Middle East

Soft on Terrorism? No Way!

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reason contributor John Mueller, the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies and professor of political science at Ohio State University, writes in The National Interest:

Terrorism and the attendant "war" thereon have become fully embedded in the public consciousness, with the effect that politicians and bureaucrats have become as wary of appearing soft on terrorism as they are about appearing soft on drugs, or as they once were about appearing soft on Communism.

Key to this dynamic is that the public apparently continues to remain unimpressed by several inconvenient facts. One such fact is that there have been no al-Qaeda attacks whatsoever in the United States since 2001. A second is that no true al-Qaeda cell (or scarcely anybody who might even be deemed to have a "connection" to the diabolical group) has been unearthed in this country. A third is that the homegrown "plotters" who have been apprehended, while perhaps potentially somewhat dangerous at least in a few cases, have mostly been either flaky or almost absurdly incompetent.

Read the whole article here.

Hat tips: Alan Vanneman, Arts & Letters Daily.

Updates: Here's Jacob Sullum on "The Forever War," from the October 2002 issue. And me on "The New Cold War," from the December 2001 issue.

NEXT: Al Qaeda No. 2 Slags U.S., Iran, Sunnis, Starbucks Coffee

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  1. But if you let down your guard for just one second…they’ll getcha.

  2. professor of political science at THE Ohio State University

  3. Don’t forget also the embarrassing fact that the combined might of the US military special forces and civilian intelligence agencies have so far failed, miserably, to apprehend OBL- who is perhaps the most vigorously hunted terrorist in world history.

  4. *Or IS he?- what I forgot to add.

  5. …the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies…

    Does the Woody Hayes Chair allow the holder to smack around those who don’t agree with their policy positions?

    THE Ohio State University

    How about “THE pile of shit in Columbus?”

  6. Wait — what the fuck? There’s a “Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies” at Ohio State?

    Jeesus Christ, that “school” is a fucking joke!

  7. “the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies”

    Best endowed chair ever. At least until Indiana establishes the Bobby Knight Chair of Quantum Physics.

  8. Don’t forget also the embarrassing fact that the combined might of the US military special forces and civilian intelligence agencies have so far failed, miserably, to apprehend OBL- who is perhaps the most vigorously hunted terrorist in world history.

    He’s been dead for a while, as none of his “recent” messages cite anything specific.

    We won’t admit it, though, as it’s hard to have a Two Minutes Hate without a Goldstein.

  9. He’s been dead for a while, as none of his “recent” messages cite anything specific.

    We won’t admit it, though, as it’s hard to have a Two Minutes Hate without a Goldstein.

    If they knew he was dead they would parade him everywhere they could. The lack of a capture, or a confirmed death, of OBL is a continuing black mark on the administration (among many others).

  10. If they knew he was dead they would parade him everywhere they could. The lack of a capture, or a confirmed death, of OBL is a continuing black mark on the administration (among many others).

    One would think a major fear motivator like a live Bin Laden would be more valuable than another black mark. I think Bush had made it pretty clear that he’s not concerned about black marks on his administration…

  11. I suspect that we won’t “find” OBL until very shortly before McCain’s re-election for his second term as president.

    CB

  12. I see your point, Taktix, but I dunno- if he were dead, it seems Bushmaster and Co. would make sure The American People? knew it. I mean, imagine how much warhawk spooge would be spilled if OBL were confirmed dead- Bush might go from being a terrible, incompetent, borderline idiot president to a terrible, incompetent, borderline idiot president who KILLED BIN LADEN!!!ONEON3!!1.

  13. “the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies”

    Best endowed chair ever.

    Bard College has an “Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies.”

  14. jkp,

    Well, Woody Hayes does convey violence and martial behavior. Perhaps it is appropriate.

    I used to work at Ohio State (I wasn’t a student there, however). It’s too gigantic to insult globally, since parts of it are quite good. On the other hand, it’s not quite the center of the universe that denizens of Columbus sometimes think.

  15. I suspect that we won’t “find” OBL until very shortly before McCain’s re-election for his second term as president.

    The role of Secretary Albright will be played by Cracker’s Boy today.

  16. U missed the moneyquote:

    If shopping malls have now become jammed with heroes, that is a condition, too, I imagine most Americans will be able to live with. I, on the other hand, am determined to keep my distance.

  17. I think the other thing to note about the “homegrown plotters” is that they generally have been inspired in their plots by our excesses in our conduct of the WoT.

    In my view, if people claim to be radicalized by the war in Iraq or by Guantanamo, they are. I realize that the Mark Steyns of the world argue that these radicals would have been inspired to act anyway because of their evil religion, but that’s a bit like arguing that Basques would still be terrorists if they had their own country.

  18. Does one of those Norther schools have a Vladimere Lennin Chair of Marketing?

  19. Northern*

  20. Key to this dynamic is that the public apparently continues to remain unimpressed by several inconvenient facts. One such fact is that there have been no al-Qaeda attacks whatsoever in the United States since 2001. A second is that no true al-Qaeda cell (or scarcely anybody who might even be deemed to have a “connection” to the diabolical group) has been unearthed in this country. A third is that the homegrown “plotters” who have been apprehended, while perhaps potentially somewhat dangerous at least in a few cases, have mostly been either flaky or almost absurdly incompetent.

    This is just proof that the war on terror is working!

  21. I don’t understand libertarians on national security issues or criminal justice issues. If you believe that government should be reduced to mainly these functions, why do you seem to insist that they be ineffective or deny any successes and spend your time criticizing them?

  22. Best endowed chair ever?

    The Ron Jeremy School of Cinematography has them beat.

  23. And the beat goes on,

    GAO report issued yesterday titled: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas

    Since 2002, destroying the terrorist threat and closing the terrorist safe haven have been key national security goals. The United States has provided Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, more than $10.5 billion for military, economic, and development activities. Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which border Afghanistan, are vast unpoliced regions attractive to extremists and terrorists seeking a safe haven.

    GAO found broad agreement, as documented in the National Intelligence Estimate, State, and embassy documents, as well as Defense officials in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan’s FATA.

    We’ve spent 50 times as much in Iraq to create a net negative in terms of global terror. More proof that BushCo is doggedly tied to failed strategies that are losing the “War on Terror”.

  24. If you believe that government should be reduced to mainly these functions

    Incorrect premise. I am not sure that true libertarians would say that are necessarily any “main functions” of the government — all government functions should be pushed back with the objective of maximizing individual choice — but if one had to choose the governments main functions, it would be contract and property law. I would trust a spontaneous and private army of volunteers to repel an invasion far more readily than I would trust the same rabble to tell me what I could, cannot, do and do not own vis-a-vis that same rabble. ame dealee with crim justice — it can be (and often is) privatized. My only arrest was at the hands of a private security guard, f’rinstance.

  25. that government should be reduced to mainly these functions, why do you seem to insist that they be ineffective or deny any successes and spend your time criticizing them

    I mean, assuming Flight 93 was not shot down, did the government save any lives on 9/11?

    Did they save anybody from the anthrax attacks?

    Flight 587?

    The shoe bomber, Richard Reid?

    Columbine?

    Virginia Tech?

    The only time that government actually saved anybody from terrorists was in the case of the DC Snipers (with a big assist from private citizens) and (maybe) the Tiger Tiger bombers.

  26. you believe that government should be reduced to mainly these functions, why do you seem to insist that they be ineffective or deny any successes and spend your time criticizing them?

    Do you really think that the war on terror is making us safer? Just askin…

  27. I hope Bush passes OBL off to Obama so we can finally get out of this fucking mess.

  28. Did the Bush Administration use terrorism to scare the people and make some poor foreign policy decisions? Sure. But to advocate this “soft on defense” rhetoric that seems to be oozing out of this article would be foolish. The reason that Al-Qaeda has not attacked the US is because we’ve been busily dismantling and detaining terrorist cells around the globe, instead of just ignoring it like during the Clinton era. I probably would’ve agreed with the reduction of our military back in 2000, but times have changed.

    Also, comparing the War on Drugs to the War on Terrorism is pretty embarrassing.

  29. “One such fact is that there have been no successfull al-Qaeda attacks whatsoever in the United States since 2001.”

    Fixed that for ya, John. Of course, it helps that they’ve been kept very busy elsewhere.

    Also, does he really think the revelation that terrorists are “flaky” is news?

    bureaucrats have become as wary of appearing soft on terrorism as they are about appearing soft on drugs, or as they once were about appearing soft on Communism.

    Two of those things are real problems.

    Some 43 percent professed to believe that domestic Communists presented a great or very great danger to the United States.

    I don’t know where anyone would get the idea Communists were dangerous. It’s not like they killed 100 million people or something.

    Anyways, it’s nice to know the current admin isn’t going to let bin Laden go because they can’t figure out how to indict him. If the price of being serious is being called “scaremongers” so be it.

  30. “scaremongers”

    No. Bedwetters is the preferred term.

  31. Yes, many domestic Communists adhere to a foreign ideology that ultimately has as its goal the destruction of capitalism and democracy by violence if necessary, but they’re so pathetic they couldn’t subvert their way out of a wet paper bag.

    See, now this is interestingly disingenuous. We know conclusively from the Venona papers that the incompetent Communists infiltrated the highest levels of our equally incompetent government. While they never had much chance of overthrowing the government, they did gain a lot of valuable intelligence.

  32. When I croak, I’m going to fund an “Attila the Hun Chair for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.”

  33. “scaremongers” No. Bedwetters is the preferred term.

    No, scaremongers are the politicians who say terrorism is scary. Bedwetters are the poor gullible saps who are frightened into voting for them.

    Come on Dave, get your slurs straight.

  34. I don’t know where anyone would get the idea Communists were dangerous. It’s not like they killed 100 million people or something.

    And we all know that they were persecuted for their beliefs, the same way we are persecuting Islamofascists for their religion.

    (not for you TD, just addin’)

  35. PB,

    I am already seeking funds for Montag’s Half-Way house, for chicks who won’t go all the way.

  36. We know conclusively from the Venona papers that the incompetent Communists infiltrated the highest levels of our equally incompetent government. While they never had much chance of overthrowing the government, they did gain a lot of valuable intelligence.

    And why did they not have much chance of overthrowing our government? We had not yet gutted the Constitution.

  37. the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies

    Add my voice to the din of laughter directed at the state university sports program in Columbus, Ohio.

  38. The ultimate nightmare of American scaremongers, setting off an atomic bomb, is well beyond al-Qaeda’s capacities and very likely always will be

    I don’t get this, either. A crude gun-type nuclear weapon is not all that difficult to set off (we were so confident ours would work 60 years ago that we didn’t even test it first). Put it on a ship, get it to a major port, and you have a $10 trillion event.

    Given that the Israelis just hit a nuclear assembly plant in Syria and the Taliban’s former sponsors in Pakistan are a real threat to seize control of a nuclear state, it’s a nontrivial concern. That’s before we even get into the fact the world’s current foremost state sponsor of terror is going to have nuclear weapons soon.

  39. And why did they not have much chance of overthrowing our government? We had not yet gutted the Constitution.

    Actually this was just after FDR’s mass internment, mass arreats of war protestors, and attempt to stack the Supreme Court — the same guy, not incidentally, who sent billions in aid to Stalin and called him Uncle Joe.

    The reason they had no chance to overthrow the government is that they had no popular support. Americans weren’t buying what the commies were selling.

  40. the same guy, not incidentally, who sent billions in aid to Stalin and called him Uncle Joe.

    And opened the doors of every federal agency to Soviet operators, like the parents of Red-Diaper-Baby Carl Bernstein.

  41. TallDave:

    The thing is, if it is so easy to set off a nuclear device does that make it worth restricting our freedoms and liberties? If we are that vulnerable to a nuclear attack and if it is that easy to set one off in a harbor, then we need to work on addressing the terrorism issue in other ways. Locking down American airports and bombing the fuck out of Iraqis is not increasing our securities in any meaningful way.

    My opinion is that we need to look at our foreign policy and become a neutral nation that trades freely with all countries. What is your way of addressing the “nuke in a harbor” threat?

  42. The reason they had no chance to overthrow the government is that they had no popular support. Americans weren’t buying what the commies were selling.

    Much as I hate to give any credit to the labor unions for anything, they deserve a lot of credit for the lack of commie traction in the US.

    Labor unions were usually the most fertile recruiting and propaganda arms of any communist movement. US labor leadership decided pretty early on that they were having none of it, and were pretty successful at blocking off the commie’s favored route to influence.

  43. Bingo,

    So you find destroying processed material manufacturing and rounding up the people associated with moving the stuff around ineffective?

  44. oops, that should be “material processing”

  45. Guy: Not really, in as much as both Iran an N. Korea have demonstrated that you don’t exactly need to be a techonological powerhouse to process and refine nuclear material. Additionally, “rounding up the people associated with moving the stuff around” will have about as much effect on nuclear proliferation as it does with the proliferation of drugs.

    Basically I’m saying that nukes are here to stay and I don’t know if we can do much about proliferation.

  46. Er, yes, I’m saying yes it’s ineffective.

  47. I think the reason communism didn’t get much traction in America is the currently much-maligned individualism. Folks want to make money and be left the hell alone to live their own lives.
    Show me a person who’s really “into” the issues and I’ll show you an irritating putz who wants to tell me what to do. What’s that quote about selfishness is when you want others to live as you choose?

  48. Er, yes, I’m saying yes it’s ineffective.

    Because of all of the uranium bombs going off in shopping malls, or just because of the failed attempts?

  49. I think the reason communism didn’t get much traction in America is the currently much-maligned individualism.

    That is plausable, but I am with Sen. Obama in thinking it is bitterness.

  50. Perhaps a nation as utterly risk-averse and paranoid as we’ve become is not worthy of liberty?

  51. My LOLs keep America safe

  52. If they knew he was dead they would parade him everywhere they could.

    I presume OBL is dead because otherwise he would be making tapes. That doesn’t mean I know where or when he died, or that I can lay hands on his body. He’s in an unmarked grave the other side of nowhere.

  53. Mick- it’s the in American Interests- not The National Interest having written for both, I know the difference. However John’s piece acknowledgedly stems from this article , in The American Conservative
    http://www.amconmag.com/2004_12_06/article.html

  54. Terroists groups are morphing into this century’s mob. First, that means the feds should keep looking for them, because there will always be some threat of violence. Second, that means congress should ammend anti-terror laws to respect freedom and the constitution, because those laws will be arround for a long time.

  55. Those three factors – no recent attacks, no discovered Al Qaeda cells, and all known home-growns have turned out to be goofballs – these conditions were all true on 9/10/2001, right?

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