How The US Response Turns 'Failed' Terrorist Attacks Into Successes

from the playing-the-game-they-want dept

Terrorism is a serious issue. No one's trying to downplay the fact that some very angry individuals are trying to kill an awful lot of Americans (and others as well). However, what's amazing is how incredibly bad the US appears to be at this particular game of chess. Robert Wright recently had a bit of an eye-opening discussion of how the US appears to have played into Al Qaeda's plan at almost every turn. It's another case of the US simply not understanding how to respond to a distributed threat, rather than a centralized one. The whole business is based on getting the US to overreact and overspend and get it caught in a quagmire that causes additional problems. And, increasingly, it looks like that's exactly what's happened.

Along those lines, Bruce Schneier highlights how the US response fits right into Al Qaeda's plans, since our response is quite costly, while the attacks are really, really cheap. He points to an article in Foreign Policy that explains how the TSA's security policies are exactly what Al Qaeda wants. It's not about killing Americans or even "terrorizing" them. It's about trying to get the country spending more and more to try to stop the impossible -- leading to a bankrupting of the overall economy. Now, I will say that this goal is probably a lot more difficult to reach than Al Qaeda probably thinks, but it's no excuse for the US government following through and helping Al Qaeda.

But the really striking thing about all of this is that you realize how the US has turned each failed attack into a success for Al Qaeda. A clueless guy can't light his underwear on fire to take down an airplane? We spend billions in totally ineffective and intrusive TSA security procedures and machines that wouldn't have even caught that guy.

What we're doing is creating a circular situation where all we're doing is encouraging more ridiculous attacks by Al Qaeda. Even when they don't succeed, the fact that we're costing the country so much in silly security theater encourages Al Qaeda to do more -- and (perhaps) to get more ridiculous each time, knowing that we'll continue to overreact and spend ourselves silly to try to prevent another guy from trying to light his underwear on fire on a plane. Outspending (massively) an enemy worked when that enemy was the Soviet Union -- a centralized bureaucracy that simply couldn't keep up. But this is a very different beast, and responding using the same basic thought process isn't helping. It's making matters worse. As Wright notes in that first article: "We’re creating them faster than we’re killing them." And spending orders of magnitude to do so. Forget the fact that this isn't sustainable. It's just downright stupid from a strategic standpoint.

Filed Under: response, security, terrorism, tsa

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2010 @ 6:51am

    Re: Ignore them

    Part of the problem is that "lets go over there and kick their asses" is an easier sell than "lets be rational about this".

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