What's stopping all the terrorists?

I sincerely hope I’m not tempting fate with this post, but here goes.

If we are to believe the news media, there is a vast band of terrorists out there, bent on destroying the western way of life. They have sophisticated networks of terror cells; detailed plans for new outrages are being found on laptops and CD-Roms on a regular basis, yadda yadda yadda…

So why haven’t they hit us, repeatedly? (By “us”, I mean the mainland of the US and UK, which, as the prime movers in the latest Middle East meddling campaign, should be at the top of the list.) All this talk of extensive planning, and networks being smashed – I don’t buy it. I mean, let’s face it, how hard is it for a few dozen nutjobs to get into the country (if they’re not here already), put together some explosives and get terrorisin’? It strikes me that you don’t need months of planning to blow yourself, or a big truck, up in a city.

Seriously, what is going on? Are we being lied to on a huuge scale? If there really are “tens of thousands of fundamentalist crazies” (© all newspapers) hellbent on our destruction, then what’s keeping them? No doubt Bush ‘n’ Blair will take the credit for “smashing Al Qaeda”, but come on – the very nature of Al Qaeda is surely that it is a decentralised network that cannot be destroyed by taking out a few leaders. I’m puzzled. Help me out, someone.

My belief is that there’s a lot of hype involved. The terrorists gave their best shot on September 11th 2001. That’s going to be their prime achievement for quite some time.


Once a terrorist bent on doing harm is in the country, there is very little to be done about car bombs and the like - why go to the trouble of a mass poisoning or chemical weapon attack when a van full of diesel-soaked fertiliser and scrap metal could level any open air concert at a stroke?

9/11 was the magnum opus of a few brainwashed psychopaths. Terrorists generally need a cause (which, incidentally, the Damn Fool War is amply providing).

One might, more specifically, ask “Why are the attacks which are happening daily in Iraq not happening here?”

Apparently the FBI has something to do with it.

Also, remember that the primary goal of terrorism is to prove to the people that their government can’t protect them. 9/11 did such a great job :rolleyes: of proving this to the U.S. that their work here is mostly done…

Well, maybe you’ve been struck wrong.

Note that your case depends on accepting one of the premises being spouted by many while denying another premise that’s part and parcel of it.

One can take most anything and say, “Well if this part’s true, and this part is not, then it just don’t make sense.”

Possibly, there may be more to planning a terrorist operationin a foreign country than you imagine.

A little of column A and a little of column B.

AQ was never really into the nail-bomb-in-a-Sbarro gig; more along the lines of the Embassy bombings, USS Cole kinda thing, those took place once a year or so, and they do require a fair amount of organization, coordination, money etc, and it is very possible that by breaking up lines of communication and sources of money that cells have been stymied.

OTOH, the idea that we were going to face suicide bombers in every mall was overhyped: it’s not AQ’s M.O., and the Hamas/Hezbollah crowd was probably unlikely to strike at the US directly anyway.

Bottom line, though: we have no real way of knowing for sure one or the other.

The acts in Iraq are not quite terrorist in the true sense. Those acts are of insurgents, aimed at the occupying forces and those from amongst themselves who are aligned with the former.

My WAG, and it’s very WA (though grounded in previous discussions on this board on discussions of suicide bombers in Palestine), is that while it’s very cheap in both terms of money and manpower for AQ to deploy suicide bombers in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, that’s not the case for suicide missions to the US, Europe, and elsewhere. To put it bluntly, in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, all AQ has to do is pull some mope off the street, put him in an explosives-packed van, point the van at a target and tell the mope to step on the gas.

But to do the same thing in the US or the UK, firstly AQ has to get an operative through immigration–preferably more than one at a time. Then the operative has to acquire explosives without arousing suspicions. After the Oklahoma City bombing, even large purchases of fertilizer are going to arouse suspicions in the US, probably resulting in background checks. Then the operative has to rent a van or truck–requiring a driver’s license, which would have resulted in another background check. (OK, maybe the operative could steal the vehicle, thus skipping a check there.) All this is going to cost money–and then there’s always the possibility that the operative, while waiting in line at the INS or at the U-Haul desk, will be thinking, “You know, maybe I don’t want to see Allah just yet.”

After all, there is little shortage of potential suicide bombers in the Gaza Strip or even to some extent Saudi Arabia, where unemployment and frustration among young males are high. Either getting those guys over to the US, or successfully recruiting suicide bombers here, is highly unlikely. All things considered, it’s notable that the 9/11 hijackers didn’t bail out–though it’s possible that not all of the nineteen, especially the “muscle guys,” knew what the outcome was going to be.

And to add on what SimonX, said, I’ve read research to the effect that in most cases, even the “lone suicide bomber” needs a support system: i.e. six or seven buddies buying the gear, pumping him up for it and reminding him how it’s going to accomplish so much, etc.

To rent your own truck, buy all the supplies, etc takes time and money, and if you’re doing it all by yourself or with one other guy it’s harder logistically and psychologically. Unless you’re already here and can’t leave, it’s much easier to go to Iraq and try to hurt the Americans there.

My recollection is that one of the last definitively authentic tapes of Osama bin Laden shows him more or less sneering at the “muscle” saps who were kept in the dark on this point.

My theory is that Osama Bin Laden has given Al Qaeda the rest of the year off. It’s in their best interests for Bush to be re-elected, and a successful terrorist attack would undermine Bush’s “war president” credibility and hurt his chances of a second term.

…within this discussion, let’s also consider our own “home-grown” nut jobs we have running around in our back yards.

If a white person with a crew-cut left a boogbag lying around, or pulled up in an old van, not many folks would pay it much mind. It is for this reason that I’m more concerned about the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs that are bumping around out there.

Far be it from me to give credit to Bush, but the Afghan invasion did cramp their style a little. Having a friendly nation to base their operations was an asset that they will miss. Osama is on the run, but even if captured or killed the threat lingers. I don’t think it does much good to try to predict terrorists, minds that can do such deeds are wired a lot differently than ours. But if I were forced to guess, I’d say that they likely are lying low and waiting for another big strike. I rather doubt they’ll go to the planes again. They haven’t given up the fight, they are a patient lot and three years of inactivity is nothing to declare victory over.

Gonna have to disagree. The primary goal of terrorism is to undermine society by spreading - you guessed it - terror at the grassroots level. The idea is to make everyone fear for their safety by doing big splashy killings with maximum publicity. What they want is for people to hide at home and move in public only with great trepidation and caution. Pursuing your normal life utterly defeats the goals of terrorism.

Basically (and I believe AQ have stated this openly) the terrorist view is that we are a nation of spineless cowards who will back down anytime a few American lives are lost. They believe this about Western civilization in general, so events in Spain and the Phillipines have got to be a great encouragement to them.

I like to think that they are wrong. Then again, I also liked to think after 9/11 that the left wing of the Democratic party was not so lost in their Pollyanna worldview that they’d think seriously about the facts that 9/11 made manifest. Specifically, that there are nasty people out there who hate us for no good reason, other than that we are not them and we are successful. The persistence of the “blame America” crowd has, needless to say, been a disappointment to me. On a side note I am glad to see Kerry at least mouthing the right platitudes about strength and resolve. I hope he’s serious but I can’t say I believe him.

As for why we have had no major attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, here are a couple of factors I think make a difference:

  1. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have brought the fight to the enemy’s doorstep, and anyone in the Arab world who wants to blow up Americans can take the (geographically) easy expedient of attacking our troops there. I for one would rather have them throwing themselves against “hard” targets there than “soft” targets here. I know a lot of folks will disagree, but I honestly believe this is a big factor.
  2. Harder targets in the U.S. Does anyone really believe 5-6 guys with boxcutters could hijack a plane today? Locked cabin doors notwithstanding, I agree that the success of 9/11 was due in large part to a “failure of imagination.” Up to then hijackings usually involved a detour to some other country, a long stay on the ground and then a negotiated release. A terrible ordeal, but probably not life-threatening. If you tried to hijack a plane with boxcutters today you would be torn to shreds by your fellow passengers. Look at Richard Reid, as an example.
  3. Al Qaede is hiding. They may still hit us - in fact this may be merely a lull caused by the major disruptions we’ve made in their network. Remember, this is an organization that - even with a sponsor state in Afghanistan and under much looser security conditions - took years to plan and execute 9/11. But they are definitely being deprived of a lot of advantages they had prior to the Afghanistan and (debatably) Iraq conflicts.

Ultimately I believe we are still vulnerable, and I believe the only way to really defeat terrorism is to destroy it “root and branch” before it can rear its ugly head.

I think that UbL wanted to ‘raise awareness’ in the American electorate. IIRC, he reasoned that since the USG is beholden to us then we were responsible for its policies. He and his actions are the price of our policies, he says.

This has gotto be the most preposterous and least cogently argued claim I’ve seen on the boards - albeit I am new here.

Personally I’d think AQ would, if anything, be encouraged by the defeat of the president who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and who is aggressively pursuing Al Qaeda wherever possible. Electing an opposition candidate who wants to cozy up to France is not a sign of strength IMHO.

No slam against Kerry here. Again, he is saying a lot of the right things and I truly hope he means them. But to state that a Bush reelection is in AQ’s best interest is just plain ludicrous.

Free societies will always be vulnerable to the actions of small groups and individuals.
One small part of the very, very high price of freedom.

I think BobLibDem pretty much hit it on the head. I’m no Bush fan (no fan of his administration) either, but I think he’s had some impact on AQ and terrorists in general. However, the real story is that its more difficult to do foriegn attacks into America than people realize, and if you are going to go to that much effort you want it to count. I think AQ is lieing low right now, since the heat is on, and waiting and maybe even planning for something big sometime in the future when America goes back to sleep…again. They are patient people…we are not.


'Cause we took out Saddam, see - and he was an evildoer, and he gassed his own people, and he was building…uh…had links to…er…had the possibility of the capacity to…um…we liberated the Iraqi people - yeah, that’s it! Well, except the ones we tortured, but that was just a few bad apples, well uh, except for those Washington memos discussing torture at the top levels of goverment, but they were just discussing it, not telling anyone to do it. Yeah, that’s it.

What were we talking about again?

Gods know what you are talking about. But whatever it is you are using…share the wealth. :slight_smile: