Sunday, July 10, 2005

What are they waiting for? 

My wife asked me a good question in the wake of the London bombings: did I think Britain was attacked (and Spain before it) because America is too well protected? I would have loved to answer that question with utter certainty, but since I don't have Osama Bin Laden's ear, and therefore can't pound a tent spike through it, I'll have to settle for speculation. Take it for what it's worth.

Having visited the U.S. a few times since 9/11, and walked her malls and crowded places, I'd have to say that the U.S. could quite easily be attacked as it stands today. Visit a mall yourself, bring a backpack, and imagine you have a few kilos of really explosive stuff in there. Imagine you are wearing a bulky jacket, maybe even with a loose wire sticking out. I would imagine you could nevertheless succeed in getting yourself to a very lethal position before yelling out the old "Allahu Akhbar" and etc.

What is stopping the Suicide Drones from taking advantage of America's remaining weakspots? After all, there are Al Qaeda or affiliated sleepers in the U.S. who could be activated for such purposes . What stops them?

My guess is that the terrorist leadership knows their U.S. resources are limited in numbers. To burn them all up making a few pinprick strikes in a few malls or gas stations like they do in Israel would not be strategically effective. In Israel, there are thousands of self-declared martyrs who have already taken a number and are patiently waiting their turn, so burning a few of them in miscellaneous work accidents and crater operations in the middle of vacant fields is no big hit to operations.

But in the States, I believe they are hording the resources for truly over-the-top carnage. Until they get the nukes, or biological weapons, or crop dusters, or anti-matter particle beams or whatever in place, they bide their time. Given this as my assumption, my answer to the original question is then a definitive "kinda-no, kinda-yes".

Kinda-no: Despite hard-fought victory in the Battle to Keep Tweezers off Flights, the U.S. is still vulnerable in a few other areas. To call it safe and protected would be slightly misleading. Nevertheless...

Kinda-yes: The vulnerabilities, at least so far, are not tempting or valuable enough for the enemy to exploit. This can remain true as long as the borders are enforced strictly enough to prevent truly damaging weapons from entering the mainland, and as long as airplanes and at-risk installations (water, power, fuel, food) are sufficiently protected.

Unfortunately, the effort required to turn that kinda-yes into a hell-yes is prohibitive, and the effort may not even be feasible. To protect every mall entrance, every theatre, every restaurant, every meeting of Amnesty International, while still maintaining the commercial fabric of American life, just isn't realistic. It is for this reason that keeping the enemy busy in far-off lands is critical. Otherwise, they'd be free to busy themselves with the intricacies of Fedex-ing lead-lined pouches and tunneling under the Canadian border.

Let the cynics whine about creating terrorists in Iraq. They are going to be created somewhere, because our enemy's hatred of us predates any specific excuse other than our existence. If terrorists are to be created, let it be in Iraq, in the cross-hairs of freedom's defenders, rather than at America's doorstep. Or Britain's.

Perfect protection isn't possible. But good enough should be good enough, if the goal is to preserve Western Civilization -- assuming we end up agreeing it's worth saving.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: