Richard Clarke on the "Puppy Dog" Theory of Terrorism

Excellent op ed, by someone who actually knows about this stuff:

How is this odd terrorist puppy dog behavior supposed to work? The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the "only one slaughter ground at a time" rule of terrorism?

Of course, nothing about our being "over there" in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. Quite the opposite, the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists.

Some 100,000 Iraqis, probably more, have been killed since our invasion. They have parents, children, cousins and fellow tribal clan members who have pledged revenge no matter how long it takes. For many, that revenge is focused on America.

Posted on April 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM • 60 Comments

Comments

AlbatrossApril 27, 2007 12:28 PM

We need to pay attention to words. The "War on Terror" is a misnomer, since it is impossible to conduct war on a tactic. Remove the label and it becomes easier to ask what the "War on Terror" is supposed to be: an increased awareness of small-group guerilla tactics against Western nations?; a blanket justification for unilateral military actions agains state and non-state organizations?; a program to divert national treasure into a highly-privatized foreign actions and hence into the pockets of those promoting those actions? All of the above?

Likewise the "War in Iraq" is not a war. It stopped being a war four years ago Tuesday. It is an occupation. Referring to it properly as "the Occupation of Iraq" makes it much easier to deal with. For example, does one "win" an occupation? No, one "ends" an occupation. Can one "lose" an occupation? Yes, possibly: but ending and occupation is not the same as losing an occupation any more than leaving a house is the same as being kicked out of a house.

It's really high time that we start challenging these mislabeled actions in order to better understand and address them. Calling these things 'wars' lends them a moral weight far out of proportion to what is justified, and opens the door for exploitation and abuses like those we've already seen.

guvn'rApril 27, 2007 12:29 PM

Another quote from Clarke: "But we can be sure that when the next attacks come in the U.S., if Bush is down on the ranch cutting trees, he and whatever few followers he retains by then will blame his successor."


And that is bad how? How else can they regain power but to vilify the other side?

Even now they'll blame those that dissent. Thinking differently and daring to voice questions against their authority is already criminal in their minds, and in the minds of many of their followers.

Walt Kelly was right. The threats to our freedom are domestic not foreign.

guvn'rApril 27, 2007 12:31 PM

ha, technology bit my last post.

there was a "" before the second paragraph, and the same string with a "/" before the word sarcasm to close it.

all eaten by some misguided parser.

:-)

""
and ""
may be saved by quoted strings?

guvn'rApril 27, 2007 12:33 PM

really buggy, it eats everything following an angle bracket until the terminating bracket, and quotes don't help. oops. somebody's parser needs to climb a learning curve.
:-)

ARMApril 27, 2007 12:42 PM

"But we can be sure that when the next attacks come in the U.S., if Bush is down on the ranch cutting trees, he and whatever few followers he retains by then will blame his successor. You can almost hear them now: If only hissuccessor (sic) had left enough U.S. troops in the Iraqi shooting gallery to satisfy the blood lust of the enemy, as Bush did, then they wouldn't have come here."

I'm glad that it's occurred to someone else that the "Puppy Dog" theory of terrorism means that having the Armed Forces in Iraq essentially comes down to using them as bait for a bunch of murderous hobos.

Ralph Waldo EmersonApril 27, 2007 12:43 PM

Bruce is quickly becoming the liberal face of security. Way to go, Bruce!

These types of arguments from Clarke are WORTHLESS. The bloodlust of the enemy is not directed at our soldiers anymore. It is directed between feuding factions of Islam. We got ourselves into a mess. I agree with that. But washing our hands of the whole thing does nothing to help our cause and a struggling democracy.

And another thing. Six years without an attack over here means either that the Bush administration is protecting us well, or it means Bush's theories about keeping them over there are correct. Maybe even some combination of both, but something is being done right.

denis biderApril 27, 2007 12:49 PM

Yeah, about those six years without an attack over there: I guess the hundreds that died in Madrid in London don't count, because that's not the US. Yeah. It figures.

Ralph Waldo EmersonApril 27, 2007 12:53 PM

Well, Denis, I would say you are proving my point, since I was talking about the USA, not England. Either that, or Bush got elected as Prime Minister to Britian when I wasn't watching.

Michael AshApril 27, 2007 12:53 PM

"Six years without an attack over here means either...."

It means nothing, any more than the fact that there are no tigers near me means that my anti-tiger rock is effective. We've gone more than six years without a terrorist attack in the past without anybody doing anything particularly loud to prevent it, why should that change now?

The simple fact of the matter is that success is impossible to prove. You may become upset with skeptics such as myself due to this fact, but that doesn't change the truth of the matter. Perhaps these things are working, perhaps they are not. (I personally lean towards "not", but it's irrelevant to my point.) But you can't use silly metrics like "six years without an attack" to prove that they work.

Ralph Waldo EmersonApril 27, 2007 1:00 PM

But Michael, I don't think it is silly at all, especially when you couldn't throw a rock after 9/11 without hitting some "expert" who said we would be attacked again soon. Somehow that prediction has not come true. And I would say that dumb luck doesn't compute any better than my "silly" metric, especially when there have been attacks in London and Madrid as Denis pointed out.

I am not saying we won't be attacked again. But we have disrupted them in some fashion, that much is obvious.

BenApril 27, 2007 1:14 PM

Hey, don't knock Richard Clarke - he protected us against the Y2K disaster, then kept us safe from the cyberterrorism menace. And on 9/11, he was one of the few with the good sense to arm himself before showing up for work.

The guy's a hero!

PhilApril 27, 2007 1:16 PM

>>Six years without an attack over here means either that the Bush administration is protecting us well, or it means Bush's theories about keeping them over there are correct. Maybe even some combination of both, but something is being done right.

Since it was about 8 years between the two attacks on the World Trade Centers, all 6 years means is that we're 3/4 of the way to the next attack.

AlbatrossApril 27, 2007 1:17 PM

Wingnuttery is bad enough, but despoiling the good name of Ralph Waldo Emerson really is reprehensible. I should start posting my left wing screeds under "Senator Joseph McCarthy"...

AlbatrossApril 27, 2007 1:22 PM

The reason that we haven't been attacked again since 9/11 is because Bush caved in to Osama bin Laden and removed the Al Sultan air base which was bin Laden's primary gripe with the U.S.

Anyone reading this blog should know that we are LESS safe now than on 9/11, since we've managed to thoroughly radicalize lots of people against the U.S.

Ralph Waldo EmersonApril 27, 2007 1:25 PM

@ Phil,
What a silly metric.

@ Albatross,

Just because I read this blog means I should fall lockstep into line? Wow, that's almost as bad as believing in the vast right wing conspiracy.

get a clue, Adam HenryApril 27, 2007 1:28 PM

The 'Ralph Waldo Emerson' user is a troll and is not worthy of a response. Absence of activity does not imply or prove your counter-activities are effective. Absence of an activity simply means it was absent, not prevented or defeated. Security and risk management professionals know this. It's a given. Just because something didn't happen, doesn't mean it can't or won't.

Timmy303April 27, 2007 1:28 PM

@Ben, OMG you are the wind beneath my wings.

@Ralph, Security and conservatism are antonyms many of the time. Remember, stay nimble, look for new information.

Brandioch ConnerApril 27, 2007 1:30 PM

Let's start with the understanding that terrorist attacks in the USofA by foreign nationals are DIFFICULT.

Okay?

Today, al Queda could smuggle a DOZEN terrorists over the border from Mexico without any problem.

And I'm not talking big bombs or anything. A sniper terrorized D.C. a while ago. A kid with some handguns killed over 30 people.

The PROBLEM is moving the terrorists outside of their support group. THAT is why you don't see as many attacks in the USofA as you see in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel.

And cracking those support groups requires police work. Not military invasions.

Michael AshApril 27, 2007 1:32 PM

"But we have disrupted them in some fashion, that much is obvious."

It may be obvious to you, but obviously it's not obvious to me.

The simple explanation is that the experts you cited were idiots.

This should be no surprise. As soon as anything exceptional happens, all of the experts caution us to be on the lookout for another one. It doesn't matter whether it's crashing airplanes, psycho gunmen, train wrecks, industrial accidents, the first thing everybody does is prepare for the same thing to happen again, even though it almost never does.

And it's not "dumb luck" either. It's simple statistics. Six years between attacks is low, not high, so we're far from the realm of luck.

matt aApril 27, 2007 1:32 PM

Even if you buy the "we are over there so they won't come over here", it doesn't explain Iraq. We had already invaded and occupied Afganistan. if anything, that should have ticked off the terrorists even more. We went in and kicked out one of the strictest Islamic govts and chased Bin Laden into some cave some where. If we had just stayed there, wouldn't every nut with a vest full of pockets, an opposable thumb and a jar of nails come running to afganistan? I mean that's where Bin Laden ran to to fight the Soviets. Iraq was a secular govt by comparison and most Islamic sects hated Saddam in general.

Albatross is right. The words are the reasons why the administration gets a way with the rhetoric. Calling it a "War" frames it in a way that allows the President to define the approach while calling it an occupation or a policy isn't exclusively the perview of the Executive branch...

KerubApril 27, 2007 2:27 PM

that's like a Samson riddle.


where's the weakness? where the bitter?
where's the sweetness? where the power?

Do the mathApril 27, 2007 2:34 PM

In the past three years thousands of US citizens have been killed, and many times more maimed by terrorists in Iraq. How is the bombing of a mess-hall full of soldiers in a military base not an attack on America? Wake up people, we HAVE been hit many times by terrorists.

More Americans died in Iraq, then in 9/11. Even if the war in Iraq did prevent another attack, it ended up killing more *Americans*.

And why on earth would terrorists attack soldiers instead of just "coming over here" and blowing up schoolchildren? Soldiers are heavily armed, sometimes covered in body armor, and always trained specifically in how to deal with terrorist attacks. Attacking any police station here would be an easier job then attacking a military base during a war! To a terrorists used to dodging air-strikes and literally shooting it out with the marines, the USA must look like the land of milk, honey, and soft targets. It makes no sense that a terrorist would choose to live in a war zone and attack military targets instead of entering the US, and attacking soft targets.

Brandioch ConnerApril 27, 2007 3:08 PM

@Do the math
"And why on earth would terrorists attack soldiers instead of just "coming over here" and blowing up schoolchildren?"

Because of the support network that exists over there for them that DOES NOT exist in the USofA.

Consider how effective you would be if you were dropped in Iran (not Iraq) right now.

You don't know the language.
You don't know the terrain.
You don't know the customs.

You would be an OBVIOUS outsider to EVERYONE.

The same with any terrorist trying to operate in the USofA.

Which is why it is easier for them to attack our troops over there. They have the support network in place. They know the language, customs, terrain, etc.

alanApril 27, 2007 3:17 PM

People need to put their partisan ranting aside. Someone hated America enough to fly planes into buildings six years ago. They hated America enough to start planning it eight to ten years ago, maybe more. They still hate America.

For a period of time, our enemies' ability to carry out attacks on America has been reduced by our military actions. That has had a side effect of amplifying and spreading their hate for America--though right now they are still limited in their ability to fulfill that hate on our soil. By reversing the military strategy now, we would end up in a worse position than we started. The next president may bring our troops back home. But eventually they will be back, after some new and larger tragedy perpetrated by our enemies.

Brandioch ConnerApril 27, 2007 3:26 PM

@alan
"But eventually they will be back, after some new and larger tragedy perpetrated by our enemies."

Try to stick to the facts instead of your paranoid delusions. Can you do that?

If your "logic" was correct, then England and Spain would not have been attacked. But they were. So your "logic" is flawed.

They haven't attacked because it is very DIFFICULT to attack the USofA. We are very FAR away from them and their support network.

AnonymousApril 27, 2007 3:36 PM

Hey, Ralph Waldo Emerson, would you like to buy my rock? It keeps away tigers!

Yes, it really does work. Do you see any tigers around here, after all? No? Then that'll be a hundred bucks for the rock, please. Thank you, and come again!

georgeApril 27, 2007 4:00 PM

@Albatros

Anyone who's ever read up on Al Qaeda and terrorism is aware that they have no ethos. They have no greater purpose. The closest they come to a real end goal is a global caliphate, but even that can't be backed up very well with hard evidence.

The fact is that Al Qaeda has different motives and reasons almost every time they publish a message. One time it's Gaza, the next day it's the US propping up the House of Saud, after that it's America in Iraq, and the day after that it's the "overly secular" governments in the middle East. They don't have a common goal or real belief system.

People want to believe that there's a greater purpose in this. They want to believe that if we just stop doing x, the threat of terrism from Al Qaeda will cease. That's because the uncertainty of senseless violence is so much more horrific. It's not legitimate though and we have to accept that terrorists are unscrupulous and unpredictable groups.

timmy303April 27, 2007 5:15 PM

"Six years without an attack over here means either that either ..." Either one false dilemma is true, or the other one is?

"Anyone reading this blog should know ..."

"Security and risk management professionals know this. It's a given."

"Anyone who's ever read up on Al Qaeda and terrorism is aware that ..."

"... the experts you cited were idiots."

"If your 'logic' was correct, then England and Spain would not have been attacked. But they were. So your 'logic' is flawed."

... Yeah you guys are all logical powerhouses, lemme tell ya. I'm up to my knees in - um - logic. Yeah logic must be what all this is.

False DataApril 27, 2007 7:07 PM

I think there's an issue Richard Clarke missed that alan picked up on: one way for President Bush's theory to make sense is if you assume that, by fighting over there, we tie up enough terrorist resources that they can't extend them over here, sort of like what you can do with a defending army. I'm not saying it's correct--frankly, I don't know enough about the logistics of a terrorist organization to be able to say one way or the other--but I didn't see Clarke address that possibility. Perhaps I just missed it?

Brandioch ConnerApril 27, 2007 7:57 PM

@False Data
"I'm not saying it's correct--frankly, I don't know enough about the logistics of a terrorist organization to be able to say one way or the other--but I didn't see Clarke address that possibility."

Just spend some time and think about it.

What were the MINIMUM materials needed in the past to terrorize a segment of the USofA.

A pipe bomb? A rifle? A couple of handguns? Really, how difficult is it to acquire those in the USofA?

Now, think about how difficult it would be to get into the USofA. All you'd have to do would be to get smuggled into Mexico and walk across the border.

Simple so far, right?

Now imagine yourself in Iran. You have a pipe bomb and you've crossed the border. You're there to inspire some terror. How do you find a school before you're arrested? Or do you just toss the pipe bomb at the first crowd of 3 or more people you see?

See the problem yet? You don't speak the language. You don't read the signs. You don't even know what days school is held on.

It's basic math. You take ALL the people who hate the USofA ....

Only a small group of those are willing to kill Americans. This group is happy to kill us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of that group, only a small number speak and read English. These are potential recruits for attacks in the USofA.

Of that group, only a small number can keep their mouth shut and not give themselves away before they accomplish the attack.

So in order for someone to kill our troops over there, they just have to have enough hatred, a weapon and sufficient training to use it.

In order for someone to kill us in the USofA, they have to have enough hatred, a weapon, sufficient training to use it, command of the English language (spoken and written), the customs of the USofA and sufficient emotional detachment so they don't give themselves away.

That means a far larger investment in time and money even if you only count just teaching them English. Now, this is eating up al Queda's resources if and only if you believe that al Queda is running English language classes.

:)

Unlike the portrayals in the movies, not everyone in the world speaks English. We have more to fear from our home grown terrorists than from foreign nationals.

SaturdayApril 27, 2007 7:59 PM

> It doesn't matter whether it's ... industrial accidents, the first thing everybody does is prepare for the same thing to happen again, even though it almost never does.

That would make you a happy Ford Pinto driver I suppose? Many things are legitimately dealt with by asking "How many more of these are there?" and "What wider class of problem is this?".

DougCApril 27, 2007 8:47 PM

@albatross

That first post said nearly all that really needs to be said. We declared war on a tactic -- giving our executive permanent war powers, as this tactic will always be used by the small against the large. You forgot the implied power grab.

I don't buy the puppy dog theory, but I do buy the idea that if you want to kill an American, it's currently easier to do over there than it is here. No travel needed, and the other problems mentioned above don't apply there. It could be that if we suddenly leave, some of the less lazy bad guys will come over here, who knows? Not me, and sure as heck not Bush.

Not sure whether it's a war or an occupation. Sure looks like a war to me, with a little occupation on the side, and the places we "occupy" still aren't safe -- just like a war.

Just because we declared we won and tossed the main parts of the old government out, doesn't mean we DID win. Or that we will. In any sense of the word.

Osama bin said some interesting things. He scared me lots, as he made sense, not a crazy in the normal usage. His perception of us is from our TV and from the CIA. If we forced our own Amish or other similar group to look at the pron (certainly it is in their eyes) that goes on in our TV these days, and they didn't preach non-violence and we didn't let them "live apart", we'd have a homegrown problem.

Hollywood isn't doing us a favor.

Education on what America is really like for the average American might go a long way there. But they are trying to live apart and stay old fashioned without actually living apart, and all their kids know who has that cool tv they can sneak over to watch and see the pron on (it is to them, and to some of us too). Think of this as a parent and seeing your kids thourougly corrupted by your standards by the other kids and bling-addicts in your neighborhood and it's easier to understand his stated premise.
Also, the very serious misdistribution of wealth in that area is a big contributer.

Anytime you have lots of people able to believe that "anything would be better than this" you'll have these problems. People who think they have nothing to lose are the most dangerous of all. A quick look at history should convince anyone of that.

BernieApril 27, 2007 9:38 PM

"Someone hated America enough to fly planes into buildings six years ago. They hated America enough to start planning it eight to ten years ago, maybe more. They still hate America."

But now, everyone hates America, despite the fact that after 9/11, just about every one loved -- or at least sympathised with -- America (Remember the 9/12 french "We're All Americans" headlines?).

US policy and response has been consistently misdirected, disingenuous and counter-productive ever since, and has turned willing friendship into distrustful cooperation or even stubborn emnity. You'd think that the USA would learn something from this.

False DataApril 27, 2007 11:36 PM

@Brandioch Connor:

I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying that the reason we don't see more terrorist attacks in the USofA is that it's too hard for a terrorist organization to do it, independently of our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Or that our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan increases the probability of an attack here because it radicalizes a larger group of people, thereby increasing the pool of people who meet such stringent criteria?

Or that our presence there decreases the probability of an attack here because it places a demand on their resources that prevents them from undertaking the necessary selection and training process to create an attacker who meets those stringent criteria?

FedUpWithBothPartiesApril 28, 2007 2:47 AM

Next on Bruce's featured links: an essay by Sandy Berger on physical security. :)

Mr PickyApril 28, 2007 6:31 AM

Bruce,

In one of your blog entries, you posted a link to a video of a talk you gave to New Jersey ACLU.
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/...
During the talk, questions were submitted, including one which asked "What should we do in Iraq/Afghanistan?"
You jocularly dismissed the question, saying "(something inaudible) ... if I knew that" and quickly moved on.

Now you have posted an analysis of the terrorist threat caused by the invasion of Iraq.

So Bruce, what do you think we should do in Iraq/Afghanistan?

PeteApril 28, 2007 7:49 AM

Bruce,

As a computer security specialist, I have often decried the arrant nonsense pedaled by Clarke, regarding cyber-terrorism. I suspect that you may well have figured out the reality that most acts of terrorism are false flag (often perpetrated by the state against its own population - a long standing tradition dating back to Nero's Rome). However, it would clearly be career suicide to openly express that view.

Fear of expressing such truths is no longer necessary. We can all progress 'beyond fear' now that the whole dastardly game has finally begun to unravel.

Physicist Dr Steven Jones has presented utterly conclusive proof, from spectral analysis of dust from the World Trade Center, that thermate charges were used in three controlled demolitions (WTC 1,2 and 7).

You can find links to ten YouTube segments of his lecture presenting his unequivocal findings at:

http://stopthelie.com/the_evidence_is_in.html

His work is to be peer-reviewed and published in a suitable academic journal - God willing.

BTW I was delighted to receive the signed copy of 'Beyond Fear' at InfoSec Europe this week. Great read, but I'm afraid you will have to rewrite pages 3 and 4, as they contain seven italicized falsehoods, given Jones' scientific proof that the only three steel-structured high rise buildings in history to collapse due to '"fire damage", were beyond any shadow of doubt controlled demolitions.

We all need the determination, integrity and courage to move beyond fear and bring the real culprits to justice. A good starting point would be to demand of the BBC that they reveal the source of their information leading them to announce that the WTC 7 building had just collapsed - 23 minutes before it actually did. BBC World News live footage at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfNBFa0tQjE&NR=1

Who had fore-knowledge? Another line of inquiry would be to demand of the FBI and other investigators the results of their tracing the sources of the hugely anomalous and very lucrative put options on UA, AA and their insurers in the days preceding the 'attack'.

Best regards,
Pete

Brandioch ConnerApril 28, 2007 9:54 AM

@False Data
"Are you saying that the reason we don't see more terrorist attacks in the USofA is that it's too hard for a terrorist organization to do it, independently of our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan?"

I did not say "too hard". I said "very DIFFICULT". And then I later detailed how the criteria for a foreign national terrorist in the USofA has many more requirements than the criteria for someone who wants to attack our troops over there.

"Or that our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan increases the probability of an attack here because it radicalizes a larger group of people, thereby increasing the pool of people who meet such stringent criteria?"

No. Because the pool is so small to begin with. Unless al Queda starts running English language classes. Which is why, if you look at the recent attacks in England, you'll see that they don't match that profile.

"Or that our presence there decreases the probability of an attack here because it places a demand on their resources that prevents them from undertaking the necessary selection and training process to create an attacker who meets those stringent criteria?"

No. Again, unless you assume that al Queda is running English language classes.

The "demand on their resources" is nothing more than transportation to Mexico, a map of the border, a compass, a canteen of water and a pipe bomb.

And that is almost guaranteed to fail.

It's all about the pool of available terrorists who can operate in the USofA. That is what limits the threat. That pool is tiny. Even radicalizing 20% more of it will only give you a handful of new terrorists.

But radicalizing 20% more of the available pool of people who can shoot at our troops over there will give produce MILLIONS.

They aren't puppy dogs.

Govt SkepticApril 28, 2007 2:47 PM

Bruce, stick to technical security issues. Please don't turn this blog into another Political Animal (pick your favorite shouting match blog), with all the requisite trolling and name calling. Please.

False DataApril 28, 2007 8:53 PM

@Brandioch Conner

I agree with you that it is more difficult for an organization based in the Middle East to arrange an attack in the U.S. than it is for that organization to arrange the attack in the Middle East. I do not see how that fact lets you predict whether or not the terrorists will "follow us home." I understand the phrase "follow us home," and the surrounding "puppy dog" theory, to be an assertion that withdrawing from Iraq would lead to increased attacks in the United States. But I have spent some time and thought about it, as you asked me to do, and unless we know more about how a terrorist organization operates, I don't think the higher threshold you described necessarily eliminates the possibility that the U.S. presence in Iraq is preventing terrorist organizations there from conducting overseas attacks by drawing down their resources. As a result, I disagree with Richard Clarke when he says "the President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry." The President might be wrong--in fact, I think a withdrawal would likely result in greater foreign attacks, specifically on oil fields--but his beliefs might have nothing at all to do with chivalry. He may believe exactly what I said: by being there, we're keeping them from getting over the threshold that keeps them from attacking the U.S. I don't think the Clarke article works this issue through.

Brandioch ConnerApril 28, 2007 11:27 PM

@False Data
"I have spent some time and thought about it, as you asked me to do, and unless we know more about how a terrorist organization operates, I don't think the higher threshold you described necessarily eliminates the possibility that the U.S. presence in Iraq is preventing terrorist organizations there from conducting overseas attacks by drawing down their resources."

I have explained that.

Unless your scenario is nothing more than crossing the border and throwing a pipe bomb, there simply are not enough terrorists in the available pool to conduct frequent operations in the USofA.

Now, unless you believe that al Queda is offering English language classes, you're simply repeating yourself.

If they aren't expanding the pool, they will forever be limited that extremely small pool.

You can argue with that all you want, but it is not going to change.

Instead, a better use of your time would be to look at the problem from al Queda's point of view. You can't really hold English language classes.

But you can support a few individuals who would live in the USofA and attempt to radicalize US citizens who already know English and our customs and such.

Look at the attacks in England. Tell me about the attackers. Who were they? Where did they live? What language(s) did they speak? Where did they go to school? Where did they get the weapons?

"He may believe exactly what I said: by being there, we're keeping them from getting over the threshold that keeps them from attacking the U.S. I don't think the Clarke article works this issue through."

Belief is useless. Facts are what matter.

"The President might be wrong--in fact, I think a withdrawal would likely result in greater foreign attacks, specifically on oil fields--but his beliefs might have nothing at all to do with chivalry."

Yes, I understand what you believe. But you have not stated any facts to support your beliefs. Nor have you explained why those facts support your beliefs.

The cost to move a terrorist to the USofA is almost nothing. A ticket to Mexico from any near by country. A map, a canteen of water and a compass and he's in the USofA.

I've checked the sites and a one way ticket from Turkey to Mexico is about $1,000.

So your position pretty much depends upon them not being able to scrape up $1,000 per terrorist because of the war ... but if the war were to end, they'd be able to scrape up that much money.

AnonymousApril 29, 2007 1:54 AM

False data / Brandioch Connor,

What is it with you guys prattling on about the fictional Al-CIA-duh: cognotive dissonance? Facts are what matter.

Fact: X-EDS forensic analysis of WTC dust reveals a distinctive chemical signature: a sure indication of arson. Iron, aluminum, sulfur, potassium and manganese peaks _prove_ that thermate explosives demolished WTC1, 2 and 7.

Fact: successful controlled demolition (bringing a building down on its own footprint, as was the case with these three) cannot be achieved by setting hydrocarbon-based fires. It calls for skilled calculation, planning and the strategic placement of high explosives.

Fact: no way would any 'Islamic terrorists' have the necessary access to place those explosives, even if they sneaked in through Mexico "with a map, a canteen of water and a compass".

The game is up. Can you say 'inside job'?

bacApril 29, 2007 6:54 PM

Are the people on this thread assuming there is only one terror organization? Al Queda is the USA's pet student but I think it would be prudent to assume there is more than one organization dishing out terror. When it comes to resources, I think the middle east countries can bring lots of money to the table.

How hard is it to attract new members into a terrorist organization who already speak english? How much english did the Saudi attackers know in order to achieve 9/11?

Another way of looking at the Iraq conflict is that it is a distraction for the USA. With a good amount of our military focused in Iraq terrorist can take the time to plan attacks on the USA.

SteveJApril 30, 2007 4:56 AM

"They have parents, children, cousins and fellow tribal clan members who have pledged revenge no matter how long it takes."

This seems overly simplistic to me, perhaps just because it's a very short essay. Presumably some number of the relatives of those killed have in fact pledged revenge. But this is Iraq, not Hollywood: not everyone has the temperament to embark on lifelong vendettas left, right and centre.

If Iraqis "come after" America it will not, in general, be because of the unjust death of a particular relative. Organisations like al Qaida make a general case for attacking Western nations, based on wide range of perceived injustices and immoralities, regardless of whether the listener has specifically suffered the death of any relative.

We can't treat terrorists as if they're a collaboration of individual avengers, each trying to inflict their own personal payback on the US for an individual injustice. That's not how al Qaida's recruitment, or that of Hizbollah works. It's not how the IRA, or the Contras, or Irgun, used to work. When large groups take up arms with popular support, there is always a far wider sense of injustice against an entire community.

BondVillainApril 30, 2007 10:33 AM

Bush made it easier to kill Americans. If bin Laden hasn't died from his ailing kidneys, he's laughing hard about how well his investments in terrorism are paying off. Our insane Iraq response/overreaction/distraction has and will do the US far more harm than 9/11. Maybe Osama didn't know what he was getting into with 9/11, but he couldn't have planned this outcome any better. Bush and the US is who has been led around like a puppydog.

bobApril 30, 2007 3:39 PM

"...the evidence is overwhelming that..." Odd; it seems like if the evidence were 'overwhelming', then he could present it instead of using "and here a miracle occurs" for that (crucial) step.

I suspect if I were a madrassa "taught" starving unwashed adolescent with or without victimized family members, who was eager to die for the cause and be issued my virgins, I would rather run to the nearest marine, throw a rock and get there today than spend decades learning to blend in in America and tens of thousands of dollars I dont have to get there.

JasonApril 30, 2007 7:02 PM

After 9-11 I got my hand on several copies of the Koran to see what the deal was. I found there are different versions saying different things. Some are friendly to others, and some are not. But one thing they all said (THIS IS IMPORTANT:) that when a Muslim land is invaded by non-Muslims, it is every Muslim's duty to come to the aid of the invaded. This isn't a side-passage or footnote: It's a major tenet. Yet, few people, and certainly the people who ordered or in charge of the invasion, knew of this or still know of it.

Agree on the twisting of language. Change 'War' to 'Occupation' (how many of those have ever been won) and drop 'Terror'. You can't fight an abstract concept. It might as well be 'An Occupation against Post-modernism"

saiMay 1, 2007 5:48 AM

"we are over there so they won't come over here",

Thats quite bad analysis. Its actually ass-backwards.

Afghanistan was really great for the Jihadi groups because they got money, material and most importantly lots and lots of recruits to pick from.
Now after the Taliban are thrown out of Kabul there is no place left until GWB decides to finish Saddam Husein. Now the Jihadis have a great training ground again. Nothing like Abu Ghraib to get you recruits. Nothing like live fire to train them (who cares about the losses - more where they came from).

So bombing Iraq to the stone age and then occupying the place (with all the brutality that that implies) actually feeds a vicious circle to the detriment of the whole world.

The Iraqi insurgents/freedom fighters are there because they were born there. The Jihadi groups are there by choice. Iraq today, elsewhere tomorrow.

Cathy ColeMay 2, 2007 10:51 AM

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anonMay 3, 2007 2:41 AM

As a couple of people have pointed out. These terrorists have a limited amount of resources. This "war" has caused them to focus on getting the "infidels" out of their holy land and has indeed attracted terrorists from all over the world to iraq and afghanistan. Keeping the terrorists "over there" by bringing the fight to them has worked in the short term and is a good short term strategy. For the long term it could end up making things worse but since when do politicians in this country care about the long term?

As far as the rest of the world hating the US. I could care less about that. I don't know why people use that as an argument for whatever they are talking about. That has nothing to do with anything. We have been the most hated country in the world for the last 60 years and yet people from other countries break their neck trying to get in here so we must still be doing something right.

MalvolioMay 3, 2007 3:10 AM

This whole "don't attack the Arabs, you might make them mad" meme might have made sense in, I don't know, 1950, but as anybody who can read a newspaper since then should have noticed, they're ALREADY mad. Munich? Entebbe? The Cole? About 50 other incidents?

I think it's time for other countries to start thinking what they should be doing so as not to piss off Americans.

HenkMay 3, 2007 4:44 AM

"the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists."

I wouldn't go as far as calling it terrorists but I reckon the above does not just stick to the Arab world.
Me (from NL) is getting sick and tired of this American 'bullying' too. War on Terror. Right.

So terror is based in Afghanistan and Iraq? Clever Mr. Bush.

I reckon if this goes on for much longer people will eventually think a next terrorist attack would be justified. It's just striking back no? It wouldn't be terrorist, it'd be defensive.
Then who's the bad guy?

If given enough time a course of action might change from wrong to right and vice versa. Look at Hitler. At first (German) people believed he was right.
And he only gained power in the first place by defending his country against rules implied upon it by the rest of the world (WW1 remnants).

So how long will it take the US to become the wrong ones? The influence, credibility and power they once had is sliding away from them..

phred14May 3, 2007 11:03 AM

When someone posted on the difficulties of staging an attack on US soil, it struck me differently. Iraq may be more than just a "training ground" for terrorists in terms of bombs, tactics, and such. It may also be a training ground for those skills like English and US culture. We've put a lot of people and infrastructure over there, and we're a lot more contact with more Iraq people. We've given them much more opportunity to learn how to function "over here."

HarryMay 10, 2007 2:18 PM

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/04/...

"...you couldn't throw a rock after 9/11 without hitting some "expert" who said we would be attacked again soon. Somehow that prediction has not come true." -RW Emerson

Somehow people who say we have not been attacked never mention the anthrax bioterrorism that occurred after 9/11.

Dog TrainingMay 24, 2007 3:28 AM

Don't quite know how I stumbled on this site but have read it with interest and amusement. So good old Bush claims that America is now safe! Now I know the reason why Bush went to war with Iraq and killed thousand upon thousands of people to say nothing of causing another disaster in the world. I thought it was because of "weapons of mass destruction" (those few aging skud missiles that Saddam had) but of course not. It was all part of the plan to make America safe.... I agree America may be safe for the time being but what is the point of being safe if the majority of the world population hate Americans with a passion, especially here in the UK. It must be very lonely on your side of the fence!!!!

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