Something that’s been bouncing around inside my head the past couple of days is that it really seems like al Qaeda (and terrorists in general) have gotten inside our OODA Loop.
For those who don’t know, you can find a really good description of the OODA Loop here and a good summary here. Briefly it’s the decision cycle (“observe, orient, decide, act”) of those engaged in some sort of struggle or competition. The faster and more accurate one’s decision cycle, the more quickly he can disorient and defeat his opponent. By forcing your opponent into a defensive posture, where your moves are not readily or easily discerned, you can outmaneuver and even control what your opponent does — hence, you are inside his OODA Loop. So when I say that the terrorists have gotten inside our OODA Loop, I mean that we are fighting them from predictable, even enemy-dictated stances that make it easier for them to survive and continue fighting.
To some extent, of course, that’s almost entirely what terrorism is designed to do: i.e. affect our decision-making process in such a way as to turn the populace against the government. The terrorists attack soft targets, and the government responds by restraining the freedom of its own citizens, maybe even going overboard. In fact, in countries where a considerable amount of freedom is the norm, most if not all such government restrictions will seem like they are going overboard, because only the terrorists really know how and when they are going to attack next (recall the famous IRA admonishment to Margaret Thatcher: you have to be lucky every day; we just have to be lucky once). The people eventually get tired of the restraints and overbearing policies of the government and either demand a stop to the war against the terrorists or join the terrorists’ cause. Indeed, the whole concept behind Petraeus’ counterinsurgency was an attempt to reorganize our OODA Loop in a way that was not affected by the terrorists’ actions. The idea was to win over the populace to the coalition side by taking the fight to the terrorists and protecting the citizens. When it comes to fighting terrorism on as a nation, however, we don’t seem to have any similar strategy, and that appears to be helping al Qaeda, et al.
That’s not to say that the terrorists will ever truly defeat America and the West, because that’s not ever going to be possible. Militarily, whether speaking in terms of strategy, tactics, policy or just sheer power, they are simply no match for us on any level. Even so, they have become somewhat adept at pushing our buttons in a way that makes us turn on one another, thus weakening our resolve. Keep in mind too that they don’t have to “win” in this struggle, they just have to tie. If we leave Iraq and/or Afghanistan before those nations are able to effectively capable of governing themselves in a peaceful manner, including the ability to keep terrorists at bay, then they will count that as a victory and we will face an emboldened enemy. If we react in predictably defensive ways to every terrorist act, and let them dictate how our government rules her citizens, then we hand them all the controls they need to thrive. And when we do that coupled with a near-pathological fear of offending a protected class of persons, even when we have some really well-founded reasons for distrusting a certain, easily identifiable class of persons, we practically write a script for the terrorists to help us implode.
Just consider how we treat foreign nationals who wish to come to America. On the one hand we keep productive, job-producing citizens out, while allowing watch-listed BVD-bombers easy access:
The question on the visa is critical. No one has a right to a visa to the US. If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi. It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.
The whole point the watch-list and no-fly lists, not to mention the ridiculously random and complicated TSA security measures in general, was to prevent another 9-11 from happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes.
So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.
In addition to keeping with its usually [sic] tradition of making policy on a reactionary [sic] basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.
TSA … equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.
If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.
That’s one way of explaining how the cycle of terrorist act/government restriction/citizen agitation works. Or, you could say that al Qaeda is inside our OODA Loop. And we can’t seem to find an effective way to remove them.
Well, that’s not entirely correct. The best way we’ve found of dealing with terrorists is by taking the fight to them, and forcing them to fight for their own ground. When we did that, we severely disrupted their ability to form and execute new plans, and made it increasingly difficult for state-supporters to remain hidden or passive. Of course, our government still took the ridiculous, theatrical approach to safety at home anyway, so the system isn’t fool-proof. Essentially it’s Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy writ large in a place that’s not sanguine about a military presence, but where plenty of us will whine and moan if the theater doesn’t put the show on anyway (while remembering to annoying everyone equally, even if our business cards declare us to be soldiers for Allah). We put them on the defensive, and that’s right w.here they belong now.
Victor David Hanson predicts that we will see the Obama administration start heading that way in the near term, and perhaps it already has. I hope that’s right. Because taking our foot off the gas is not getting the job done. It just lets the enemy get back to steering our bus in the direction they want. Back inside our OODA Loop.
What do I mean by that? Well, the first time this happened when the elections were disputed during the summer, the administration was anything but supportive of the dissenters. In fact, while it engaged in a full-up diplomatic attack on Honduras for doing what its Constitution demands, the administration all but ignored the turmoil in Iran.
Of course the excuse given by apologists for the administration claim that the administration felt there was more to be gained by “engaging” the rogue regime vs. backing a movement that may actually see that regime toppled. Obviously, given what has happened this week in Iran, those dissenting there haven’t been waiting on Obama’s blessing or support. The movement has been simmering since the election and again violence against the regime has broken out in the streets of the country in a battle against the oppressive mullocracy.
At least eight anti-government protesters, including a nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader, were shot dead yesterday as the smouldering confrontation between the regime and the so-called Green Movement finally erupted.
Early reports put the number of dead at five, but as clashes continued late into the night, Iranian state television reported that the number of dead had risen. A report on the website of state television put the number of dead as high as 15 and quoted the Ministry of Intelligence that more than 10 were members of “anti-revolutionary terrorist” groups.
The other five who reportedly died during the bitter clashes in the Iranian capital were killed by “terrorist groups,” Iranian TV claimed.
Analysts heralded the start of what could be a bloody endgame as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and fought running battles with the security forces. Opposition websites claimed that some policemen had refused to fire on demonstrators.
This isn’t something which is happening in some isolated city in Iran, or just Tehran for that matter – this is a movement that has gone national and is gaining support.
Question: Wouldn’t it be in our best interest and the best interest of the region and world if the current regime fell? Obviously there’s some “what if” to be done here, like “what if the replacement regime is worse”? Hard to imagine given the supposed agenda of those now rioting in the street, but it is certainly remotely possible. But it would seem to me to be a risk well worth taking given the present regime.
So, of all people, that brings us to Hillary Clinton, a speech she recently gave in Georgetown and a “put your money where your mouth is” moment.
Ms. Clinton said that the administration, “like others before us, will promote, support and defend democracy.” She pledged that it would publicly denounce abuses by other governments and support dissidents and civil society groups.
Really? Well, here’s your chance, Ms. Clinton. Here’s a chance to positively effect the lives of an oppressed people. Here’s a chance to help bring down an oppressive regime and actually “promote, support and defend democracy”. Here’s a chance to “publicly denounce” the abuses of the Iranian regime.
Imagine if you will, the effect of that regime actually falling. It would immediately have an effect in both Iraq and Afghanistan where our soldiers battle insurgents backed by the country. It would also have an effect on the greater middle east, removing one of the mainstays of support for both Hamas and Hezbollah. And it would kick one of the supports out from under other dictators, such as Hugo Chavez, who continues to make noises about acquiring “nuclear capabilities”.
In fact, enabling and supporting the dissident movement in Iran would be one of the smartest things we could do right now. Any distraction that puts Iran off its gain is a good distraction in terms of the rest of the world and specifically the US. Shouldn’t that be the overriding reason for our foreign policy – what is good for us? Isn’t it the job of our government to pursue that aim?
So what are these words from Clinton and the Obama administration? Empty platitudes or policy?
Over the next few weeks we should be able to make that determination as they react (or don’t) to the situation in Iran.
Apparently what was clear to every other person in the land has just recently become obvious to our DHS Secretary:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Obama administration has ordered investigations into the two areas of aviation security — how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened — as critics questioned how the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged in the airliner attack was allowed to board the Dec. 25 flight. A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano backtracked, saying her words had been taken out of context. “Our system did not work in this instance,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”
Taken out of context? The fallback claim of every yahoo caught saying something stupid or inane. In fact, there were any number of signals which should have had this guy shunted off to the side for a more thorough check – like the warning his father had given the US embassy.
Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son’s increasingly extremist religious views. In a statement released Monday morning, Abdulmutallab’s family in Nigeria said that after his “disappearance and stoppage of communications while schooling abroad,” his father reached out to Nigerian security agencies two months ago. The statement says the father then approached foreign security agencies for “their assistance to find and return him home.”
The family says: “It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day.”
How can a Muslim student, whose name appears on a US law enforcement database, be granted a visa to travel to America, allegedly acquire an explosive device from Yemen, a country awash with al-Qaeda terrorists, and avoid detection from the world’s most sophisticated spy agencies?
Every intelligence agency across the world is fully aware that the targets of choice for al-Qaeda and its numerous affiliates and sympathisers are airliners – preferably those flying to the US. Yet Abdulmutallab seems to have avoided detection in both Nigeria and Holland when he passed through the various security checks at Lagos and Schiphol airports respectively. [How? -ed.]
Embarrassingly for the Washington, Lagos airport had recently been given the “all clear” by the US’s Transportation Security Administration [Why? -ed.], an agency established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which was supposed to improve the security on American airliners.
Bottom line – if you want to make security more effective without increasing the hassle factor for everyone, there is a solution: start profiling.
Yeah, that’s right – if you’re warring against the Mongols, you don’t go looking for Latvians. It’s time we started pulling the “Mongols” out of line and checking them thoroughly. For instance, had this guy undergone a check for explosives, they’d have gotten him early:
Security experts said airport “puffer” machines that blow air on a passenger to collect and analyze residues would probably have detected the powder, as would bomb-sniffing dogs or a hands-on search using a swab. Most passengers in airports only go through magnetometers, which detect metal rather than explosives.
If, as a matter of routine, such travelers were sent through such devices or checks, do you think it might further diminish the threat of such attacks and cause them to look for different venue for their attacks? Might it also put pressure on Muslims everywhere, when singled out as a threat because of their common link to the terrorists, to clean up their radical elements?
Instead, you can count on the Obama administration, via the TSA, to make the new and reactive rules both draconian and applicable to everyone and pretend the 800 lb. gorilla in the room doesn’t e. But real security doesn’t play “political correctness”. It identifies the threat as specifically as possible, details characteristics of those who comprise that threat and then focuses its limited resources on them. That isn’t what we do, and we know why. And that’s why guys like Abdulmutallab and Richard Reid find ways to get on aircraft with explosive devices.
I think we many times become overwrought about things without ever really taking the time to put the threat into perspective. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight throws some numbers out there for us to consider as we assess the latest terrorist attempt. Taking the decade of October 1999 to September 2009 (stats for this month and others following September are not available yet) and even including the 9/11 attacks (TSA didn’t appear until after those) there have been six terrorist acts or attempted terrorist acts involving aircraft. Silver breaks down the numbers:
Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.
These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown.
Wow. Not a huge threat. I take many more chances with my life in Atlanta traffic every day. But, to put it in even better contrast, how about the old stand-by: How do my chances compare to being struck by lightning?
There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.
So in answer to the title is an unqualified “yes”. That’s not to say we shouldn’t maintain an awarness on flights of idiots like this last one and do precisely what the passengers did to thwart his attack. But then we know not to stand on a hilltop in a lightning storm wrapped in copper wire too. We take proper precautions, but we don’t obsess over it.
Given these stats and what we have to go through to fly now, I’d say we’re past the obsessive stage and into the downright parnoid stage.
We do this alot anymore. Maybe it is the proliferation of mass communication which seems to magnify the significance of the story without providing any context like Silver has. Guys like this latest wannabe bomber are not a great threat to us.
We average 50 commercial crashes a decade and have since the 1950s. Yet for all those decades we happily climbed on board understanding that our real chances of being in an airline crash were really very small. And as you can see, given those numbers, your chances of being in a non-terrorist caused crash are significantly higher than those caused by terrorism. Yet it is the “terrorist” attack over which we obsess.
Life’s a risk. We know that and risk ours everyday. We do so because we know that in reality the risk we take is very low and not doing so would limit how we lived our lives to a very mundane and boring routine. We’d hate it. And we normally pride ourselves in understanding that we must take risks to live life to the fullest.
I can’t help but think that every attempted or failed attack like this one that drives the neurotic over-reaction that follows is considered a victory by our enemies. We need to quit enabling that.
Or am I?
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the thwarting of the attempt to blow up an Amsterdam-Detroit airline flight Christmas Day demonstrated that “the system worked.”
Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” how that could be possible when the young Nigerian who has been charged with trying to set off the bomb was able to smuggle explosive liquid onto the jet, Napolitano responded: “We’re asking the same questions.”
Napolitano added that there was “no suggestion that [the suspect] was improperly screened.”
Apparently he was screened exactly as he should have been according to TSA guidelines. Yet he got on the aircraft with explosive underwear.
The only reason the flight wasn’t blown out of the sky is he had a faulty detonator. And, as with the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, it took other passengers to subdue him.
So what part of the system worked?
Oh yeah, the “let’s overreact and make stupid new rules” part:
Among other steps being imposed, passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item aboard the plane, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines.
The restrictions will again change the routine of air travel, which has undergone an upheaval since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001 and three attempts at air terrorism since then.
As James Joyner notes, since 2001 there have been 3 attempts in tens of thousands of flights and our reaction is to make flight even more miserable than it already is for little if any security gain. Radley Balko points out:
In addition to keeping with its usually tradition of making policy on a reactionary basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.
Ah, but that doesn’t matter. Our new rules will “ensure” that no aircraft inbound to the US will be blown out of the sky in the last hour. No word on what might happen the preceding 2 to 14 hours (depending on the origination of the filght) prior to that.
The last word from Balko:
For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.
That is all that has “worked” in “the system”.
I’ll be traveling today so we’ll leave it up to you to discuss the topics of the day.
Like the Nigerian wanna-be bomber – an al Qaeda plot or a self-actualized terrorist? The FBI is suspicious of the al Qaeda connection. And if the latter, doesn’t that lend credence to the Ft. Hood shooting incident being a terrorist act?
The “pregnancy ban” has been lifted in Iraq. Personally, I had no problem with it. I thought the commander’s points were correct. And you?
After all the whining about Wall Street, it looks like Fannie and Freddie will be offering similar compensation payments. It’s one thing for private businesses to do it. What do you think about quasi federal institutions offering those sorts of incentives while backed by your tax dollars?
And finally – starting to think about those resolutions yet? Yeah, me too. What’s your top one?
Feel free to discuss or link to any other topic that interests you as well.
Hugo Chavez, incompetent manager of the Venezuelan kleptocracy, er, Bolivarian Revolutionary state, has decided outside car makers just aren’t pulling their weight:
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has told car companies they must share their technology with local businesses or leave the country.
Mr Chavez gave the ultimatum to Toyota, Ford, General Motors and Fiat during a public address.
If the demand isn’t met, he said: “I invite you to pack up your belongings and leave. I’ll bring in the Russians, the Belorusians, the Chinese.”
Chavez’s homegrown auto industry is building cars that remind one of the ’50s (you’d think they’d sell well in Cuba – oh, wait, they have no money either). Obviously, the control freak in charge of Venezuela would love to have the technology Ford, Toyota or even Government Motors could offer his industry. So he’s decided they can just “share” their technology or leave.
And one more thing:
Mr Chavez attacked Toyota in particular, saying it was not producing enough four-wheel drive vehicles, which are used for public transport, and ordered an investigation.
Mr. Command Economy has decided that Toyota just doesn’t understand his market.
Of course his own domestic auto industry, the one he “commands” managed all of 135,000 vehicles last year. Why? Because of the bangup job he’s done running the place:
Currency controls in Venezuela mean the industry is struggling to get enough money to import parts and pay off debts.
So if he can’t actually produce them domestically, he’ll threaten and hector the existing one’s to save his rear-end or invite in a bunch of others to do so. Sounds like a typical socialist paradise to me.
As I and others have been saying when this legislative process began, the Democrats are going to pass something and call it “health care reform”. The absolute best that can be said about this abomination of a bill just passed in the Senate is they’ve managed that.
In every measure possible, this became about politics, not the people. It clearly degenerated from a goal some considered worthy (and others considered beyond the scope of government and wasteful) to simply an exercise in raw power with an aim at producing anything they could label as reform.
Well, apparently we have it. The New York Times reports:
The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the nation’s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs as proposed by President Obama.
Or course the bill doesn’t provide insurance for other tens of millions (but it does provide fines or jail for them if they don’t get it) – the supposed original purpose of the legislation. And the NYT doesn’t report that President Obama, on the day that he signs the bill, will break yet another vow about refusing to sign anything that bends the health care cost curve up. In a disgraceful gaming of the system, Democrats used the 10 year window within which the CBO is statutorily required to work (and other machinations) to present a false picture to the American people of the cost of this monstrosity. And when President Obama signs it into law, he will know full well that he’s breaking his word and has set the future of American health care on a steeper path to insolvency.
This bill belongs solely to the Democrats as Olympia Snowe, the Republican most likely to be picked off by Democrats in any effort to make the process “bi-partisan” attests:
“I was extremely disappointed,” Ms. Snowe said. After Senate Democrats locked up 60 votes within their caucus, she said, “there was zero opportunity to amend the bill or modify it, and Democrats had no incentive to reach across the aisle.”
It also made an absolute travesty of the legislative process – a bill concocted in secret by the Senate Majority Leader, unavailable to other Senators until very late in the process and, of course, leaving no time to carefully read, consider or debate what was in it. Bribes for votes were blatantly written in to the bill. As one person noted, when you bribe a public official, usually you use your own money. Harry Reid bribed public officials using our money.
It was a pathetic and disgusting performance by the supposed “greatest deliberative body on earth”. There was no deliberation. Raw politics shoved a grossly costly, freedom limiting bureaucratic nightmare which we can’t afford through based on bribes and politics. Even David Broder wondered how you celebrated this mess, asking “how do you applaud while holding your nose?” Everyone who voted “yes” for this, and especially those who engineered its passage in the manner they did, should hang their head in abject shame. They made a mockery of a system set up to serve the people and instead made it a slave to party politics.
And, as Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog notes, even the silver lining isn’t so shiny:
The bad news: The Democrats are going to pass a half-baked mess of health care insurance changes. Several opponents of the bill are saying there is a silver lining — that this will allow Republicans, who did such a bang-up job when they last controlled Congress and the Presidency, to get back in power. Color me less than excited.
We’ve all been badly served by this government and these political parties. This legislation is a culmination of a decades long process, participated in by both Republicans and Democrats alike, which has essentially turned a liberty loving people into serfs who are answerable too and controlled by an ever increasingly powerful and intrusive government.
Richard Fernandez, at Belmont Club, uses the Detroit and California as the inevitable ends of this sort of “governing” and wonders:
Given the scale of the failures of Detroit and perhaps now of California why is repeating the same mistakes not only inevitable but actually described as being desirable public policy? Maybe it is because we cannot help ourselves. Consider that before the year is out the Senate may have voted in health care bill which a majority of voters, if polls are to be believed, actually detest but which they are going to get anyway. Like the residents of Detroit, we take the handout we know will kill us and do it despite everything.
Yes, like good serfs, we’ll knuckle our foreheads and thank the aristocracy which has just taken more of our freedom and money to use as they wish to use it and reward them by giving them additional chances to increase their power and further erode ours. And anyone who stands up in the shadow of this monstrosity and the process that brought it to fruition and says this is exactly what those who founded this country envisioned is a damnable and contemptible liar.