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Why is it amateur hour among terrorists?
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 02, 2007

The Strategy Page has an article up about al Qaeda and how, in their opinion, the war isn't going that well for them at the moment. It's an interesting read. But in light of the bomb attempts in the UK in London and Glasgow, I found this particular point worth considering:
Al Qaeda is having some success in the Western media, and among Moslems living in Europe. But those expatriate Moslems are handicapped by many of their brethren who are not enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism. The police get tips, make arrests, and al Qaeda losses a few more true believers. Al Qaeda is desperate for another highly visible attack in the West. Many such operations are apparently being planned, but by amateurs who can get no help from al Qaeda experts. Most of al Qaedas traveling experts are dead or in prison. Inspiring amateurs to attempt poorly planned attacks, like the recent ones in Britain, only discourage recruits. That's because another bunch of wannabes get sent away for long prison terms. This is a fate worse than death for Islamic terrorists.
One of the more underreported aspects on GWoT has been the success that the West has had in decimating the ranks of al Qaeda. It think it is worth remembering that the al Qaeda of 9/11 no longer exists in that form anymore. And many of its most experienced leaders and operatives are dead or in prison. Much of what is left of al Qaeda is engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. With no real safe sanctuary, and heightened security making travel problematic, those leaders and experts who are left simply aren't able to help groups like those who attempted to make the most recent bombs in the UK.

The bombs there were missing a key component which would have changed them from producing a gasoline fed fire which was quickly handled by emergency services to an instrument of massive death and destruction. Additionally, with the failure of the cell phone detonation devices in London, the bombers were forced to attempt direct detonation in Glasgow. While that points to a level of determination and adaptability, it also points to rank amateurs in the bomb making department.

Of course many are going to want to wave this away as another example of home-grown amateur terrorism, just as they've attempted to do with the Ft. Dix crew. But as should be evident in the UK, this was more than a case of "wannabe" terrorists. These were amateurs who got further along in the process than did those scheming against Ft. Dix. Thankfully the results were poor and disaster was averted. But you have to wonder where the experts are? And you have to wonder why they aren't available in situations such as this particular one which obviously could have caused serious death and destruction.

Does The Strategy Page have a valid point? Has al Qaeda leadership and expertise been so decimated that they aren't able to assist groups like this one in UK carry out a successful terrorist attack?

(HT: Keith_Indy)
 
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Yeah, apparently we should be playing the music from those Benny Hill skits when they do a story about some of these attacks...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
One of the more underreported aspects on GWoT has been the success that the West has had in decimating the ranks of al Qaeda.


The reason it’s getting under reported, is that to report that they’re being caught, and dealt with, presents to problems to the left in this country;

* they would have to admit that the threat existed
* they would have to admit that the administration’s efforts and containing them were proving successful.

Both ideas run directly counter to the narrative that the left has been pushing for the last few years; Bush is an inept Bozo, and there was never any reason for us being in Iraq, etc.

And I am a little concerned, about this image being passed on the current crop of AQ operatives. true, they are inept at least. However, all they have to do is get ONE of their many attempts right.

The point I’m making, of course, is that AQ is still a threat.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
The AQ instructional videos I’ve seen on the net are very clear. I cannot imagine how their instructions could be misfollowed.

I am driven to reinforce my gut feeling that our enemies are commonly profoundly stupid, and thank god for that.

Yous, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I think the terror threat posed by al qaeda has always been overstated. If there are good counter-terrorism measures in place then the ability of terrorists to act is reduced. Moreover, even if they are successful, usually the impact of their attack is miniscule compared to ’natural’ problems like traffic accidents. 9-11 was an anomaly, a lucky strike which had taken years of planning. That kind of thing can happen again, but the odds of anybody getting caught in such a thing are extremely small (less than being hit by lightning) and the impact on society will be more psychological than physical. Counter-terrorism is necessary. That requires we have a society with more surrveillance than many would want. But we don’t need to fear terrorism or see it as something more dangerous than it is. Our real vulnerability is oil — and terror threats in the Mideast are far more likely to hurt us than attacks in London or the US.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I think the terror threat posed by al qaeda has always been overstated.
9-11 was an anomaly, a lucky strike which had taken years of planning.
They only have to get lucky once, moron...

But to stop them every single time, we have to be 100%, 100% of the time.

Yeah, they’re no real threat.

Idiot.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Quite right. A lot of good intelligence work and police work did degrade Al Qaeda quite a bit. Now, is our invasion of Iraq creating more or fewer experienced bombmakers and terrorists?

Only one quibble. As the folks in Iraq weren’t Al Qaeda in 2001, or even in 2003 is it right to call them "what is left of Al Qaeda"?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
As the folks in Iraq weren’t Al Qaeda in 2001, or even in 2003 is it right to call them "what is left of Al Qaeda"?
Most of the AQ in Iraq were AQ or AQ inclined before Iraq. They went there later.

But for AQ in Iraq currently, their certainly what’s left in Iraq out of what was there—not nearly what there was little while ago.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Scott: You apparently have low reading comprehension. I said the terror threat is overstated, and you claim I said ’they are no real threat.’ In fact, your "argument" against me is something I noted in my post! They can certainly get lucky, we can’t stop them all the time. I just noted that the damage they can do and the likelihood of any one person being hit by a terror attack is low. You need to go back and re-read the post.

Retief: Yes, I think Afghanistan and intelligence work did degrade al qaeda. I think Iraq was a gift to them in many ways, giving them a new method of gaining and training recruits, as well as providing them a propaganda bonanza. The good news is their fanaticism may be causing them to do things that ultimately destroy their viability. But at this point Iraq has indeed strengthened al qaeda, undoing some of what our counter-terrorism strategies accomplished.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Allow me to diagram the logic I used.

We say: al Qaeda is a threat

You say: The threat they pose is overstated

Conclusion: You believe they are no great threat.

Seems pretty solid to me...

If Iraq was a gift to AQ, considering how operations there have cause a huge number of their leaders and planners to be killed or captured, I would request that for my upcoming birthday you keep the presents to yourself.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
They physical damage, and actual casualties inflicted may be comparatively low, in proportion to our country. But the damage that attacks could do to our economy are huge.

9/11 was what, like a 100 billion dollar hit to the economy, or something of that order. Not insubstantial. Add a nuclear weapon, or dirty bomb, and you’re talking 9/11 times 10 to 100...

We need to be vigilant, not fearful, nor panic stricken at every plot turned up. Blame the media for that last, as they breathlessly and continually pump up every incident for ratings.

Of course, many plots seem incredulous and even downright silly, before they are successfully pulled off.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Scott: You seem again to be ignoring my argument: that the damage they can do even if they get lucky is relatively minor. The odds of any one person being caught in such a strike are miniscule, more damage is done by car accidents and other every day occurrences. It’s not like it’s an existential threat to our civilization or way of life. You also seem to ignore the fact that I agree there should be good counter-terrorist strategies in place. I suspect that most of the leaders killed or injured in Iraq would not have been leaders and perhaps not even in al qaeda if not but for Iraq. The problem with a group like al qaeda is that they keep recruiting across borders.

Keith: Clearly there is an economic cost. There is the direct cost of an attack (rebuild a building, clean up, etc., loss of life, etc.) but that is usually minor. I’m not sure how to determine the economic damage. A lot of it is due to how people react — which is why I’m arguing against fear. We should carry on with our normal lives, and not panic if an attack is successful.

As to nuclear terror — if they could pull that off it would of course change the equation completely. It’s hard to know the odds of something happening that hasn’t happened before, and for which we have no real data. It could well be that they are very close to nuclear terror capacity, in which case my entire argument is wrong. I’m obviously assuming that’s not the case. Nonetheless, counter-terrorist strategy must focus on doing everything to assure that such weapons which could do profound damage do not become part of the terrorist arsenal.

My final point has elicted no real comments: namely, that terror attacks in the Mideast which could disrupt the flow of oil could be more damaging to our economy than attacks (other than nuclear) in the US. I’m not worried about Iraqi al qaeda coming here. I am more concerned about terror spreading in the Mideast.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
My final point has elicted no real comments: namely, that terror attacks in the Mideast which could disrupt the flow of oil could be more damaging to our economy than attacks (other than nuclear) in the US.
It wouldn’t just hurt us, it would hurt quite a few countries. Then they have the choice of appeasing the terrorists, or fighting against them.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Erb;
I said the terror threat is overstated, and you claim I said ’they are no real threat.’

and...

You seem again to be ignoring my argument: that the damage they can do even if they get lucky is relatively minor.
So we were led to think on the Tenth of September, back on 01.

You may recall the education we got on the very next day. Then again, given what we see if your attitude, perhaps you don’t. I imagine that there are a number of people in Spain and in the UK who felt the same way.
My final point has elicted no real comments: namely, that terror attacks in the Mideast which could disrupt the flow of oil could be more damaging to our economy than attacks (other than nuclear) in the US. I’m not worried about Iraqi al qaeda coming here. I am more concerned about terror spreading in the Mideast.
A fairly minor situation. We’re only getting about 8% of our oil from that region. Further, the entire regions production capacity would have to be wiped out to make a serious dent in the flow of oil.

Our shortage , in any event, is not crude, but rather refining capacity.



In short, (gee, big surprise ) you’re overstating the case by an order of scale.




 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Bithead, I was not surprised by 9-11. I had been expecting a major attack for years. Perhaps that’s why I’m realistic in my appraisal of the danger, I understand the nature of the threat and did so long before 9-11. You may have gotten an education that day, I had been following news on terrorism and al qaeda for years. In fact, in the 90s I’d spend a couple class periods in the Intro to IR course going over terrorism, Bin Laden, and dangers of various kinds of attacks. I think the students thought I was just trying to scare them. You also don’t respond to my argument though, you just give some slogans.

You are wrong about oil. It’s irrelevant that we get only 8% of our oil from there because those who do buy from there would start buying from other places. That would drive up prices for everyone, including us, and create shortages for everyone, including us. Oil is a world commodity, it’s not really relevant where we get it — a shortage or crisis anywhere affects us (we get 25% of our oil from Nigeria, and that place is hardly stable either!) A major crisis in the Mideast would affect not only us, but the world economy with which we are interdependent. Keith is right that this would affect a lot of states, pretty much every one on the planet (though some like Russia might reap great benefits in the short term).

Keith, I doubt anybody wants to appease terrorism. How to end terrorism is a tricky issue though, it’s unlike any war ever fought.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And yet ANWAR could give us oil for decades...

Shame folks like Erb won’t let us get at it...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
I’m don’t really have a position on Anwar, but from the data I’ve seen it would be unlikely to make much of a difference in terms of the oil market.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
*blinks*

Considering that the most pessimistic estimates put it at holding more oil that pretty much the entire middle east...

I mean, how could drilling that not make a difference on the global market?

I mean, ignore the profit from selling the stuff, we could be 100% foreign-oil free!

I mean... I just...

Ok, Erb’s broken the part of my brain that tries to understand just how myopic he is...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Seriously or semi-seriously, has none got a copy of Improvised Munitions, Bombs and Booby-traps? IIRC, the title correctly. I mean really this has not been put to disk and/or released on the Internet?

Were I going to risk jail or death, even for 72 virgins-btw, do I get to specify my virgins, heavy on Jessica Simpson, real lite on the Rosie O’Donell’s please- I would at least attmept to find a copy of this work and copy it’s quite detailed and useful guidelines for causing mayhem! We face dangerous MORONS...A German general had 4 categories of officers and these guys are the worst, hard-working, but stupid!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
heavy on Jessica Simpson
What part of "virgin" confuses you?

;)
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Scott it’s Paradise...she can be a virgin in Paradise, as Newton said, "God might cause a Calculus to operate in Heaven apart from that which operates on Earth" and if Yaweh can do that; then Allah can make Jessica a virgin again...any way, IF it’s necessary, I’ll take some of mine as Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Pam Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith and Jennifer Love Hewitt freeing up the virgins for the more deserving...because that just the sort of guy I am, willing to sacrifice and take one for the team....neener-neener-neener!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Scott, where are you getting your estimates on the oil reserves? Most estimates are that there are 10 billion or so recoverable barrels of oil, hardly more than the entire Mideast. Read a bit more here, and the US department of the Interior here. It may make sense to drill, but I have no idea where you came up with "more oil than the entire mideast!" Mideast reserves are just under about 700 billion barrels of oil, do the math and see what percentage of that Anwar’s 10 billion represents. Saudi Arabia’s reserves are 264 billion barrels. Now don’t you feel a bit foolish insulting me like that when you didn’t do research about the claims you were making?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Were I going to risk jail or death, even for 72 virgins-btw, do I get to specify my virgins,"

I tend to be a litle suspicious about this 72 virgin thing, myself. How does he find so many virgins? Why are they virgins? Does this have anything to do with why they are required to wear burkas? These jihadi fellows are not too bright, obviously, or maybe it comes from living in a culture without used car salesmen and other assorted con men. Would you believe some guy who claims to be all powerful, yet wants you to blow yourself up killing a few random people in a market instead of just throwing a lightning bolt or something? How lazy is that? Don’t these deities talk? If you want to influence powerful rulers like Bush, send a pestilence, kill a first born or two. Clouds of locusts are good, although clouds of love bugs don’t seem to work too well(for you Florida folks).
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
It says more about our culture that people fixate on the virgins. Most suicide bombers seem primarily concerned with the belief that they can influence things in favor of their family if they become martyrs. Most think they are serving God.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"It says more about our culture that people fixate on the virgins."

It says more about your sense of humor that you do not see the difference in humor potential, and continually see a need to point out the obvious, usually at great and boring length.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
And while you are excercising your pseudo-intellectual analytical skills, what does it say about a culture and religion that feels it necessary to offer 72 virgins as an inducement to serve God?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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