Saturday, September 10, 2011


You don't have to blow anything up to be a terrorist.  By just threatening to attack, you can force your target to spends millions, and even billions, on counter-measures.

Transit authority police are patrolling Penn Station in New York armed with assault rifles.  Wow, they must be preparing for an invasion along the lines of "Independence Day" or "Battle Los Angeles".  Then I read this on MyWay:

Late Wednesday, U.S. officials received information about a threat that included details they considered specific: It involved up to three people, either in the U.S. or who were traveling to the country; a plan concocted with the help of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri; a car bomb as a possible weapon and New York or Washington as potential targets.

New York City has mobilized a brigade-sized force to intercept three terrorists that may be armed with a car bomb.  I saw the terrorists are winning just on economics.  Yes, I agree NYC and Washington DC need to protect their citizens and visitors but the reaction is too cumbersome.  The footprint is too obvious and goes beyond a show of force.  We need a nimble response that can easily flow from one type of threat to another, one that doesn't cost the equivalent of the GDP of Mozambique.

Some future historian will write about the Global War on Terror and wonder why the United States spent billions of dollars to ostensibly hunt down one man.  It took ten years to find him and then he was essentially shot on sight.  If that was the goal all along, why was it necessary to mobilize the entire US military at the cost of thousands of lives?

I'm not that future historian.  I'm trying to figure out if we aren't being snookered by a very small group into providing a huge response and costly response.  What if the attackers are heading to Chicago?  Detroit is right across from Windsor, Canada and has one of the largest Arabic populations in the United States.  Detroit is only a few hours by car from Chicago which happens to be the hometown of President Obama.

Or what about LA? Los Angeles has Hollywood, a symbol of Western influence abroad.  Los Angeles also has fewer police per capita than New York City (the most recent numbers I could find were from 1998; 55 per capita in NYC versus 26 per capita in LA).  The weather is far milder and the border with Mexico provides a means of ingress or egress for the attack.

Analysts can sometimes over analyze the past and create an assessment that looks like the terrorists will repeat the same behaviors.  Perhaps they will try to attack NYC or Washington DC but why?  Those targets have already been hit.  Even a moderately successfully attack on another city would create a far greater psychological impact.

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