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Why we won’t win the war on terrorism

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In the news today, we see that the federal Transportation Security Administration has ordered searches of more than 7,000 commercial airliners because bags of clay, bleach and boxcutters were found on two Southwest Airlines planes.

Are the clay, bleach and boxcutter goodie bags dangerous? Apparently not, since the TSA has said planes can be searched between flights over the next 24 hours.

But search we must!! If there is clay on these planes, it must be found!!!

If Osama gets Fox News, he must be having a lot of fun watching all this nonsense.

– The Sept. 11 terrorists used boxcutters? Let’s ban boxcutters, scissors, nail clippers and anything sharp from planes now! That’ll help. Nevermind that – given the awareness of what happened on Sept. 11 – nobody would ever be able to pull off the same kind of attack on a plane.

– People aren’t flying as much after Sept 11? Search old ladies and children so everyone will feel safe because security is so tough now!!! Of course, randomly searching people who are obviously not Islamic terrorists does zero good, but it makes stupid people feel safer.

– The Islamic-looking British guy had a bomb in his shoe? Make everybody take their shoes off and x-ray them at security!!! Again, putting people who are obviously not Islamic terrorists through this accomplishes nothing, but it makes stupid people feel good, I suppose.

– Intelligence says there’s increased chatter among Islamic terrorists? CODE ORANGE!!!! CODE ORANGE!!!! Stop all cars, especially those containing people who are obviously not Islamic terrorists, before they get into the airport and search the entire vehicle!!! Accomplishing what, exactly?

And now, two bags of clay mean 7,000 planes get searched.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, I don’t even want to think about how many billions of dollars have been spent on “homeland security”. Most of it focused on preventing the tactics of Sept. 11 from happening again, which has to be the least likely tactic for the next set of Islamic terrorists to try.

And the amazingly overblown reaction to incidents like the shoe bomber and the bags of clay provide a really clear message to the Islamic terrorists on how to win this war they started:

Spend us to death.

Here’s a couple of scenarios and likely outcomes to consider. These, of course, are not endorsements of terror tactics and I imagine the capable terrorists have already thought of them, so I doubt there’s any harm throwing the scenarios out here.

Tactic: Six Islamic terrorists fan out to six cities across the U.S. Each terrorist has a suitcase full of explosives. They all get tickets for flights taking off during a three-hour timeframe. Each terrorist goes to the counter, gets his boarding pass, checks his bags and then leaves the airport.
Immediate Result: Either the bombs get on the planes and blow them up or one or more are detected by TSA scanners (yeah, right).
Ultimate Result: As soon as one of the bombs is detected or explodes, the TSA goes on high alert. The other bombs then blow up or are detected … all planes are grounded … air traffic shuts down for another few days … people stop flying again … security gets even more strict … billions more spent on the TSA … airlines lose more money … economy sinks again …

Tactic: Six Islamic terrorists go to six cities and visit six big shopping malls at roughly the same time sometime during the Christmas shopping season. Each terrorist has a backpack full of explosives. Each backpack is left in a food-court garbage can at lunchtime.
Immediate Result: The bombs go off. Some people are killed; we see immediately that this is a coordinated attack.
Ultimate Result: All retail stores in the U.S. closed for three days … federal government quickly spends billions to create SSA (Shopping Security Administration) … metal detectors ordered installed at all U.S. shopping centers … each shopper searched upon entry … people stop shopping … major retailers go out of business … economy tanks.

Sound ridiculous? It’s not. The events of Sept. 11 cost 3,000 lives and in themselves caused some significant amount of monetary loss (I count in that the actual loss of property, productivity, etc. that occurred that day and the days after when air traffic was grounded).

But since Sept. 11, the “war on terrorism”, while it has not cost lives (I don’t count the Afghan and Iraq wars, as those are the kind of battles we should be fighting – although how wise the Iraq war was remains to be seen), there have been billions upon billions spent to give Americans a false sense of security.

If that money had been spent to actually identify Islamic terrorists in the U.S. rather than to create government agencies and procedures that assume everybody is a terrorist, that would be one thing.

What we have, however, are expensive, ineffective, reactionary, feel-good responses that don’t do anything to address the actual problems.

I could come up with a dozen more ways where a coordinated attack on specific types of targets would cause a panic among Americans and an expensive and pointless response by the feds.

And if the actual terrorists are taking notes, they will know how to beat us.

Spend us to death. It worked in our battle with the Soviets.

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About Capn Ken

  • Sadly, I think the problem lies more with the idiot American public wanting to “feel safe”, which is why any of the types of acts I described would be met with the kind of reactionary, expensive, “feel good” measures I talked about.

    A third tactic for the radical Muslims among you: Six terrorists in six cities each with a van full of explosives. Pull up next to six school buses full of children …

  • kara


    Agreed with your point about the risks of being called racist, but at the same time, if the IRA had committed the acts of September 11, I’d fully expect (and would probably receive) harsher scrutiny at airports than my non-Caucasian coutrymen.

    It amazes me that this is such a hard concept for some folks to grasp.

  • Right on target, Cap’n. It’s much more expensive to combat terrorist tactics than to commit them, even if we were acting smart. Doing this dumb stuff, however, exponentially increases the financial and other costs to us.

    On the other hand, using the kinds of obvious selective filtering you imply risks you being called a RACIST XENOPHOBE, etc. Only a few of us seem at this point to be willing to take the brunt of such abuse.

    However, I suspect that one or two incidents such as you envision would overwhelm many people’s minor emotional sensitivities. I just hope that the emotional stuff doesn’t swing too far the other way, and cause us to overcompensate.

    A lot of this, however, may be avoided if we take the fight to them, as we did in Iraq.

  • And, of course, now the feds are talking about how not everybody gets screened (gasp!) and that we’re really not safe (double gasp!!!) … so they can get more money.