Donderoo,

    If “Surrendering to our sworn enemies in Iraq,” i.e., cutting and running, makes us “look weak”, then staying the course (and being ineffectual at the job) makes us look weak and stupid.

  106. AZ,

    After they collapse us? How would they do that precisely?

    Every nuke nation knows we can trace the origin of weapons-grade material down to the gnats ass. They also know they would reap the whirlwind if they were to give/sell bin Laden a nuke that he then used against us.

  107. Tbone, if you’ll remember, 911 did have a significant hit on our economy. The bigger the attack, the larger the hit on our economy. Some attacks might pull us into recession. Others would pull into a depression. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen, especially given that so much of the world’s economy depends on us. Once our economy goes down far enough, other economies are effected, and then that feeds back and effects us further.

    If we slide into a deep enough depression, there could easily be outbreaks of rioting and violence in our cities making problems even worse. Who can say where things would go from there?

    And just because we can trace where nukes come from doesn’t mean bin Laden can’t get them. Sure, governments would not likely give them nukes, but that’s why bin Laden needs to overthrow governments, starting with Iraq, then Afghanistan, and then likely Pakistan.

    Or maybe they’ll get lucky with rouge scientists like the ones in Pakistan that spread nuclear technology to Libia, or with corrupt black-market guys from the former Soviet Union.

    Or if they can’t get nukes, they’ll get something else. The point is that they are willing to use WMD’s and we can’t deter them with ours.

  108. Yea, A.Q Kahn is really reaping the whirlwind what with his house arrest. I’d like to think we’d take him out if one of his customers nuked us, but I doubt we would. And, Osama may already have Russian nukes, are we going to retaliate against Russia if one goes off?

  109. Some attacks might pull us into recession
    This doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen

    If we slide into a deep enough depression, there could easily be outbreaks of rioting and violence in our cities making problems even worse. Who can say where things would go from there?

    Sure, governments would not likely give them nukes, but that’s why bin Laden needs to overthrow governments, starting with Iraq, then Afghanistan, and then likely Pakistan.

    Or maybe they’ll get lucky with rouge scientists like the ones in Pakistan that spread nuclear technology to Libia, or with corrupt black-market guys from the former Soviet Union.

    Or if they can’t get nukes, they’ll get something else. The point is that they are willing to use WMD’s and we can’t deter them with ours.

    Apparently, you’re a member of the “all fear all the time” club based on the webs you weaved above. You ascribe an awful lot of power to a rag-tag bunch of misfits hiding in caves and miscellaneously scattered around the globe – I do not.

  110. James,

    What does A.Q. Khan have to do with Al-Qaeda?

    Please provide source reference to bin Laden having Russian nukes.

  111. Tbone, are you trying to say that a WMD attack on multiple US cities would NOT be a huge blow to our economy, strong enough to lead to a depression?

    This “rag-tag bunch of misfits” appears to have enough friends in western Pakistan that Pakistan’s army can’t do much about them. Worse, we can’t go in because it would destabilize the government. Because of this mess, the Taliban has been able to regroup and is causing us significant trouble in Afghanistan.

    And except for all our efforts in Iraq, and the recent surge there, al Qaeda had been making significant progress in a number of provinces there. Even with our progress of late they have evidently convinced enough people over here that the war is unwinnable and so we’re close to retreating — a first in US history to retreat from a battle. And this is still a “rag-tag bunch of misfits”?

    In some ways, yes they are. But in other ways, this bunch is causing a lot of trouble in the world.

  112. AZ,

    Al-Qaeda is a threat and must be dealt with. But going to your original post, Iraq is not particulary consequential in that fight. Al-Qaeda is now there because we are there. I don’t know what you would consider “victory” but Bush has not and cannot define it. In so doing, he has already “lost” the war in Iraq. No matter a “win” or “loss”, Al-Qaeda is not going to take over as the government of Iraq. Our continued presence has been already been acknowledged as creating a jihadist recruiting/training venue. Our singular focus there also detracts from more important goals:

    Implementing Nunn-Lugar to secure loose nukes
    Creating a functional middle east (and global) intelligence capability
    Discouraging (rather than inciting) jihadism through trade and diplomacy
    Suppressing the resurgence of the Taliban

    James,

    Thanks, I will take a look.

  113. Tbone,

    You have to look at this from Al-Qaeda’s perspective. They struck us on 911 and hit the symbolic targets they did to show the radicals in the Muslim world that we aren’t as strong as we appear to be. But Bush struck back at them in a strong way which proves you shouldn’t mess with us. However, the war in Iraq gave Al-Qaeda an opening because they could foment civil war and draw radicals far and wide to take us on.

    If we leave, they have proven a method for defeating us, which they can then use with more vigor in Afghanistan. Who in America is going to have much of a stomach to keep fighting in Afghanistan if there are continual suicide bombs there?

    Al-Qaeda never actually has to take over as the government. They let their friends, like the Taliban do that. In Iraq, all they need is some cities or provinces where they can do what they want, and that will give them springboards into other areas — like Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia.

    Al-Qaeda wins if we leave and the Iraqi government falls. We lose if that happens. We win if Iraq becomes stable enough for us to leave without fear that the government will fall.

    If we leave and allow the Iraqi government to fall, then no government in the region can count on us to be on their side, and they will obviously start making whatever deals they need to with the radicals to hold onto the power they have — and that will include putting some limits on their intelligence capabilities.

    If we leave, the radicals will know they can beat us, and will have ever reason to keep going until we withdrawal from Afghanistan, and then from everywhere else in the region — and thus jihadism will presume it is destined to win and won’t care to moderate.

    If we leave, we won’t last long in Afghanistan, and the Taliban will have a major resurgence.

    If we leave, we may not be able to secure the nukes when Pakistan falls to the radicals.

    To me, we are fully at war with Al-Qaeda and Iraq is the principle battlefield. Losing on that battle field would be disastrous.

  114. Eric Dondero, demonstrating the deep understanding of military and foreign policy issues we’ve come to know and love, writes Judgement like surrendering to our sworn enemies in Iraq, so America will look weak in the eyes of the world and our enemies?

    You’re the only one who’s talking about surrenduring, Eric. I’m talking about redeploying to more favorable ground, so we actually have a chance of beating our sworn enemies.

    I know it’s been a while, but if you think hard enough, you might be able to remember this thing called “winning.”

  115. But like all tyrants and wanna-be tyrants, Eric would rather issue “Not one step back” orders than do the hard working of thinking about the best strategy. Math is hard!

  116. AZ,

    Good grief Joe, the main plan has been to build up the Iraqi army and police force so that they can handle the situation. The enemy has been tough because they have fomented civil strife…

    Civil strife that our built up and trained Iraqi Army and policy forces are making worse, as they are functionally indistinguishable from one side of the civil war.

    The main plan can’t work, because the main plan simply maintains the political situation that makes a political/peace process impossible.

  117. AZ,

    Al Qaeda didn’t convince Americans that we can’t win in Iraq. The civil war and the inability of the government to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi public (or, at least, large and important segments of that public) convinced us that we can’t win in Iraq.

    Afghanistan is a very different situation. There isn’t a significant Afghan populace that is at war with the government and its supporters. Hence, there isn’t the “water” that the “fish” can swim in. And we see this in much lower levels of effectiveness among both the anti-government Afghans that do exist, and the international jihadists that make common cause with them.

    If we leave, we won’t last long in Afghanistan…

    If we leave Iraq, we can double out presence in Afghanistan without anybody missing their two years back between tours.

    You know what would inspire al Qaeda and dispirit Americans even more than an ambiguous outcome in Iraq? An actual defeat. Let’s take half a loaf in Iraq and move onto greener pastures; it’s the smart thing to do.

  118. AZ,

    OK, you’ve admitted that Bush walked us into AQ’s trap. You are now maintaining we must play their game [WackaMole] in every country where they reside or could move to lest we show we can be beaten.

    How long are you willing to “play” this game? How exactly do you expect to “win” this game? And how many coins/lives are you willing to spend to “win” – particularly since the last four years show we’re not very good at this “game”?

  119. No one ever talks about the Phillipines anymore. That was a kick-ass success.

    What ever happened to “reinforce success?”

  120. If people are truly fearing another terrorist attack, then why aren’t they reporting to us the recent activities of this guy? http://www.nndb.com/people/425/000044293/

  121. Christians bombed the Atlanta Olympics and OKC. In fact, pre-911, most domestic terrorism came from abortion clinic bombings. Yet, the abortionist Democratic president, Clinton, didn’t make the FBI infiltrate churches to find out who was behind them.

    On July 1, a dozen citizens of Phoenix were arrested and charged with being members of ____________.” The next day, President __________ stood on the White House lawn. saying. “I’d like to begin today by saluting the enforcement officers who made arrests in Arizona yesterday to avert a terrible terrorist attack.” But as the indictments are made available to the public and more evidence about the __________ activities emerges, it is becoming increasingly clear that the _________ case is merely the government’s latest assault on citizens exercising their __________ rights. No “terrorist attack,” terrible or otherwise, was planned or even mentioned in the charges. In fact, as the indictments show, the __________ supposedly criminal acts consist merely of (a) the day’s work of a “______________,” (b) petty tax violations, and (c) ownership of books, magazines, and __________ which are, of course, constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Furthermore, whenever the indictment refers to a plan for a genuinely criminal act, it appears to have been instigated by ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) infiltrators and rejected by the membership.

  122. Either I am crazy with my math or I have found a mistake from Not the Senator | July 26, 2007, 4:27pm

    “For example, if there was a WTC attack every year since 2001, we’d still need to wait until approximately 2014 before they equaled the number of drunk driving deaths this year alone.”

    If I remember correctly, the death toll from 9/11 was around 3000 people. The latest numbers I can find for Drunk Driving Deaths were around 16,000 or 17,000 per year, somewhere around 40% of the total car related deaths each year. If we had a 9/11 every year until 2014 as suggested, we would get up around 40,000.

    Also, I love Reason Magazine and Reason.org!

  123. The_Bricklayer | July 29, 2007, 1:03am
    Either I am crazy with my math or I have found a mistake from Not the Senator | July 26, 2007, 4:27pm…
    The latest numbers I can find for Drunk Driving Deaths were around 16,000 or 17,000 per year, somewhere around 40% of the total car related deaths each year. If we had a 9/11 every year until 2014 as suggested, we would get up around 40,000.

    Total traffic fatalities are around 40,000, so I’m guessing that NTS was confusing the two. Probably a common and innocent mistake.

    Total traffic deaths: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov

    Drunk driving deaths: http://www.madd.org/stats/10213

    CDC fatality reports (if you really want to query the data): http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/

    What do we do about terrorists driving drunk?

  124. How long are you willing to “play” this game? How exactly do you expect to “win” this game?

    A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

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