Monday, July 19, 2004
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Stephen Flynn scares me -- again
Two months after the September 11th attacks, I heard Stephen Flynn give a talk about homeland security and American vulnerabilities -- and he scared the crap out of me.
Listening to Flynn -- a former Coast Guard commander -- describe the various soft spots of America's infrastructure was to realize just how much 9/11 required a rethink of how America defends itself. Flynn wasn't defeatist during his talk, he just laid out what needed to be done. And it was a long list.
Two and a half years later, Flynn has written a book, America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism -- and what he's saying still scares the crap out of me. There's an excerpt in this week's Time:
And then there's this excerpt of the book quoted in yesterday's Meet the Press:
Later on Russert asks, "But on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, how well protected are we right now?" Flynn's sobering reply: Well, if I would put it maybe on a 1-to-10 scale here, where 1 were a bull's-eye and 10 were secure, we were 1 on 9/11. Today we're a 3. That's why I'm sort of saying that we're still failing. I just can't give a passing grade.
I have nothing to add to Flynn's observations -- except to say you should buy the book.
Again, if I was John Kerry, I would bash Bush again and again and again on this front. Reviewing the Senator's own proposals, however, I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. There's a recognition of the importance of port security, but nothing else about protecting critical infrastructure (and, it should be noted, port security is actually one of the unheralded initiatives of the current administration). Most of Kerry's proposals focus on emergency response rather than prevention.
UPDATE: Many of the commenters seem to feel we should embrace the Israeli paradigm when it comes to security -- which is ironic, because Flynn disdains the Israeli approach in favor of the British approach.posted by Dan on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM
There is no realistic defense for homeland security. Our only option is to kill the existing cells, deter terror sponsors, and drain the swamps.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Matt, I agree that the best defense is a good offense. But it doesn't follow that defensive measures on homeland security are useless because they can't be perfect.
Over time, I see the following approaches to homeland security:
Well, how about this: everyone in the US gets strip-searched by police every two hours, every day; and our homes are deep searched daily; and our cars cannot travel more than two miles from our homes unless we obtain permits detailing exactly where we intend to go, with who, for what reason. The trunk and interior will be searched at the beginning and end of the trip, out of necessity.
Or, we just acknowledge that the risk of terror attack is part of the package of freedom, and try not to lie awake at night worrying about it.posted by: Joel on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Ask Mr. Flynn:
1) How much money would it take to make us a "4".
2) Express that amount as a percentage of what we've spent redecorating Iraq.posted by: brent on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Perhaps while you are at it you can estimate how much a successful nuclear strike with a 10 KT yeild device on lower Manhattan would cost the nation's economy?posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Your advice is very sensible. I would add that the Pentagon certainly seems to fit in that category.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Surely there must be a middle ground.
Like, say, targeting Arab males for searches. Which is not entirely unproblematic, but the government has a very quixotic stand on these issues.posted by: Scipio on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Enforce the Second Amendment. It would harden all targets. Cost: zero.posted by: Robert on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Other than extremely intrusive measures like strip-searching all of our citizens periodically, or surrendering to fatalism and assuming there will be periodic terrorism and there's nothing we can do about it, how about the obvious option of simply not allowing any visitors from the middle east (defined in any way we choose to agree on the term)?
These islamofascists have no way of attacking us in our homeland unless we voluntarily let them in. How about we stop letting them in? No more student visas, tourist visas, and whatever kind of visa 14 "musicians" from Syria need to get in. In addition, start explicitly targeting middle-eastern-looking males for the highest level of attention in every sphere of public life. Genuine US citizens of middle eastern descent will be inconvenienced, but that is the contribution they are going to have to make to our national security effort until the day comes when the threat of terrorism has passed.
Consider the two options: maintain our politically-correct ethnic blindness at the trememdous cost in time, money, and privacy intrusions with little likelihood of stopping any determined attacks, or get realistic about the nature of the threat facing us and focus our efforts on that tiny minority of people who are in the threat group.posted by: MarkJ on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Why are we letting Syrians in the country period? Can someone answer that question? I don't want them here because their Gov. supports terror. If they don't like it, they should complain to their own government. In the mean time keep the Arabs from terror regimes out....and quadruple check the Arabs from other Muslim states too.posted by: politicaobscura on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Oh yes Mark, that'll work well. Don't enemies adapt, and find ways to change their looks? Maybe they'll get some women to do it too? Or maybe some Muslims/converts who hate the US (see: recent NYTimes article on this specific fear in Europe).
Let's cut off all connection with Arab students, who maybe are legitimate, and could, you know, tell kids back in their countries that the US ain't all that bad. And my oh my, the kids who study in America might weild some influence back in their countries because their daddies are fairly wealthy (how it is at my school). But no, better just to make them hate us for shutting them off from American prosperity.
Are we justified in monitoring students from the middle east? Sure. Cut them off entirely? Please.
The decentralization of architectures, as suggested, is pretty important. Maybe we can have Radar/satellite surveillance of our coast line at all times, and have that monitored from various posts, so that we do not need actual people manning the coasts at all times. I have to imagine, even if profiling is an important consideration, that there are many things to do short of what Mark J suggests.posted by: Joel W on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
This is not rocket science. We know who the enemy is. Muslims. Not all Muslims but there seems to be little danger of old ladys from Kansas terrorizing us. Therefore, every bit of energy we spend scrutinizing little kids and old ladies is energy lost we could be focusing on the enemy. Loose the political correct bullshit and face reality. Take every person who is Muslim in this country and not a citizen and if there is any doubt as to their connections with terror, deport them and put the rest on a watch list and don't let them move without scutiny. Lastly, go after people who hire illegal workers and shut down the border. These are harsh measures, but when a 10 kiloton bomb goes off in NYC, aren't we going to wish we had done this?posted by: John on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Joel W writes:
"Let's cut off all connection with Arab students, who maybe are legitimate, and could, you know, tell kids back in their countries that the US ain't all that bad."
We had those students coming in mass for 50 years. Saudis especially are well represented. How much good will did it buy from Saudi society? May be Joel W can ask families of 9/11 victims.
Goof-ball do-gooders like Joel W will allow another huge hit to happen, this time with tens of thousand fatalities.
And then they will blame Bush and neocons.
posted by: kufar on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
See Congressman: Terrorists are infiltrating the U.S. via Mexico, and compare it with the Wacky World expressed in U.S. Border Patrol denies stepped-up enforcement.
(And, before commenting on how illegal aliens who just come here to drive down U.S. wages aren't implicated in terrorism, realize that hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens come over the border each year. If only thousands came over the border, spotting the terrorists would be much easier due to the smaller numbers and the reduction in the smuggling infrastructure. But, hey, Wal*Mart needs janitor subcontractors, right?)posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
The strategy of locking out all contacts with Middle Easterners might work for a homogeneous society like China or Japan, but not for America. Detroit is already part of America.
This war has both offensive and defensive components. As in many previous conflicts, we have to leverage the language skills and cultural understandings of our expatriate communities for the offensive component.posted by: Hunter McDaniel on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Regarding airline passengers, we should consdider adopting the Israeli system of using well-trained professionals asking each passenger simple questions about his/her destination, purpose and duration of trip etc prior to boarding.
Sealing the border and ports of entry is obviously a non-starter. Buying all the first-responders up-to-date radios so they can all talk to each other AFTER the attack would be nice, but it is not going to gain us victory over the enemy.
It seems reasonable enough that the easiest way to curb terrorism is to ensure that the nations that support terrorism are subject to destruction, courtesy of the U.S.A., unilaterally, if necessary. Kerry's base (and probably Kerry himself) rejects this approach. So too does most of the nation’s political elite, as well as most of the castrated West. It is not nuanced enough – nor does it give France, Russia and China a formal opportunity to stick it to the U.S.
So, then what? Especially if Bush loses in November?
"Profiling" Arab Male Muslims between the ages of 16-50 provokes outrage, so that is out.
The Patriot Act is demagogued as an unprecedented infringement upon our civil liberties - so clearly even THAT is too much for our ever-so-delicate sensitivities.
Aggressively question captured terrorists? Only if they have a public defender available to them. God forbid we cause pain and discomfort to any of those bent on killing us.
I've no desire to live forever, but I am curious to know what future historians will write of us centuries from now, and how we managed to lose the war against terrorism (what, you don't think they'll win? Here’s a clue - they are much more serious about the war than we are, and they know us much better than we know them, or even ourselves.)
Until then, those of us who support the war can only hope the rest of the West gets serious before it's too late. But my bet is "too late" crosses the finish line for the West gets serious.posted by: Tim on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Here is an email I just sent to Secretary Mineta: Mr. Secretary: Even you must be aware by now of the scary story about the Syrian musicians on a domestic flight who are believed by many to have been conducting a training exercise for some act of mass murder. If it is true you issued an order limiting the interrogation of Middle Eastern men to two per flight, I hope you are prepared for the firestorm that will greet you if a plane goes down because of political correctness.
The man needs to hear.
The argument that we can't stop all terrorist attacks, so let's not bother with homeland defense ironically runs counter to the Administration's counter to critics of missile defense, ie, just because we can't defend against all attacks doesn't mean we shouldn't try to stop any.
It's almost certainly true that perfect security is impossible in an open society. But it seems like there are things we can do to make the attacks marginally more difficult. Saying the only solution is to root out all terrorists is to me sort of defeatist because it's not a realistic strategy within any kind of acceptable time frame. It only takes a few people to blow up a building.
The people that want to keep all Arabs out--just what kind of country do you want to live in. I agree that its not racism to take note of the fact that it ain't Swedes doing these attacks. I don't think stricter scrutiny of Arab men coming into the US is irrational. But to simply not let anyone from an Arab country in is unreasonable, counterproductive and probably unrealistic anyway. (And they are not all terrorists.)
Hunter McDaniel is correct--this has offensive and defensive components. Obviously, the offensive component is more satisfying, but we can't simply ignore the defensive component even if we can't have perfect security.posted by: MWS on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
To the proprietor:
Posts like this one lead to comments like John's above. You may want to consider that before being scared ..um...spitless..in print.
And think -- how many attacks on US soil have been successful since 9/11?
I think the answer is zero. Is there more that we could be doing? Probably. Is it worth the cost? Need more data on that. Is it worth the cost to our liberties? Depends -- but I have a hunch that a lot would not be. And I think most of Kerry's base has a lower level of tolerance for Patriot Act-type get tough measures than I do.
posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
As always Boy-Professor Drezner doesn't dare as much as to mention our essentially open southern border.
Mexican ID documents available for about $100 in California. Smuggling service cost about $1000-$2000 per head. Probability of success with a quality coyote is at least 50%, maybe much higher.
For a small investment of $50K AlQuada can get 20 people into US via Mexico, no sweat.
Bush deserves to loose because of Mexican border situation. Unfortunately Kerry is even worse.posted by: kufar on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
The only problem I have with Flynn's assessment --"on a scale of 1 to 10 we're a 3" -- is the fact that there have been no successful terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11. We're closing in on three years now. It seems unlikely that the absence of successful attacks has been from a lack of trying. If this is what being a 3 gets you, do we really need to be a 10? Do we even need to be a 4?
Flynn says we're "failing" and he can't "give us a passing grade." I have difficulty buying that because on the only test that matters -- actual empirical results -- we're batting a thousand.
Based on a simple observation of actual events since 9/11, I'd suggest that a more honest title for Flynn's book would be: "America the Vulnerable: How In My Opinion Our Government Will Sometime In The Future Fail To Protect Us From Terrorism Although So Far Since 9/11 I Guess They Seem To Be Doing Okay."
But I suspect that title wouldn't sell as many books.posted by: DRB on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
"Until then, those of us who support the war can only hope the rest of the West gets serious before it's too late. But my bet is "too late" crosses the finish line for the West gets serious."
That's entirely too pessimistic. There is no reason to think that we will "lose" the war on terrorism. What would that mean--that the west or the US ceases to exist? That's hardly likely. Al Quaida, while it is a deadly threat, is not an existential threat. That doesn't mean we don't need to take it seriously. But it seems to me that the people who blame only the politically correct liberals are missing the point. What about business, which rejects the kinds of safeguards necessary to protect vulnerable infrastructure because it would cost too much money or the GOP that doesn't want to raise taxes to improve homeland security but would rather spend the money in Iraq without raising taxes. Political correctness is a problme but far from the only problem.
Still, let's not get carried away about terrorism. It's not going to defeat us. It's not going to mean the end of the country. We have no idea what will happen in 50 or 100 years. Sixty two years ago, Japan and Germany were controlling large parts of the world with rapacious, totalitarian ideologies. Fifty years ago, were were facing a Cold War against an implacable totalitarian enemy that had enormous appeal in the Third World. Don't assume that Islamofascism (which is a great name) is unstoppable except by fighting wars around the globe and trampling on rights at home.posted by: MWS on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I watched "Bowling for Columbine" for the first time this week and your post was a good example of one of the points it makes - namely Americans are kept in a constant state of fear by their media.
All you need is half a mind to work out ways to kill thousands of people in today's over-crowded world. The reason it doesn't happen much is because people don't much want to do it.
The best way for the US to protect itself would be to copy Brazil's foreign policy.
"it seems to me that the people who blame only the politically correct liberals are missing the point. What about business, which rejects the kinds of safeguards necessary to protect vulnerable infrastructure because it would cost too much money...?"
Every approach has a financial cost, and the nations' funds are limited. Often the low-tech solution is the best solution, and the same is occasionally true of the least-costly solution.
The crucial fact is that there is no technological silver bullet that will secure ports, airlines, borders. There are however, plenty of limited, piecemeal solutions that can significantly reduce our overall vulnerability. The Israeli airline passenger screening approach is one of these. Let's adopt it, the sooner the better, and continue to make small but meaningful reductions to our overall risk profile everywhere we possibly can.
The single most obvious thing we need is a system for authenticating identity. We cannot possibly process the numbers of people cited without a system for authentic identity.
Obviously there are "privacy" issues, as well as centralization problems. But, we don't have to get bogged down in those.
A system, which allowed people to legitimately have multiple, authentic identities would not affect the government's interest, while allowing people to protect themselves from private corporate power. And, the infrastructure and mechanisms of identication (the issuing of "id cards" in whatever form) can be at least as decentralized as the State driver license bureaus and probably efficiently privatized as well, so that people get better customer service.
Bottom line, though, is that authentic identity is a necessity. That we are not doing much is a testament to either stupidity or corruption.posted by: BrianWild7 on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Until we are all honest enough to accept the fact and publicly ackowledge that our enemy - the ones trying to kill us - are "muslim jihadists", a small but feared portion of the overall muslim world, and begin basing the vast majority of our threat responses to target them, we are all just wasting time and resources.
Of course that's perfectly fine, as far as the dem-lib's are concerned. They would seem to prefer political correctness to actual homeland security.posted by: 49erDweet on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Yeah, I would bash Bush. After all, he had a whole 8 months to make everything secure. Shouldn't have been a big problem.posted by: Buster on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
There's a simple solution. Expel all Muslim non-citizens in the country (only citizens and Green Card holders living her for over 10 years exempt). And block any Muslim from the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Europe, India from entering unless they have a diplomatic passport or unless they are willing to check in to a federal Homeland Security office very week. For legitimate business, travellers, this is not a problem.posted by: Lurk on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
There have been no successful attacks since 9/11 because they have not initiated any. They lost the element of surprise after 9/11 -- although there is still the element of SHOCK when it comes.
What the terrorists are now planning is an attack greater than 9/11, greater damage and number of lives lost. Blowing up airliners isn't part of the plan as much as something else. But it does keep Homeland Security focused on the airlines more than it should. Instead of total surprise, they go for misdirection and misinformation to throw us off-guard.
Remember the Shoe Bomber? That guy looked so dumb he couldn't possibly be a terrorist, Al Qeada wouldn't send somebody like that, they'd screw up. And he DID! Don't expect more dummies.
We need to do something about Syria and soon.
The Iran-connection: Remember in the early nineties Iran bought a nuclear submarine from Russia? What would Iran use a nuke sub for? Our 7,000 miles of unprotected coastline offer good places to offload terrorists, just like the Nazis did during WW II -- from submarines and Zodiac boats.posted by: James Martin on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Kufar: So, er, Bush deserves to lose for not doing something politically impossible?
As long as we're being realistic about what the government can actually do, it's okay.
About Flynn's numbers: I'm sure they're accurate, but how many of those 400 million people "entering the US" were American citizens re-entering? Surely they're nothing like the threat that actual foreigners might be. Cars and trucks? If they're on a RO-RO transport from Toyota's plant (or Honda, Mitsubishi, Hyundia, Kia, Daimler, BMW), I don't see that it's much of a security issue. Certainly we don't need to inspect them for bombs or hidden micro-sized terrorists sneakily hiding in the fuel tanks on a week-long sea journey.
The biggest issues are, as others have said, laxity at the borders, and especially refusal to target inspections more closely on higher risk groups... both of which are still so for unavoidable political reasons. Simply saying "who cares if people complain?" doesn't work - politicians have to deal with complaints and factor them into the decisions they make.
It might well take another big attack to change things... and there really isn't anything that can be done to change that, that I can see.
(Hell, even with the political ability and will to do it, I'm not sure we could secure the borders tightly enough to do more than raise the marginal cost of entry an order of magnitude (which would not be sufficient, especially with the God Damn Phillipines paying $6M in ransom) - 7,000 miles of border, more than half of which has been essentially unguarded for a century, well... it just isn't easy to secure. And it's even harder to get voters behind the idea of putting up a fence along the Canadian border. (Mexico would be easier, but political opposition to it would be even stronger and more focused).
I've long had the crazy idea we should try to focus on realistic options, that have some chance of actually happening; like better immigration inspections and (as mentioned by someone else) better airline security, of the "catch them by talking to them" variety.
We can't stop them by guarding the borders; we can only make it more difficult and expensive, and at some point our money is better spent being "pro-active" on their funding, organisation, and bodies, ideally on the other side of the world.posted by: Sigivald on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
While not at all suggesting "let's do nothing," I think you need to keep in mind that there is nothing that will come with a 100% guarantee.
Stopping or give extra attention to Middle Eastern men isn't even a start. How about the American, British, Australian guys who got caught working for/with Al Qaeda? How about the Mexican-American? You don't think there are Japanese, Swedish, German, Italian, Columbian, Brazilian, hell, even Swiss nuts would can be convinced that an attack on the US is for the greater good of the world? And who says they have to be male or young?
To stop that threat, you need to just shut the borders of the country, completely. And that is simply not going to happen.
Somebody and something is going to get through. And unless it's a colossal blunder--which I do not think 9/11 was--then nobody is going to be "to blame". We're facing a smart enemy who adapts.
The only way to improve our chances of success is to complete the global war on terror. But there's always going to be the possibility of a Ted Koczinski out there. Maybe even one with a biology or chemistry or nuclear degree.posted by: Hatcher on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I agree with Sigivald that what we have to focus on is what is realistic. The problem is that what is realistic for us to do in the way of prevention will not stop determined terrorists from killing us. As long as there are terrorist muslims allowed in the country, there will be a threat. Period. Since we don't know which muslims are the terrorists, it behooves us not to let any muslims in, and to deport all that we legally can. No non-citizen has a right to come here or be here -- they are here at our pleasure and we can require them to leave or forbid them to come for whatever reason we like.
My gut feeling is that the root problem we face is that multicultural societies do not work. Especially ones where there are minority groups making up significant proportions of the population.
The history of multicultural nations is a history of civil strife and genocide. I think we will eventually be forced to acknowledge that things work best when each people, each ethnic/cultural group, has their own distinct, separate nation where they can protect and nurture their own traditions and way of life. And if the quality of life in that nation is poor, the solution is not for a large chunk of the population to move to other countries, but for them to stay and change their own. We can't pack the whole third world into the US.
The US should withdraw from the middle east until we have the same kind of presence as, say, the Swiss or the Swedes. Isolate and leave the middle easterners to stew in their own juices until enough frustration is built up that they change the way they operate.
The multicultural disease is already far advanced in our country, though, and I fear that what we are looking at is civil war and even genocide down the road somewhere. Too many of us are committed to the multicultural/transnational political worldview for us to be able to effectively protect our culture at this point.posted by: MarkJ on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Simply saying "who cares if people complain?" doesn't work - politicians have to deal with complaints and factor them into the decisions they make.
A small group of border patrol agents conducted a roving sweep in SoCal, arresting about 400 aliens.
My gosh, the complaints were loud. Newspapers printed false and inflammatory "guest" editorials, marches were held, Congressmen complained. And, according to Congressman Tom Tancredo, the Mexican government complained the loudest.
And, the administration caved. What that means is we've ceded immigration enforcement to a bunch of Racial Identity groups, far-left ethnic demagogues, and a foreign government.
What would have happened if a) the administration had a pair, and b) wasn't constantly part of the problem?posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Tens of thousands of Americans die every year in autmobile accidents that could have been prevented.
If we were willing to commit economic suicide and give up our individual rights to prevent their deaths. How does a $20 glass of orange juice sound?
I expected more from you, Mr. Drezner, stop trying to scare the kiddies.posted by: Some Guy on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
"The U.S. has no rival when it comes to projecting its military, economic and cultural power around the world. But we are practically defenseless at home."
Have I missed something? Maybe I have not thought this out entirely, but isn't the reason for projecting our power (when we intentional do so) to protect all those cars, trucks, etc.?
Truth be told what all those trucks and cars and all that infrastructure represent is freedom.
What is the point of being "less" defenseless on this front if the cure is worse than the disease and you cripple the economy.
Or worse yet, if the line you cross is not less defenselessness but totalitarian control no matter how "reasonable" the concern.
Do run and hide in the bomb shelter or do you defiantly flip terrorists the bird and go on with life.
The price of freedom does not need to be appeasement nor a bunker mentality.
Hopefully, someone smarter than me in our government can figure it out.posted by: j swift on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Too pessimistic? I wish you were right.
The way I see it, regardless of November's election, Bush's doctrine of "preemption" is effectively dead - and Kerry's recent statement he'd support preemption under certain circumstances seems entirely too calculated (and therefore unreliable) to persuade swing voters he can be trusted on national security. Is any future case likely to be more certain than the Iraq case? Not very likely.
We are at war (or so some of us think); wars are rife with mistakes; yet the bitter second-guessing and excessive rancor clearly indicates the nation and the West's political elites are far more troubled by Bush's fighting the war than they are by the prospect of losing. To expect Bush (or anyone else) to wage this war without mistakes, even significant ones, is facile in the extreme. Anyway, in war, one is generally either on offense or on defense. The recent notion summarized by Mickey Kaus that it is time to "consolidate" our positions in Afghanistan and Iraq (the so-called "time-out theory") is a profound misunderstanding not only of war in general, but this war in particular.
Unlike previous wars, when the enemy wore uniforms, represented nations with easily identified governments, borders, cities and social and economic infrastructure, our enemy's identity (outside of the obvious) is far more difficult to discern. We cannot gauge enemy movements with any certainty (just as we utterly failed to detect the easily detectable massive troop movements of the German divisions just mere miles from our front lines before they launched their last counter-attack in December 1944), let alone easily track WMD’s.
The weapons that can defeat us can come only from states that have the infrastructure to develop and transport them. Al Qaida can’t make the bomb by itself – but Iran and North Korea can give them the bomb (as could the break-away Soviet republics or Pakistan or China or…)
And, since this is a fight to the death (it really is – or has everyone forgotten the fourth plane was targeting either the Capitol or the White House?), we should expect the enemy to launch another attack – one that makes 9/11 pale in comparison – to achieve what the enemy couldn’t achieve – decapitation - on 9/11.
So, what happens after the nation’s government is decapitated? I’m a conservative, so I’m inclined to believe there’s just but a veneer between civilization and anarchy. Does the nation hold? Or do south-central L.A. riots break out across urban America? What happens coordinated attacks take out the nation’s communication networks too? What happens when information is restricted to the few with short-wave, military or police radios? I don’t know – maybe nothing, or nothing bad. Maybe everything holds.
In short, we are not safe until the enemy is defeated. The nation and the West’s political elites clearly view this as a problem to be managed rather than an enemy to be defeated. Their institutions, whether they be the UN, NATO, the EU, the New York Times or the Council on Foreign Relations provide no indication that we are at war, but rather face a public safety issue, as if al Qaida was no more threatening than potentially fatal food poisoning. The nation and the West is divided on security, none are less prepared to wage war than the elites – and our enemy is working, this very moment, to defeat us – while we quibble over Iraq, “international respect” and “a real coalition.” As if.
I hope I’m wrong. I fear I am not.posted by: Tim on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
> Again, if I was John Kerry, I would bash Bush
I wouldn't, because after the election President Kerry would be required to DO SOMETHING. And the Bushite Right wouldn't rest unless SOMETHING WAS DONE (and not even then).
SOMETHING, of course, would entail massive violations of civil rights and more expensive, useless, non-functional "anti-terror" measurers.
Is that really worth the price? Before you answer, consider that there was terrorism and murder in the Soviet Union, and today in Russia: two societies willing to go to extremes to weed it out. Are you willing to live in those kinds of societies?
"Or, we just acknowledge that the risk of terror attack is part of the package of freedom, and try not to lie awake at night worrying about it."
Thank you, Joel. I agree entirely, but the wingnuts never will.posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Give an estimate on the global economic impact of a nuclear detonation in lower Manhattan, let's say a 10 Kiloton yeild device?
Apart from the 250K to 1M dead from such an attack, the global economic impact from this is why your "Don't worry, be happy" advice is so utterly tone-deaf.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
It's possible(probable) that incrementing from a 3 to 4 would have been much cheaper than invading Iraq. It is also possible (probable) that we never would get past a 6 unless we _did_ invade Iraq and take out Hussein.
Is the scale logarithmic?posted by: Bruce Cleaver on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I agree with Matthew, the borders are too big to seal up, and there are too many targets to defend within the US. We can harden the border and targets but the only way to permanently increase our safety is to take the war to the terrorists and their supporting nations.
There is nothing we could have done within the US that would have improved our safety as much as changing the regime in Iraq did.posted by: TJIT on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
>The history of multicultural nations >is a history of civil strife and >genocide. I think we will eventually >be forced to acknowledge that things >work best when each people, each >ethnic/cultural group, has their own >distinct, separate nation where they >can protect and nurture their own >traditions and way of life. And if the >quality of life in that nation is >poor, the solution is not for a large >chunk of the population to move to >other countries, but for them to stay >and change their own. We can't pack >the whole third world into the US.
Ah, so I take it you'll be sending the Irish and Italians and Poles and Jews back, as well? After all, my Anglo-Saxon ancestors used to say exactly the same sorts of things about them. This whole "white" thing is, in some ways, a pretty new concept, you know.:-)
Not that we shouldn't be giving Muslims a more jaundiced eye then we have been, but let's not go completely overboard here. Keep in mind that many Middle Easterners came over here precisely to get away from the Islamofascists' crap. We don't have to deport Casey Kasem and Shakira just yet.:-)posted by: DPerry on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I know this much:
Hopefully, the rest of you will do what you can, too.posted by: _Jon on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I think we have simple but serious choices to make.
"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged."
I've got a message for all you people who think you're speaking brave truths by saying we should lock up or deport all Muslim men, and that the only thing preventing us from doing so is a bunch of politically correct, whining liberal pantywaists: The biggest problem with such an approach is not that it would be cruel or inhumane, it's that it would be strategically counterproductive. For one thing, it would poison relations with law-abiding Muslims whose cooperation we need to prevent terrorists from hiding among us. But more importantly, it's a brain-dead response, and whatever else the terrorists are, they're not braindead. How long do you think it would take al Qaeda before it started recruiting non-Arabic looking terrorists (oh wait, they already did: Richard Reid and Jose Padilla).
Some posters have mentioned that we should adopt an Israeli-style approach of using trained screeners to ask lots of questions to ferret out potential terrorists. I agree with this, and it's worth pointing out that in 1986, a female, Irish, non-Muslim passenger was discovered with explosives in the lining of her handbag. It turned out her Jordanian boyfriend had placed them there without her knowledge.
The 9/11 terrorists didn't just get lucky -- they studied our procedures and looked for weaknesses. They knew they'd be able to get box cutters on board. They knew the pilots would yield the plane to them. They caught us by surprise, but they anticipated our every move. If we adopt blunt, predictable, brain-dead policies, we're setting ourselves up to let them do it again.posted by: Don Gato on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
Should the fact that AQ might have to go out of their way to recruit non-Arabic operatives to carry out terrorist plots in the US automatically invalidate the idea of looking more closely at foreigners from Arabic countries?
If a proposed fix isn't 100% effective, is it worthless?posted by: Sarah Brabazon-Biggar on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
As we protect ourselves by extending the police state and actively discriminating against Arabs and Muslims we stop being America somewhere along the way. The answer is to "drain the swamp" as Matt said, by going after the terrorists where they are and making it clear to rulers in the Middle East that we are no longer going to be nice guys. Face it, the Israelis got results by assasinating terrorist (sorry, I should say "militant") leaders and, with strong support from the US, delegitimizing Arafat and his cronies, despite and to Hell with "world opinion". I think that by deposing Saddam whether or not the "16 words" were literally true, Bush and Blair may have made some progress is changing the culture of the region.
Israel's security barrier may be a strategic mistake even if it is a tactical success. (who cares what the World Court and the UN think because when it comes to it, they will not lift a finger to help either Israel or the US.) The barrier effectively isolates Israel from its neighbors, no matter what their politics. It forecloses any discussion and has the effect of removing Israel from the region, a goal of Israel's enemies, while letting it remain as a way to divert the region's gaze from its real problem of political, social, religious, and economic stagnation so profound that it endangers everyone, not least the poor souls who live there. If the US becomes a police state that targets Arabs, Muslims, and immigrants, it will have the same consequences as Israel's security barrier.
Sadly, we are not having this discussion in the US election where John Kerry gives the impression of worrying about disapproval from Kofi and Jacques, and George Bush appeals to bigots and the Christian Taliban.posted by: jim linnane on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
"Should the fact that AQ might have to go out of their way to recruit non-Arabic operatives to carry out terrorist plots in the US automatically invalidate the idea of looking more closely at foreigners from Arabic countries?"
No, but to the extent it makes us complacent about the threat from non-Arabs, it is counterproductive. I'm not saying we shouldn't look closely at people with red flags, just that it's stupid to say that if we lock up or deport everyone named Muhammad, we'll be fine. It's not political correctness that's holding us back, it's stupidity and an inability to think creatively.
And for the record: I know several Middle Eastern/Muslim males, and they assure me that they get all kinds of scrutiny. So don't think Homeland Security is focusing all its efforts on strip-searching Grandma.posted by: Don Gato on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
I was unaware that the Israeli fence was preventing Palestinians and Israelis from communicating.
We need to inform those people about the internet and telephones at once. Perhaps this wonderful modern technology would be of some use to them.
Stupid as this may sound it is my firm belief that Palestinian killings of Jews has stopped the communication. Perhaps if the Palis stopped murdering Jews the talking might begin again.
If not perhaps it is time for the Palestinians to revert to their former identities as Jordanians and Egyptians.
So far as we can tell an alert population not dependent on government has kept America safe.
There are 560 million eyeballs watching for America. How many eyeballs do the terrs have on our system? 20,000? 2,000?
What ever the number it is not enough to maintain a steady stream of attacks. First off the terrs. know that they can no longer depend on aircraft highjacking. So that tactic has limited utility. The odds of getting an American aircraft is now close to zero.
That leaves bombs to kill people, destroy infrastructure, or possibly some type of public health emergency.
So then the question becomes: how well can we absorb an attack and keep on functioning. How resilient is our civilization? The answer is: very. Think bomb attack on the electrical system. Then think tornado or hurricane. etc. In fact the system may not be doing good on prevention (so far good enough) but the response mechanism appears adequate.
And the deal is we are getting more resilient all the time. Our best minds are working every day to improve our system in light of current conditions.
My guess is that almost every doctor in the country has spent some time thinking about handling a major casualty attack of various kinds. The police. The citizens.
And then there is the most important part: our spirit. Without it we can't win. With it we can't lose.
We must just make up our minds: they will not move us. For them let us be a stone wall.posted by: M. Simon on 07.19.04 at 02:54 PM [permalink]
(3A) Increase deportation of illegal aliens or see these unassimilated aliens change American culture to third-world country status.
This has happened to America already.
The Irish who were third worlders in the 1800s and turned where ever they lived into third world ghettos. The Eastern Europeans who arrived in the 1900s did the same.
But this time it is different?
I do not think we are in danger from people who want to be Americans. Whether they want to be Americans legally or illegally.
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