Who's Still Afraid of Osama?

Terrorists can't pull off the big one

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"Death tugs at my ear and says, 'Live, I am coming.'" Were Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. alive today, he might ascribe that line not to death but to nuclear terrorism.

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have had to live with the knowledge that the next time the terrorists strike, it could be not with airplanes capable of killing thousands but atomic bombs capable of killing hundreds of thousands.

The prospect has created a sense of profound vulnerability. It has shaped our view of government policies aimed at combating terrorism (filtered through Jack Bauer). It helped mobilize support for the Iraq war.

Why are we worried? Bomb designs can be found on the Internet. Fissile material may be smuggled out of Russia. Iran, a longtime sponsor of terrorist groups, is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. A layperson may figure it's only a matter of time before the unimaginable comes to pass. Harvard's Graham Allison, in his book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, concludes, "On the current course, nuclear terrorism is inevitable."

But remember: After Sept. 11, 2001, we all thought more attacks were a certainty. Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.

Given their inability to do something simple—say, shoot up a shopping mall or set off a truck bomb—it's reasonable to ask if they have a chance at something much more ambitious. Far from being plausible, argued Ohio State University professor John Mueller in a recent presentation at the University of Chicago, "the likelihood that a terrorist group will come up with an atomic bomb seems to be vanishingly small." (http://polisci.osu.edu/faculty/jmueller/APSACHGO.PDF)

The events required to make that happen include a multitude of herculean tasks. First, a terrorist group has to get a bomb or fissile material, perhaps from Russia's inventory of decommissioned warheads. If that were easy, one would have already gone missing.

Besides, those devices are probably no longer a danger, since weapons that are not scrupulously maintained (as those have not been) quickly become what one expert calls "radioactive scrap metal." If terrorists were able to steal a Pakistani bomb, they would still have to defeat the arming codes and other safeguards designed to prevent unauthorized use. As for Iran, no nuclear state has ever given a bomb to an ally—for reasons even the Iranians can grasp. Stealing some 100 pounds of bomb fuel would require help from rogue individuals inside some government who are prepared to jeopardize their own lives. The terrorists, notes Mueller, would then have to spirit it "hundreds of miles out of the country over unfamiliar terrain, and probably while being pursued by security forces."

Then comes the task of building a bomb. It's not something you can gin up with spare parts and power tools in your garage. It requires millions of dollars, a safe haven and advanced equipment—plus people with specialized skills, lots of time and a willingness to die for the cause. And if Al Qaeda could make a prototype, another obstacle would emerge: There is no guarantee it would work, and there is no way to test it.

Assuming the jihadists vault over those Himalayas, they would have to deliver the weapon onto American soil. Sure, drug smugglers bring in contraband all the time—but seeking their help would confront the plotters with possible exposure or extortion. This, like every other step in the entire process, means expanding the circle of people who know what's going on, multiplying the chance someone will blab, back out or screw up.

Mueller recalls that after the Irish Republican Army failed in an attempt to blow up British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it said, "We only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always." Al Qaeda, he says, faces a very different challenge: For it to carry out a nuclear attack, everything has to go right. For us to escape, only one thing has to go wrong. That has heartening implications. If Osama bin Laden embarks on the project, he has only a minuscule chance of seeing it bear fruit. Given the formidable odds, he probably won't bother. None of this means we should stop trying to minimize the risk by securing nuclear stockpiles, monitoring terrorist communications and improving port screening. But it offers good reason to think that in this war, it appears, the worst eventuality is one that will never happen.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Don’t you know that every conceivable plot must be guarded against no matter how outlandish? Sure, nuclear weapons may be out of reach for NGOs (in the broadest sense) but what about mountains? What if They find a way to bring the mountain to Mohammad? Imagine if they got Mohammad to Battery Park? Why, NYC would be squashed under even a small mountain. Even molehills need surveillance, in case the terrorists find a way to turn them into mountains.

    Although I wouldn’t argue it, I’m sure some might say that our nation’s willingness to attack Iraq when they had nothing to do with 9/11 is a strong motivation to other states that even being implicated in supporting terrorism is a bad idea. Now, if a state could find a way to make it look like a rival state was the one that armed the terrorists?

  2. Look at how low tech 9/11 in fact was.They took advantage of the fact people were told not to fight back.The thought being they would be released.Think that would happen now?They took their best shot.If they can’t execute a large scale attack in Israel,with support all around,it won’t happen here.That’s not to say some small scale attacks won’t happen.Your greater danger is slipping in the bath tub.

  3. “Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.”

    Wrong: 2004 Madrid train bombings.

  4. But the Global War on Scary Badguys is sexy; much sexier than implementing a flat tax, or eliminating the Education Ministry.

    Way, way, sexier than repainting the lane markings on the Interstate. Or bridge-and-tunnel projects.

  5. Hey P Brooks…I like ur cock

    We gotta get off this SEXY War Bit…I agree.

  6. The LONG TERM EFFECTS of 9/11 are what is killing us:

    1. The Creation of the Police State
    2. The Addition 1hr delay at airports
    3. The Paranoia
    4. The Pre-emptive war on a Muslim State…a state that is 3000 away from the Osama.

    etc.etc.etc.

  7. I still think we need to protect ourseleves from terrorism. That is why we are in Iraq, to get the Iraqi terrorists who are out to get us.

    Look at how low tech 9/11 in fact was.

    Which is why we now have much better screening procedures at airports, ex we check shoes and don’t allow liquids.

    We may not need the F-22 plane, but we can definitely use high tech weapons like the predator, we should be flying them all over the world 24/7 looking for the Iraqi terrorists.

  8. Clearly Mr. Chapman has not seen the movie “The Manhattan Project” (1986) starring John Lithgow. The kid in that movie makes an atom bomb for his science fair project.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091472/

  9. Steven,

    Please tell me u r just troll’n
    !!! Please !!!

    There were NO IRAQI TERRORISTS

  10. Or we could all become strict adherents to Islam and the “problem” would vanish. Children of the book and all that.

  11. Alice,

    But WMDs WERE FOUND in Iraq!! WhackoNetDaily says so!!!

    LOL.

  12. 1. The Creation of the Police State

    Not true, to be effective in the war on drugs and terror, these tactics are required.

    2. The Addition 1hr delay at airports

    We need to check shoes and water to be safe, etc.

    3. The Paranoia

    There are real threats to us as displayed by the colour code.

    4. The Pre-emptive war on a Muslim State…a state that is 3000 away from the Osama.

    The vice president says Iraq was involved, we know that they bought aluminum and it can be used in bombs so they are responsible. We should invade all terrorist states.

  13. As He-Who-Objected-to-the-High-Cost-of-the-F-22, let me just say that I agree with spending money on the Predator. It makes sense in our current situation. And I believe that they cost MUCH less.

  14. Steven, you started out strong but that last comment puts you back with the third or fourth rate spoofers.

    Then again, I guess if you force fed someone like several gallons of Head and Shoulders shampoo they would get a nasty stomach ache.

  15. This is a straw man. Nuclear terrorism is “sexy” for movies and spy novels, but biological and chemical threats are far easier to produce and, in some cases, more sinister. With a modest knowledge of public water systems, some ommon chemicals and materials you can buy at a hardware store, it is possible to poison a rather significant population. It is not necessary to kill a large group of people. In fact, it is arguably better to injure those people for the sake of terror and to drain an enemy of the resources required for care.

    Our great advantage is that terrorist organizations seem as incompetent as most other human organizations including the American government. What worries me that it only takes a relatively small number of intelligent, motivated terrorists to harm a nation. Please note that I think the ham-handed violation of civil liberties is a cure worse than the disease, I don’t think it is wise to simply ignore the possibility that there are a few terrorists as intelligent at the H&R crowd.

  16. “As He-Who-Objected-to-the-High-Cost-of-the-F-22, let me just say that I agree with spending money on the Predator. It makes sense in our current situation.”

    Mainly because you haven’t thought it through.

    Predators are useless unless you either:

    A: Get permission from a country to allow them overflight rights.

    B: Invade and occupy a country and install a government that will allow you overflight rights.

    C: Really just want to keep an eye on Americans.

    A: is just not going to happen in countries where it might do some good be they enemy (Iran) or assumed ally (Pakistan).

    B: is incredbly distructive, expensive, and tends to create self fullfilling prophecies (see Al Qaeda in Iraq).

    C: may well be the prime motiviation.

  17. It may be unlikely for al Qaeda to get a nuke, but what about biological agents, conventional poisons, or plain old explosives?

    Simply because nuking is off the table doesn’t means terrorism is still not a threat.

  18. Well, heck, anything can be misused. Robot death from the skies being one of those things.

  19. … but we can definitely use high tech weapons like the predator, we should be flying them all over the world 24/7 looking for the Iraqi terrorists.

    And what could be better for United States public relations than armed, remotely controlled killing machines?
    I say nothing. See how benevolent and tolerant we are, we even paid for that killer drone over your head.

    ♫Do you love me (I can really move)
    Now do you love me (I’m in the groove)
    Ah do you love me (do you really love me)
    Now that I can dance kill♫

    ♫Watch me now, Hey!♫

  20. The F-22 maintains US dominance in the sky.It also replaces the f-111 in many places since it is a stealth craft and carries bombs.Unlike the F-111 it has offensive and defensive systems.It can provide support to ground troops and is much faster and easier to fly.It can also take off and land on carriers in modified versions.It can replace several older,current planes.

  21. That is why we are in Iraq, to get the Iraqi terrorists who are out to get us.

    dude i have this bridge you will absofuckinglutely love.

    only six hundred bucks. six hundred!

  22. J sub D,
    Thank you for implanting that tune in my head for the weekend. It is a good one. ???

  23. About those Predator drones … we’d better watch out for them too.

    “They’re good workers, they don’t get bored,
    Don’t get mad at bosses yet.”

    “They’re going to want a union soon,
    Oil break that’s dead on noon.”

    And I do think my song reference is better than J sub D’s!

  24. dhex, I am in the market. Can it wait till I get my vote bribe/economic stimulus monies?

  25. To paraphrase something I read after 9/11, I refuse to be afraid of people that can’t a plane or a skyscraper.

  26. The F-22 maintains US dominance in the sky.
    It can replace several older,current planes.

    It has almost as good stealth as the F-117, better speed, acceleration and climb rate than the F-15, more manuverability than the F-16,
    thrust vectoring manuverability, supercruise and long range. It also has the most powerful engines ever put in a fighter.

    It replaces the F-15 and F-117.

    It can also take off and land on carriers in modified versions.

    That is the F-35, the replacement for the F-16 and perhaps F-18.

  27. Michael Pack,

    I’m not talking about the F-22’s performance or its ability to defeat the Soviet Union singlehandedly. I’m questioning the cost. I’ve heard numbers from $140 million to $300 million per fighter. That’s an awful lot of money. No more reasonable options than that? I’m not even picking on that one thing so much as just reeling from its cost. Ye gods. We spent less in real dollars when we faced down the U.S.S.R.!

  28. No more reasonable options than that?

    F-15E or F-18 Super Hornet?

  29. Two days ago it was reported on this site that Afghanistani opium exports were expected to be 9,000 tons. If they can ship huge tonnage of opium every year but only the occassional bomb every five to ten years, maybe Al-Qaeda aint that big a threat. Maybe their main threat is as a foil to allow us to be manipulated. Jose Padilla and the people trying to buy uniforms from the FBI are just a bunch of loony, albeit malevolent, clowns.
    I am standing in TSA lines for very little reason.
    It probably is good that we have not pissed off the Irish. They are serious stuff blower-uppers.

  30. Necon Cat demonstrates the threat we all face from Metaphorofascism.

  31. “They’re good workers, they don’t get bored,
    Don’t get mad at bosses yet.”

    “They’re going to want a union soon,
    Oil break that’s dead on noon.”

    Absolutly better song…..this is in my car right now.

  32. Seriously, brand new F-15Es would still be the most effective air superiority fighters on earth. The old ones are physically deteriorated, but their performace still puts them on the top of the pile.

  33. I don’t undertsand a guy who owns a shipping empire and can’t fill up a tanker/freighter with fertilizer ala McVeigh and blow it up in newark or baltimore harbor.

    wtf?

  34. Slugger | February 8, 2008, 12:33pm | #

    It probably is good that we have not pissed off the Irish. They are serious stuff blower-uppers.”

    Users of opium and its by-products tend to be mellow, while drunkards tend to be aggressive.

    No offense intended TWC.

  35. The Irish are the modern vikings. The countries keep the same names but they’re all being run by the Irish, just like the Vikings did in the 11th century!

  36. Pro,yea the cost is high but you need fewer.The B-2 is very expensive but one plane can deliver more on target his then all the B-17’s that hit Dresden.Plus they can remain based in this country due to the range.I think we are buying 122 F22″s.We at one time had many more planes.The 22 B-2’s do the job of hundreds of bombers.You also have to factor in the savings in upkeep and upgrades on a older,less nimble fleet.

  37. Well, heck, anything can be misused. Robot death from the skies being one of those things.

    These could also be an effective tool in the war on drugs, they could be used in the US to spy on drug houses and blow them up if drug activity is present.

  38. It probably is good that we have not pissed off the Irish. They are serious stuff blower-uppers.”

    Users of opium and its by-products tend to be mellow, while drunkards tend to be aggressive.

    I was taught that whiskey was God’s method to keep the Irish from ruling the world.

  39. I was in a parade in Tampa once when a B-2 flew overhead. I heard it only after it whizzed past. A guy I was standing next to looked up, then at me and said, “Guess we’d be dead before we heard anything, huh?” Eerie.

  40. The 22 B-2s most certainly do NOT do the job of hundred of B-52s.

    The B-17 was taken out of commission around 1950. The B-2 wasn’t even dreamed of for 30 more years.

    But at least the B-2 has a new capability (stealth), as opposed to the pointless B-1.

  41. Ahhh, the buff and carpetbombing cities. That’s what dreams are made of. Massive civilian casualties are the way to win wars.

  42. Joe,I talked to a pilot that flew the F-15’s and the F-22.He said the F-22 is much better in all respects and more pilot friendly.The thrust vectoring gives it a huge advantage over all other craft.It can almost seem to stall in mid air them resume another course.

  43. Joe,I was using the example of how much things have change.In the past we sent out many planes to destroy one target.Now we send one plane to take out several targets.

  44. In reality the nuclear weapon attack is very unlikely. It would be so devastating if it did occur that we still need to be on guard for it. I am much more worried about biological attacks myself. The advances in medicine makes it much more likely. We still have not figured out who sent the anthrax to congress, and that is not a terribly communicative disease. Iraq was not allied with Al Qaeda, but it did support terrorism in general. The reason it was not allied was Al Qaeda did not like them, not the other way around. Having said this, freedom is dangerous, but worth the danger. The loss of freedoms that have happened because of 9/11 are not worth the added security.

  45. The basic points on rogue nukes were generally sound but the article did not address what happens if/when a nation (say Pakistan) splinters into rival (military) factions? What if General X and General Y BOTH have control of nuclear weapons?

  46. “And what could be better for United States public relations than armed, remotely controlled killing machines?”

    Yeah, because we all know that the use of Tomahawk cruise missile over the last few decades has really hurt our image abroad.

  47. I know that this idea won’t go over well here, but I strongly suspect that a big part of the reason the radical islamists haven’t been able to pull off another attack on our soil is precisely because of some of the things the libertarians object to so much.

    Things like eavesdropping in on phone calls and other electronic communications to find out who is talking to suspicious people overseas, and then rolling these people up and getting them out of the country. Things like meeting our enemies on the battlefield overseas, and killing them at every opportunity. Things like stepped up security at airports and other high profile targets.

    Do these actions of the last several years guarantee with certainty that we can’t be successfully attacked again? Of course not. But whenever anyone suggests to me that they haven’t helped out significantly, I call B.S. on them every time.

  48. “I’m not talking about the F-22’s performance or its ability to defeat the Soviet Union singlehandedly. I’m questioning the cost. I’ve heard numbers from $140 million to $300 million per fighter. That’s an awful lot of money. No more reasonable options than that?”

    Yes. Nuclear bombs…

  49. Ahhh, the buff and carpetbombing cities. That’s what dreams are made of. Massive civilian casualties are the way to win wars.

    Sadly, that is sometimes true. An analogy, Sherman did more to defeat the CSA than Grant.

  50. Google “tokyo gas attack.”

    The sarin gas released in the Tokyo subway seems to me to be a pretty reasonable prototype for a terrorist bio attack. It was not especially lethal; the death toll was pretty small, and most of the injuries seemed to be panic-related.

    And the best way to stop an attack of this sort is not to strip-search everybody on the subway, it’s to have a culture in which somebody along the way realizes how fucked up this idea is, and talks the plotters out of it.

  51. “I don’t undertsand a guy who owns a shipping empire and can’t fill up a tanker/freighter with fertilizer ala McVeigh and blow it up in newark or baltimore harbor.”

    No one would notice.

  52. “Massive civilian casualties are the way to win wars.”

    Worked in Japan.

  53. And the best way to stop an attack of this sort is not to strip-search everybody on the subway, it’s to have a culture in which somebody along the way realizes how fucked up this idea is, and talks the plotters out of it.

    You realize, of course, that the culture you refer to is Islamic culture, right?

  54. “You realize, of course, that the culture you refer to is Islamic culture, right?”

    Tou-fuckin-che’!

  55. But remember: After Sept. 11, 2001, we all thought more attacks were a certainty. Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.

    Not to disagree with your overall point, but only the most paleo of the paleo’s believes the world only extends from the St Croix to the Tijuanna rivers.

  56. I was taught that whiskey was God’s method to keep the Irish from ruling the world.

    That, and this horrible sense that we’re complete losers. I’m not sure if we drink because we know that, or we know that because we drink.
    Either way, pass the bottle.

  57. Michael Pack,

    I don’t disagree that the F-22 performs better than the F-15. That wasn’t my point.

    My point was that the F-15E is already much better than the competition, and spending the amount we’re spending on the F-22 to make sure our fighters are much, much better isnt’ worth it.

    As for the point about the B-2 needing only one plane to do a mission that would have taken several, I understand that. However, with modern ordnance (JDAM assemblies, for example), you could have airmen physically life a bomb out of the door of a 747 and still get that vastly superior precision. A B-52 can now do what it used to take a whole fleet of B-52s to do.

  58. And nothwithstanding anything in the article, I would assess a 95% probability that a nuclear bomb of the yield of Hiroshima +/- 5 kt will be detonated in a populated area somewhere in the world before the end of the 21st century

  59. You realize, of course, that the culture you refer to is Islamic culture, right?

    …says the guy who spent 2005 telling us that a wave of liberal democracy was spreading across Islamic culture, and charging people who doubted this with racism.

  60. Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.

  61. Yeah, because we all know that the use of Tomahawk cruise missile over the last few decades has really hurt our image abroad.

    To be precise, Tomahawks are not remotely contolled. Annd the aspirin factory in Sudan didn’t make us look like good guys.

    Don’t get me wrong, Tomahawks do what they are designed for exceptionally well. The ability to stand off and shut down a nations electrical and communication systems is a good thing to have. Flying predators around in somebody else’s airspace is a whole different thing, legally and pschologically..

  62. That, and this horrible sense that we’re complete losers.

    With hot women and crappy cuisine.

  63. “It may be unlikely for al Qaeda to get a nuke, but what about biological agents, conventional poisons, or plain old explosives? ”

    very unlikely. because it’s the neo-nazis with nukes we should be afraid of. just ask the hollywood producers of Sum of All Fears who rewrote it so it wouldn’t dare offend anybody (except nazis of course)

  64. Joe,I think one of the reasons they want to replace the F-15[and other planes] is the upkeep cost of a aging fleet.That and the advances they have made.The F-22 should fly for 30 years or so.

  65. You realize, of course, that the culture you refer to is Islamic culture, right?

    Yeah, your superior culture prefers to blow up innocents from the comfort of a cockpit or navy ships. If you don’t see their bodies blown up to pieces, then it must mean that it doesn’t happen.

  66. joe: My point was that the F-15E is already much better than the competition, and spending the amount we’re spending on the F-22 to make sure our fighters are much, much better isnt’ worth it.

    Acccording to our own USAF (can’t find any links right now), the latest generation MiG and Sukhoi fighters can compete evenly with the F-15E, and might have some advantages. ‘Course, they might have some ulterior motivation to have us all believe that (especially congress.)

  67. Mike M. | February 8, 2008, 1:14pm | #

    I know that this idea won’t go over well here, but I strongly suspect that a big part of the reason the radical islamists haven’t been able to pull off another attack on our soil is precisely because of some of the things the libertarians object to so much.

    Suspect as strongly as you like, you have no data to support your hypothesis.

    Things like eavesdropping in on phone calls and other electronic communications to find out who is talking to suspicious people overseas, and then rolling these people up and getting them out of the country.

    Is that what people here object to, or do people here object to the fact that this occurs without warrants and oversight?

    Things like meeting our enemies on the battlefield overseas, and killing them at every opportunity.

    As the Vietnam action and the current Iraq War demonstrate, a big, overwhelming military force often isn’t very effective against an enemy guerrilla force that can also blend into the populace.

  68. he latest generation MiG and Sukhoi fighters can compete evenly with the F-15E

    The Mig-29 and SU-27 are excellent planes. The Mig-29 is like our F-18 or F-16 and the SU-27 is like the F-15. I think the SU-27 can outmaneuver an F-15 or F-16.

  69. And what Mr Pack said @ 2:41.

    Our F-15A/B/C/Ds have been grounded because one of their main structural components (the longeron) is cracking. One aircraft even broke in half in midair during a turn. (The pilot successfully punched out.)

  70. …says the guy who spent 2005 telling us that a wave of liberal democracy was spreading across Islamic culture, and charging people who doubted this with racism.

    An, um, interesting interpretation of my pointing out post-Iraq invasion that said invasion had induced some of the more blatant terror-supporting regimes to back off, joe. Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan getting out of the terror-exporting business, we saw Libya back way down and the Syrians get their noses bloodied in Lebanon. Or have you forgotten?

    And, as I recall, I am on record as saying that saying it is impossible for brown people living in the Middle East to ever have a functional democratic government is racist. Are you saying its not?

  71. As the Vietnam action and the current Iraq War demonstrate, a big, overwhelming military force often isn’t very effective against an enemy guerrilla force that can also blend into the populace.

    Speaking of the memory hole, this is not exactly the lesson of the Vietnam War. People actually familiar with what happened there will recall that the US Army and the South Vietnamese decisively defeated the Viet Cong, and crushed two major North Vietnamese offensives (casualties inflicted: over 100,00 per offensive), forcing the North Vietnamese to sign a non-aggression treaty.

    Vietnam was lost when we pulled out, the North Vietnamese violated their agreement, and we in turn violated our promises to support the South.

    Feel free to analogize to Iraq with a little true history in mind.

  72. Feel free to analogize to Iraq with a little true history in mind.

    Good point. Iraq is absolutely nothing like Vietnam.

    Dubya had a plan to get out of Vietnam.

  73. One of the lessons of the Vietnam war is that the armed occupation of a country where you are not welcome pretty much sucks all the way around.

  74. Suspect as strongly as you like, you have no data to support your hypothesis.

    Let me ask you a question. Why do you suppose it is that no passenger aircraft have been hijacked in the last six and a half years since 9/11?

    Is it just amazing luck on our part and that nobody in the world has any desire to hijack airplanes anymore, or do you think maybe there’s another explanation for it?

  75. I thought the lesson of Vietnam is to never get in battle of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line.

  76. Let me ask you a question. Why do you suppose it is that no passenger aircraft have been hijacked in the last six and a half years since 9/11?

    Same reason there weren’t any in the 6 years leading up to 911, it is a rare event.

  77. You realize, of course, that the culture you refer to is Islamic culture, right?

    I just wanted everyone to be clear that the point above about culture as a preventative for suicide bombings, highjackings, and the like, pointed much more to a need for some changes in certain precincts Islam than to any changes in Western culture, where this behavior is much less prevalent.

  78. It was impossible for the Japanese to attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.
    1> An attacking fleet would have to travel thousands of miles of ocean unseen and in radio silence.
    2> Torpedoes launched from aircraft will not work in Pearl Harbor, the water is to shallow.
    3> American air patrols would detect the attacking fleet.
    4> American Radar would detect the attacking aircraft (It did)
    I’m no expert on the Pearl Harbor attack, I’m sure that their were other reasons to assume that it was impossible.

  79. “Same reason there weren’t any in the 6 years leading up to 911, it is a rare event.”

    But there WAS and Arab pilot that crashed his passenger jet into the ocean screaming “Allah Akbar” all the way down. This happened prior to 9/11, but no one thought much of it at the time…

  80. We left Vietnam because it was impossible for us to remain there. This is a democracy, and the American people will not stand for eternal war and eternal casualties that accomplish nothing. We are not the Romans, we are not the British, and any politician who puts American troops in a position where they have to fight a counterinsurgency in hostile territory with no end in sight is setting up those troops, and America as a whole, for failure.

  81. “Now, if a state could find a way to make it look like a rival state was the one that armed the terrorists?”

    I have been thinking the same thing. If I was a foreign country and I had a neighbor whose territory I wanted, I would just implicate them, make up some claim about having previously owned the territory,then offer to let the united states fly over my territory as long as they agreed that I could “recover” the territory.

  82. Heinrick-
    It’s more or less what Franco did.

    It’s also loosely parallel’s the purpose of the Zimmerman telegram.

  83. I can think of several reasons why they haven’t attacked us since 9/11:

    1. Al-Qaeda wants to up the ante from last time. Shooting up a shopping mall might cause some anxiety, but it doesn’t have the same panache as a bigger strike.

    2. They decided after 2004 to wait for the next president to test him/her. They could be excused for assuming that a Democrat president will take a passive approach in reaction to an attack.

    3. All the additional overlays of security have actually worked to the degree necessary to thwart a really complex threat.

    It was eight years from WTC I to WTC II. One would think it awfully damned obvious that just because they haven’t acted again doesn’t mean that it’s not in the wind. These people are pretty patient, with long memories, and deep hatred. Just because you can’t relate to them doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in killing you.

  84. I’m sure Steve Chapman loves his mother, but that doesn’t make him any less of a damn fool. Therefore, if he has any vestigial common sense at all, he’ll put a sign with the following Marine Corps “words to live by” over his toilet tank so he can’t help but look at it each morning as he drains himself:

    COMPLACENCY KILLS.

  85. “…Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.”

    Chapman can’t escape his contemporary Western understanding of time. What makes him think Al Qaeda has been unable to mount a second strike? What makes him think they’ve even tried? The passage of time, that’s what makes Chapman think that. But Chapman’s living by his (our) clock; they’re living by theirs. Oh, we’ll get our “second strike” alright. Just wait…

  86. Never is a long time.

  87. Sorry, but this argument is completely full of holes.

    “Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.”
    – They have, in quite a few countries. We have just been able to stop them here, most likely through surveillance methods that half of Congress want to stop using.

    “Ohio State University professor John Mueller in a recent presentation at the University of Chicago, “the likelihood that a terrorist group will come up with an atomic bomb seems to be vanishingly small.””
    – based on intelligence gathered by Ohio State’s worldwide network of agents and extensive telecom intercepts? Sorry, university professors don’t know anything more than what appears in the press.

    “Stealing some 100 pounds of bomb fuel would require help from rogue individuals inside some government who are prepared to jeopardize their own lives.”
    – and these people are of course *never* suicidal.

    The most serious risk is a nation state deciding to attack us covertly. Suppose in the future every unstable regime in the Middle East and quite a few in other parts of the world all have the bomb. A device is detonated in NY City. It didn’t come on the end of a Soviet missile, so we don’t know who is responsible. Now what do we do?

  88. Dear Mr. Chapman: If it isn’t dark, why are you whistling so loudly? You never did answer the conundrum: the defense always has to be lucky, the offense only once. To be sure, when the defense is lucky in the case of nuclear weapons, they lose a big pile of chips. But what is losing one when God knows how much nuclear stuff is at large? Nor is there any shortage of fanatics willing to die for the cause. You don’t even need a nuclear explosion. Conventional explosives and powdered plutonium, say, will make a fine dirty bomb. Exploded in the middle of a city on a properly windy day, it could do a fair amount of damage all by itself, which, since it involves radioactivity, will be immensely magnified by the press. What price REASON articles then?

    You are quite right that the Conflict has exacted a high price of liberty. Since a long time has gone by without serious attacks on American soil, it’s easy to conclude that the price is too high. It may be. I don’t know that it is too high—and neither does anyone else. Let such an attack happen on a liberal Democrat’s watch and the reaction would make Mitchell Palmer smile fondly.

    Sincerely yours,
    Gregory Koster

  89. OK for now, but 30, 40, 50 years hence, even if we all get together and sing “Kum Ba Yah” some Koo Koo bird will do it.

  90. “…we all thought more attacks were a certainty. Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.” That more attacks have not come, does not, ipso facto, mean thay have proven unable. Khalid Sheik Mohammed admitted that the ferocity of the assault on the Taliban in Afghanistan made them call off planned attacks on the west coast. “Given their inability to do something simple…” Again, you assume the lack of shopping mall attacks etc., is because of inability. How do you know this? I submit you cannot know inability, only that none have occurred. Why is speculative. “…decommissioned warheads. If that were easy, one would have already gone missing.” Tautology. Because one has not “gone missing” does not mean one never will, no does it say anything about the ease or difficulty of pulling it off. We know, (or hope we know), one has not gone missing. Do we, (you and I and we reading here), know the relative ease or difficulty? Having said all this, I agree that the difficulties argue in favor of the West. But the bastards will not stop trying until they fear us more than anything else. Part of our defense must be a sober unstanding of how much they really believe what sounds to us like religious nonsense.

  91. I notion that the offense only has to get it right once is plainly correct. The U.S. government will be fighting the last battle until the next attack occurs, whenever that might be. In the meantime, the authoritarians in the government grab more power in a seemingly never-ending spiral away from freedom.

    As Yogi is reputed to have said, “Predicting is hard, especially about the future.”

  92. The loss of freedoms that have happened because of 9/11 are not worth the added security.

    Huh? What freedoms have you lost? Airport screening takes maybe 5 minutes longer than pre 9-11.

    Unless you’re getting international calls from a suspected terror cell overseas. If thats the case, then I WANT the government to tap your line.

    Also, whats with the contrary principles? We either play offense or defense. That means we attack 1) rogue nation states that 2) support terror orgs and 3) have WMD programs [like Iraq and Iran]. OR we retreat behind the static defenses of a Police State. You have to choose one [or simply surrender], so which do you prefer?

    I swear, we’re going to have to lose a Blue “city-state” like Boston or San Fran for the Left to wake up to the threat we face.

    Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.”

    Uh-huh. And the Soviet Union fell apart all on its own… thats almost as rich as the short-sighted professor you trotted out.

    9-11 Commission: …a failure of imagination…

  93. I can think of several reasons why they haven’t attacked us since 9/11:

    4. They are otherwise occupied in Afganistan and Iraq.

  94. Now, if a state could find a way to make it look like a rival state was the one that armed the terrorists

    Easier than that.

    Iran has a history and pattern of using terrorist orgs as proxies, they don’t need to frame a rival state. Bear in mind that the “primative” nukes Iran is working on do not have enough of a distinguishable “fingerprint” to trace back to the source with the 100% certainty needed to justify a counter-strike.

    Yemeneese freighter with unregistered cargo coming soon to a port city near you. Enjoy.

  95. Coming soon, enjoy:
    Fen will visit your internets with paranoid fantasies.

  96. “Yemeneese freighter…”
    I remember saying my biggest fear was a bomb in the bilge of an oil tanker in NYC … on 8/11/01. Glad I wasn’t closer to the truth.

  97. Allow me to throw out a suggestion…

    I think it’s safe to assume that to secure and deploy a workable nuke, Al Qeida would need assistance from one or more sympathetic states, none of which need to be named here (cough cough, Saudi Arabia, cough).

    A la MAD, we need to let the major parties know that “if any organization detonates a Weapon of Mass Destruction on American soil, any abetting nation-state would be subject to nuclear retaliation.”

    There, I’ve said it. Let the brickbats fly…

  98. Finally, somebody has put the terrorist “nuclear” threat into perspective. In truth, it’s the remotest threat we face. Building even the simplest fission bomb is an enormous engineering challenge, far beyond the capabilities of the great majority of nation states, let alone a bunch of insurgents living in caves. And as Chapman points out, nobody’s going to give these crazies one with a detailed set of instruction on how to use it.

    One has to wonder just how dangerous Al Qaeda really is. With the ready availability of small arms in this country, you’d think small groups of them would simply arms themselves and break into isolated American homes and slaughter everybody. There are any number of things these so-called terrorists could do easily and against which there would be virtually no defense. And yet nothing’s happened, excepting a frightening curtailment of our freedoms.

    I suspect that Osama bin Laden planned exactly that.

  99. Iran would never, ever, in a million years give atomic weapons — or any other serious weaponry — to Al Qaeda or any other similar groups.

    It would be like the Vatican arming Irish Protestant paramilitaries.

    The whole idea is utterly laughable and only plays on the minds of the profoundly ignorant.

  100. “irst, a terrorist group has to get a bomb or fissile material, perhaps from Russia’s inventory of decommissioned warheads. If that were easy, one would have already gone missing.”

    Ummm:

    http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/9/17/155150.shtml

    The Department of Defense knew about that a lot longer than publicly admitted by the Ukraine.

    Nobody knows where they are. They were most likely sold to the highest bidder by corrupt post-Soviet government gangsters, like the rest of the munitions and equipment that’s gone missing and shown up in random hotspots.

  101. Did Hitler need a second Reichstag fire? No, the first one was enough for him to consolidate his dictatorship. The same applies to Dick Cheney. There hasn’t been a second 9/11 because he hasn’t needed it. He’s been able to accomplish everything he wanted with the first, endless war in Southwest Asia and ripping up the Constitution at home.

  102. Several major terrorist attacks on American soil have already been foiled. It was years between the first WTC attack and 9/11, and AQ can be quite patient. Any new inability they have to launch an attack on the United States is due to improved security measures and more importantly, action against them abroad.

    Incidentally, the US is no the only target of AQ. The Spanish train bombings, the UK subway bombings, and numberous attacks in non-western countries serve their purpose just as well and possibly better than attacks on the US. The 9/11 attacks woke America up – for a moment. The Spanish train attacks got the socialist party into power and got Spanish troops out of what AQ wants to be its territory – a far more successful attack from their perspective.

  103. I have a couple disagreements with the statements made about the difficulties of setting off a terrorist nuke.

    First, the statement “If terrorists were able to steal a Pakistani bomb, they would still have to defeat the arming codes and other safeguards designed to prevent unauthorized use.” may be incorrect. There may not be any arming codes for the Pakistani nukes. The US and the USSR have had codes since the 1960s but other countries haven’t always had them. Great Britain only started using them in the late 90s (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/7097101.stm)

    So it’s possible a Pakistani bomb could be easy to set off. Also, the discussion about the lifespan of bombs is centered too much around “suitcase” bombs. A larger bomb could be easily placed about a ship and sailed into LA/San Fran/New York port. What about reliability? If the bomb fails to immediately detonate, you’d have time to mess with it until it did work.

  104. “Look at how low tech 9/11 in fact was”– STUPID IDIOTS
    Now if you fools think that the plan in bombing all the 3 WTC was low tech–I have some nice ocean property for sell in Arizona.
    Listen BUTT heads-911 was high tech– masterminds were not Arabs–try CIA/MOSSAD.
    No high steel concretye bldgs fall gravity speed into their foot print. Now you dick-heads- eat crow!

  105. Steve, I love you ! I feel warm and fuzzy when I read you. You are a father/protector figure. You remind me of FSJ. Will you be my belated valentine ?

  106. I had a math teacher who in the Persian gulf war. He told me about witnessing a carpet bombing by multiple B-52’s side by side. It’s a weapon like a MOAB or planes that spray biological agents. You could use it on empty desert and it’s sometimes just as effective because it’s so shit-a-bowling-ball terrifying that it makes enemy commanders too scared to move their troops.

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