Causing Terror on the Cheap

Total cost for the Yemeni printer cartridge bomb plot: $4200.

“Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200. That is all what Operation Hemorrhage cost us,” the magazine said.

Even if you add in costs for training, recruiting, logistics, and everything else, that’s still remarkably cheap. And think of how many times that we spent in security in the aftermath.

As it turns out, this is bin Laden’s plan:

In his October 2004 address to the American people, bin Laden noted that the 9/11 attacks cost al Qaeda only a fraction of the damage inflicted upon the United States. “Al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event,” he said, “while America in the incident and its aftermath lost—according to the lowest estimates—more than $500 billion, meaning that every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars.”

The economic strategy of jihad would go through refinement. Its initial phase linked terrorist attacks broadly to economic harm. A second identifiable phase, which al Qaeda pursued even as it continued to attack economic targets, is what you might call its “bleed-until-bankruptcy plan.” Bin Laden announced this plan in October 2004, in the same video in which he boasted of the economic harm inflicted by 9/11. Terrorist attacks are often designed to provoke an overreaction from the opponent and this phase seeks to embroil the United States and its allies in draining wars in the Muslim world. The mujahideen “bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt,” bin Laden said, and they would now do the same to the United States.


The point is clear: Security is expensive, and driving up costs is one way jihadists can wear down Western economies. The writer encourages the United States “not to spare millions of dollars to protect these targets” by increasing the number of guards, searching all who enter those places, and even preventing flying objects from approaching the targets. “Tell them that the life of the American citizen is in danger and that his life is more significant than billions of dollars,” he wrote. “Hand in hand, we will be with you until you are bankrupt and your economy collapses.”

None of this would work if we don’t help them by terrorizing ourselves. I wrote this after the Underwear Bomber failed:

Finally, we need to be indomitable. The real security failure on Christmas Day was in our reaction. We’re reacting out of fear, wasting money on the story rather than securing ourselves against the threat. Abdulmutallab succeeded in causing terror even though his attack failed.

If we refuse to be terrorized, if we refuse to implement security theater and remember that we can never completely eliminate the risk of terrorism, then the terrorists fail even if their attacks succeed.

Posted on November 29, 2010 at 6:52 AM61 Comments


dot tilde dot November 29, 2010 7:23 AM

it seems like the attacker needs the fear of the attacked to actually be a terrorist. i see a reasonable and possibly effective way to fight terrorism here.


hmm November 29, 2010 7:35 AM

From what I can tell, most of the money spent by America on this kind of security stays within the economies of America and its allies (including Israel). Is it waste? Probably. But its creating jobs and selling products which is what America loves most 🙂

Clive Robinson November 29, 2010 7:39 AM

@ Bruce,

This asymmetric cost advantage has always been on the attackers not defenders side throughout history (as far as we can tell). It is one of the reasons that “attack is the best form of defence” gets cited so often.

What has changed is,

1, AQ et al, have no return address so they cannot be so easily attacked.

2, AQ et al, can and have put together sophisticated attacks, BUT get better value with low tech attacks.

3, It is Western technology that enables 1&2 to work in AQ et al’s favour.

It was “over use of technology” that lead to the downfall of not just the Chechnien commander but a number of others as well (fly a missile down the cell/sat phone signal).

Which might account for why AQ et al now favour low tech existance / attacks.

There are other issues such as “coalition response”, it is known thae AQ Hammas and one or two other organisations have investigated weapons of mass destruction. The chechniens in particular put a dirty bomb in Gorky Park Moscow but chose not to detonate it (they called it’s location in to a media outlet). It is also known that they have sought and presuambly found fissile material. One such is the Russian Suite case nuke, as a CIA observer once remarked neither the US or USSR know if the 80 or so “supposadly missing” nukes are missing, decomissioned or even manufactured.

AQ has an issue which belive it or not is “public relations” OBL can talk up killing 4 million Ammericans on the idea of “parity” but resources are dependent on publicity. Killing Western Women and Chilldren may be ok with the hardliners but they don’t have the resources needed. Killing large numbers of civilians will effectivly backfire on AQ and OBL is certainly not stupid.

So the question arises what happens when the US stop fighting and dying in the Middle East?

What sort of stunt will OBL cook up to get them back on Middle East soil where they are doing him so many favours?

CGomez November 29, 2010 7:46 AM

The American people are not actually terrorized. They still travel, go to work and school, and showed up to shop by the droves.

The terrorists, whoever they are, don’t attack often enough to strike true fear into the hearts of Americans.

The government however, is terrorized. No leader wants to be the one where an attack happened “on his watch”. Therefore, Congress and the President waste billions of our dollars making sure “it ain’t gonna be me” and leaving the bill for the next leaders.

Unfortunately, the talking points for discussion in the U.S. come from media… whether it’s the portion that pretends to be objective or the portion that doesn’t pretend.

If the media changed their talking points from “security” to “waste” and led a positive discussion on how we should demand a government that is not terrorized and wasteful, maybe things would change.

But as long as all forms of media lead with the talking point that “government is trying to keep us safe from spooky terrorists”, then that will be the lens through which we elect more terrorized leaders… who will be damned if they let something happen “on their watch” and didn’t “do everything they can.”

These leaders have made a political calculation that they can ride out the storm if the next attack was not foreseeable and we adequately are fighting the “last war”, as it were. But if the next attack were to use airplanes as missiles, then they would lose election.

We, the voters in the U.S., must change that political calculation, but the discussion and debate is not being led in that direction. Instead we will see interviews and press conferences about “doing all we can” to prevent the next attack.

Paul November 29, 2010 8:08 AM

So bin Laden has taken a page from Ronald Reagan’s strategy of spending the enemy (USSR) into submission. And we are falling for it. So sad…..

BF Skinner November 29, 2010 8:15 AM

@CGomez “changed their talking points from “security” to “waste”‘

Was listening last week to a conference of Federal/state/local budget directors talking about the budget process and the debt reduction commission recommendations.

CBO said “People in the US believe that 15% of the Budget goes to Foreign Aid…and of course a common recomendation is to cut ‘waste, fraud and abuse’. Yeah. That waste fraud and abuse line item.”
She got a laugh.

Everyone’s waste is someone else’s needed program. Louisiana is a state that loudly calls for limited government but certainly wants help from others during hurricanes and oil spills. Church tithes will likely not cut it.

They certainly don’t see the need for volcano research but Alaska (another live free or die state) does and the states won’t foot the bills on their own.

Noble Serf November 29, 2010 8:16 AM

While I regret most the lives lost and social cost of 9/11, the fiscal cost could easily reach 3 trillion if you count the war + DOD + VA+ DOS + intel + domestic “security” spending. That’s fear incarnate. Also the anger in our political discourse is perhaps the most-clear indication of a “culture of fear.”

Dale Stilwell November 29, 2010 8:17 AM

If the organizations that help fund the terrorist groups proactively invest in the security technologies that are likely to be employed (and most of the responses have been predictable) then the whole enterprise is almost self-funding.

BF Skinner November 29, 2010 8:37 AM

@Clive “So the question arises what happens when the US stop fighting and dying in the Middle East?”

Answer Unclear. Ask again later.

Someone else steps into the power vacumn. Iran likely.

OBL declares victory like he did against the Russians in Afghanistan. He drove the infidels out. Then he begins to move against the House of Saud.

If he succeeds, they flee leaving behind a country in chaos. Iran may or may not sucessfully subvert SA since it is majority Sunni. But with Iraq no longer a threat Iran can extend it’s control around the Gulf on other Shia countries and effectively control export of all ME oil.

By now oil prices go over 2-500 dollars a barrel. China and India cut separate deals and weakened finanicial markets shatter. Hard to say what Russia would do pump more oil maybe.

Unimpeded by local threats of US carrier battle groups in the Gulf…Iran finishes development of it’s bomb and Israel deploy’s it’s strategic weapons.

Don’t know if that would be enough to provoke another open war. I suspect it might. US certainly has the ability to stomp military infrastructure flat.

The problem with wars is that after the fighting is done…then what. Decades of internicine fighting with light arms?

@Clive “asymmetric cost advantage has always been on the attackers “.

While true, my take on the story was they are making a virtue of necessity. Actions against them have so constrained their freedom of action that they are really reduced in scope to local or regional acts.

Mailing parcel bombs? Really. Like the Unibomber or the white supremicist morons in the US? Kill only a few people at a time over a long time becuase that’s cost benificial? While that is terrorist activity it’s not jihad. Were OBL to choose that course he’d find his funding and donors drying up on him.

TheDoctor November 29, 2010 8:39 AM

Wasn’t that the tactic by which the IRA finally succeeded ?

Minimize the casualties of their bombings (by giving short term warnings) but maximize the economic damage ?

Winter November 29, 2010 8:48 AM

The main question is why the USA collaborates with AQ on this plan?

Europe has had its (ongoing) problems with terrorism. Like Israel and a host of other countries. Only the USA is displaying this dysfunctional response (most Europeans just limb along).

My idea is that OBL found a place where he could use existing US political strategies for his own end. Anyone who looks from a distance to the USA will see that the politicians put terrorism to good use for themselves. E.g., 9/11 was the opportunity of a lifetime for GW to get the political initiative again.

And anti-terrorism is a subject where effectiveness and efficiency do not matter. So any policy at any cost will do. Even if the implemented policy is utterly useless, no one will notice as there will be no attacks anyway. There are so few real terrorists in the USA that the FBI have to grow and nurture their own.

And foreign grown attacks all tend to fail because of either ineptness (making bombs is difficult) or of the few effective and low-profile policies that were implemented from the start: police intelligence and alertness of passengers.

John November 29, 2010 9:30 AM

“But its creating jobs and selling products which is what America loves most :)”

Yes, America is a failed society.

John November 29, 2010 9:36 AM

“The American people are not actually terrorized. They still travel, go to work and school, and showed up to shop by the droves.”

The media tells us that getting our nuts groped and having naked pictures of children taken with backscatter x-ray booths is a good thing. It tells us having our phones tapped is a good thing. Being arrested and detained by someone who isn’t even a police officer is a good thing. The government is now a babysitter.

American people “are not terrorized” because they’re crawling under a security blanket coated with poisons.

Brandioch Conner November 29, 2010 9:59 AM

“The media tells us that getting our nuts groped and having naked pictures of children taken with backscatter x-ray booths is a good thing.”

Exactly. Most of the people in the USofA are terrorized.

And being terrorized, they’ll accept any and all actions that “protect” them.

BF Skinner November 29, 2010 10:58 AM

@John “Being arrested and detained by someone who isn’t even a police officer… The government is now a babysitter”

You’re brain needs some tuning if you can’t see these are mutually contradictory…doesn’t citizens arresting villians mean smaller government when hairy chested patroits take their own responsibility into their hands in defeating criminals running rampant in our streets, homes and businesses?

Of course every state in the Union (excepting NC) permits citizen arrests if the arresting citizen witnesses the commission of a felony, or when police request the citizen to assist in the apprehension of a suspect.

But that’s just big government speak for integrating people into a socialist matrix by making them capable of taking care of themselves and the greater good of society; now isn’t it.

RSaunders November 29, 2010 11:25 AM

@TheDoctor: The IRA succeeded? They started The Troubles to protest the Irish government system which seems to be in place today.

The IRA made a lot of people angry, killed 1700+ folks, and ran out of gas after 15 years. The al Qaeda folks have 5-6 more years to run. The terrorist organization most feared in the US is the US government, TSA in particular. They send a constant diatribe of terrorizing messages and nobody seems to be able to put a stop to them.

The British “stiff upper lip” is needed in America today. Whatever you think of the New Deal, we could benefit from FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts”. He could also deliver a much needed whupping to the financial industry.

George November 29, 2010 11:48 AM

Of course, there’s the flip side of your remarks about the Underwear Bomber: Thanks to the TSA, the terrorists will always succeed in causing permanent mass disruption even when their attempts at mass destruction fail.

Forcing Americans to sacrifice increasing amounts their time, money, liberty, privacy, and now bodily integrity probably isn’t as pleasing to Allah as the glorious sight of three hundred infidels being sent to Hell in a blazing fireball that falls from the sky. But the slower destruction, wreaked by the enemy’s own leaders, ultimately does more damage to the infidels. Allah is infinitely patient, and is surely happy that the enemy’s government is so eager to help the Faithful attain their goals by granting even their most inept failed attempts a significant measure of success.

Al-Qaeda has no greater ally than the TSA. Especially since they’re completely unaware of the major contribution they’re making whatever Cause al-Qaeda is fighting for.

No One November 29, 2010 12:19 PM

BF Skinner, Re: Citizen Arrests — Except that due to liabilities because of how our government deals with civil suits (not throwing out the BS ones) a citizen arrest is a rare and dangerous thing. Unlike an LEO you have no protection against being sued for wrongful arrest and unlawful detainment. If, for any reason, the prosecution doesn’t get a full jury conviction there’s a 50-50 shot you’ll lose your civil suit. And a plea deal or nolo contendre both aren’t worth squat against a dirty enough lawyer in that field of play.

thermo November 29, 2010 1:07 PM

The billion cost of the terrorist attack is paid by the citizens but the security contractors benefit. Doing the math: who has more incentives to make a terrorist attack, the government+private military complex or a couple thousand angry, untrained and disorganized fanatics?

Tualha November 29, 2010 1:07 PM

Not a new idea. Eric Frank Russell wrote a novel, /Wasp/, based on this strategy back in the 60s. Wouldn’t be a bit surprised if these guys had read it.

thermo November 29, 2010 1:08 PM

The billion-dollar cost of the terrorist attack is paid by the citizens and the security contractors benefit. Doing the math: who has more incentives to make a terrorist attack, the government+private military complex or a couple thousand angry, untrained and disorganized fanatics?

Brad Templeton November 29, 2010 1:18 PM

What’s ironic is the way Bin Laden can publicly declare his inner plans and not seem to hurt them. Of course, part of it may be a desire to not truth him or act on what he says, even if you think he’s telling the truth.

It reminds me of those classic movie seens where the evil overlord explains his plans to the hero, allowing the hero to thwart them. The Emperor keeps explaining to Luke about how he’s just trying to build up anger in him to bring him to the Dark Side, buhaha.

In the movies, the villain is really explaining things to the audience, and so we ignore how silly it is. But here’s UBL doing it in real life.

Just an Idea November 29, 2010 1:43 PM

Best response:
For every Islamic Jihad attack on US interests, we put up a fence around some desert in the Arabian peninsula with a US flag and a title of “Name of attacker” US Military base.
It will drive them crazy and will cost us little except the disdain of Saudi Arabia.
The more they attack the more they get the EXACT opposite of bin Ladin’s goal: more US on Muslim land. We don’t go around looking like monsters for killing people either.

mattw November 29, 2010 1:46 PM

“From what I can tell, most of the money spent by America on this kind of security stays within the economies of America and its allies (including Israel). Is it waste? Probably. But its creating jobs and selling products which is what America loves most :)”

This is the Broken Window Fallacy. We could create and sell something with lasting value instead with the same resources.

Logic November 29, 2010 1:49 PM

Am I the only one to find it curious Wall Street has not tried to exploit a 1000000:1 investment opportunity?

Matt from CT November 29, 2010 2:16 PM

The main question is why the USA
collaborates with AQ on this plan?

People keep loaning us money, so politicians don’t have to make tough choices.

Europe has had its (ongoing)
problems with terrorism. Like Israel
and a host of other countries. Only
the USA is displaying this
dysfunctional response

Europe wastes public money on things like railroads (essentially massive public employment projects) and extensive welfare.

We waste — in the sense of not achieving maximum economic value — our money on things like defense and “homeland security.”

Almost finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

One of the lessons I’m walking away is not only is the TSA ignoring the most valuable way to size people up — by allowing people to go with the gut instinct that someone is hinky*…but their security screening systems are setup to actually fail. They’re overwhelming the ability of people to make competent, snap judgments by giving us the TSA agents too much information to sort through rapidly.

  • You still need proper training to make sure that “hinky” feeling is not racism, cultural differences, or other prejudices — but an actual recognition of universal human behaviors.

We have Paramedics who are not physicians, and rather then ~12 years of education and apprenticeship receive about 1200 hours of training. I suspect a similar level of training (and pay) for a small corps of TSA agents to be able to evaluate whose a threat based on behavior would prove to be far more effective and less costly.

Dogs are also, by nature, the only animals other then humans that read human faces for emotional truth (it has to do with which way you scan the human face to pickup on involuntary facial expressions that may exist only for a fraction of a second before over-ridden by voluntary muscle control). If you can train a service dog to pickup on the unconscious precursors of an epileptic seizure, I wonder if they have a similar ability to be able to pickup on the “hinky” factor of people.

thecoldspy November 29, 2010 2:20 PM

A few Orwellian quotes:

War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor.

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.

Matt from CT November 29, 2010 2:25 PM

Am I the only one to find it curious Wall
Street has not tried to exploit a
1000000:1 investment opportunity?

Hmmm, let’s see…

Sell tons of uniforms, equipment, Rapiscans, lots of advertising on media sites with stories about people objecting to it, get the airlines to greatly reduce the number of seats per passenger so they’re more efficient (from airline cost, not consumer’s time), trade Treasury notes issued to pay for all this, etc …

Wall Street may be getting a better the 1,000,000:1 ROI when you add up all the opportunities to leach off some profits from economically unproductive activities.

Simon Plouffe November 29, 2010 2:28 PM

This analysis is quite interesting, even if the printer so called bomb is a fake or almost a bomb, the cost for us is quite astronomical.

But, this rightful comparison has something scary. There is a general principle for humans, money, war and history. If you point your finger in the direction of where goes the money you should understand a lot of things.

Just a tought,…
Simon Plouffe, Nantes, france.

undisclosed November 29, 2010 2:40 PM

To be honest, I am a bit suspicious about these toner bombs. Why? There are many reasons. I will get back to you with some astonishing blunders and facts.

Sean November 29, 2010 3:20 PM

We’re in an unenviable position of death by a thousand [b]self-inflicted[/b] cuts. We get a prod with a matchstick and start chopping away at ourselves with a cutlass. Safety at any cost in a finite closed economy only has one result, and not the one the warhawks claim.

rubberpants November 29, 2010 3:38 PM

Just like a disease. It’s not the virus but your immune system’s response that kills you.

ghoti November 29, 2010 3:40 PM

Pres. Bush, after 9/11, understood the importance of normalcy and not allowing ourselves to be terrified. He said as much, but by the time it got filtered through the media, it had become “go shopping”.

Mario November 29, 2010 4:01 PM

Isn’t Bin Laden’s plan something like Al-Qaeda’s version of Reagan’s “Star Wars”?

When Reagan is given credit for the Soviet Union’s collapse (and, admittedly, many don’t credit him with that), the usual explanation is that by initiating the so-called Star Wars plan, the Soviet Union was forced to respond with its own counter-measures, which their economy could not afford. The resulting economic strain then led to Gorbachev’s reforms, which then led to the whole thing coming apart at the seems.

Bin Laden would provoke us into spending ourselves into bankruptcy. It sounds like the same thing to me; in fact it’s likely what happened to the Soviet Union was an unintended consequence, whereas this is Bin Laden’s stated intent.

When the U.S. bankrupts itself, there will be far more people willing to give Bin Laden credit for causing the mess.

TMcGill November 29, 2010 4:20 PM

Winter: Only the U.S. is showing dysfunctional response? We’re not banning minarets or criminalizing Muslim women’s fashion over here. And nobody has a more Orwellian response with regard to information technology and citizen surveillance than the United Kingdom. I think it is safe to say the problem is worldwide right now.

Kurt Young November 29, 2010 4:32 PM

Terrorism 101 – The “aggrieved” terrorist group does not have the military, economic or diplomatic “firepower” to change the situation with their “oppressor” (I quote both, never as clear cut as the terrorist group believes). So, they attack and count on the attacked to change their society to oppress those who look, think, or believe like them in their society (creating more operatives and resources) and take security measures that drain resources and change the attacked society. It’s the only way terrorism succeeds. If the target simply goes after them (the group’s members) as criminals, and puts the terrorist group themselves out of commission (Jail is better than dead martyr but not always possible), the effort fails. About 1/2 my undergrad political science credits were in defense policy. So, if I get that, why don’t the REALLY smart people get this?

stuart lynne November 29, 2010 4:46 PM

Its not the people who are being terrorized. Its the politicians who fear that they will be hounded by the media if the “make the wrong decision”.

I suspect that something has to break. You can’t ratchet up security much farther without some serious backlash (take off your clothes, now bend over for your cavity search)…

And if they (the terrorists) ratchet up their attacks at all that will more than likely mean that even the politicians start to get blase about them. At the rate of one or two a year the media makes a big thing about them. A couple of failed attacks a week and they would disappear from the front pages and even 24 hour news would get bored.

Dr. T November 29, 2010 5:06 PM

“In his October 2004 address to the American people, bin Laden noted…”

No. In October 2004, surviving al-Qaeda and/or Taliban leaders faked a statement from Osama bin Laden that said…

I believe that in 2003 Osama bin Laden and most of his top lieutenants were killed in their cave-based headquarters in Afghanistan when the cave was collapsed by U.S. bombs or missiles. Every communique attributed to bin Laden since then was faked. We never dug out the caves to prove bin Laden’s death, so the official White House and Pentagon responses when questioned on the topic have been to say that bin Laden is alive.

The likelihood of bin Laden’s death, though, doesn’t negate the concept of spending a relatively small amount of money on terror attacks to get a wealthy and foolish society to cripple its own economy and morale by spending zillions of dollars and harassing its own people while trying (with no hope of success) to prevent future terrorist attacks.

pwl November 29, 2010 5:10 PM

‎”Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200.”

Overreacting fearful USA security policies that have the government raping all air passengers, PRICELESS.

some_guy November 29, 2010 5:27 PM

Terrorism 101 — from the DOD training. You almost got it right, but the aggrieved really are aggrieved. Trying to disclaim the oppressor is disingenuous. But what was left out was the goal of terrorism, which is to demonstrate to the victims/public that their government cannot protect them. This is pretty clear if you think about it, but most people don’t. The terrorist act makes them confront it. (When using the term liberally, there are other goals — such as the Assyrian practice of launching decapitated corpses and heads into besieged cities — but use of the term in modern context narrows it sufficiently.)

The way to “defeat” terrorists is by co-opting them. Legitimize them. Find some approach to their grievance. This is what ended the PLO and separated those with grievance from those who just hated. Arafat’s hands were dirty, but he was far from the only one with dirty hands.

The above strategy becomes more necessary the more serious the grievances, as continued oppression will simply continue to create more terrorists. It should be no surprise that serious oppression without any recourse for the aggrieved eventually results in violence, in terrorist acts. But it is more convenient to dehumanize the terrorist and continue behaving in the same way rather than acknowledging the legitimacy of a complaint.

Robert Merkel November 29, 2010 6:27 PM

While pointing out the irrationality of the response to terrorism is always worthwhile, the argument is somewhat over-egged. If the plan is “bankrupt the USA with terror attacks that cost nothing” it’s doomed to fail.

One of the main reasons why the security-industrial complex has grown so large (in absolute terms) is because the USA can trivially afford it, and the expense is tiny compared to other government programs. To put it in perspective, Americans spend about $45 billion annually on pet food.

Furthermore, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there’s a linear relationship between attacks and counterterrorism expenditure; as such, the cost benefit ratio will almost certainly decline were the rate of attacks to increase.

Finally, Al-Queda and friends’ scarcest resource appears to be competent and motivated people who can (and will) successfully plan and execute terrorist attacks in western countries, without stuffing up or blabbing to their girlfriends. Not money. Therefore, the opportunity cost of this attack was higher than might be assumed from the trivial monetary cost.

Reader November 29, 2010 8:13 PM

I don’t think there is any sense in the idea the terrorists want to make the USA economical harm: your Helicopter Ben may print as much money as he wishes. I cannot understand how can you blame arab terrorists after the film “Loose Change”? This “terrorist” attack was the result of your “culture of fear” (please find some time to read Sergey Kara-Murza “Manipulation of consciousness”).
I think we cannot count the sequences of 9/11 in money.

Davi Ottenheimer November 29, 2010 10:01 PM

The key to your whole premise is this:

“wasting money”

The problem is Americans are known for wasting and not caring — one definition of waste might be another person’s definition of prestige and power

The Hummer might be the best example of late. Rather than improve mileage, Americans who wasted the money on it tried to figure out how to generate even more money (and borrow) to offset its wastefulness.

Gorbachev rarely gets credit for pulling the plug on wastefulness back in the USSR. Americans like to think Reagan swooped in and took care of the Soviets with a wave of hand, but really it had more to do with a brave internal political fight that led to a huge wake-up call on insolvency.

Anyway, it’s not just Hummers (RIP). The latest gas-guzzling Cadillacs are now seeing strong growth in sales. It shows Americans have barely, if at all, change their behavior when faced with external risk from waste.

The argument that America should stop wasting money is sound, but it has proven hard to find acceptance.

Might want to study how recycling and environmentalism take hold, and where they still find resistance. Therein may be the secrets to Americans wasting money.

Doug Coulter November 29, 2010 10:33 PM

I believe the old saying goes something like “if you want peace, create justice”. Now, that may not be possible in some cases — some of the middle east comes to mind where various factions have legitimately owned the same land in various times in the past, and all think they are still entitled to it, despite having started wars that lost it for them. And those guys tend to live in a world of all black and white, and have long memories for injustices, real and imagined.

So perceived justice may not always be possible, or easy.

But I do know this — anytime you (or the general situation) creates large numbers of people who can easily believe (or be lead to believe by a dynamic orator) that “anything would be better than this” — you’ve got trouble either now or shortly down the road. Because “anything” is a very dangerous concept in that context.

Whether it’s terrorism, revolution (here comes the new boss, worse than the old boss, people never learn, it seems) or fascism, it’s all the same in terms of the pain and loss it causes more or less innocent (or would a better word be “complicit”?) bystanders. Go look in the mirror.

Would that I knew (or people who could, had the will, along with the knowledge) to solve this the right way, but I think at least here we can agree what the right way is — create at least perceived justice. Promote it and level headed thinking where you can, every little bit helps.

Ever notice nearly all these problems come from places where people are starving in the midst of the wildly wealthy — whether it’s the middle east or some of the other situations we’ve seen over the last few decades? Or other perceived injustice; it matters not if the wealthy earned it, while the poor brought it on themselves in the rare cases where both are true at once. Will the wealthy work to improve the condition of the poor, or suffer under the illusion that they can maintain the status quo by setting up the poor one against another (as the Soviets did for awhile — which is why you had Bosnia etc)?

Of course, people like OBM (assuming he’s still alive — post above could be correct) really just want power mainly regardless of their spiel.

It’s been said man’s conquest of nature is really mans conquest of other men, using nature as a tool. You can substitute religion and various other things (oil, money) for “nature” and the saying still rings true. “A fire eater will have fire to eat even if he has to start it himself”. If you create large piles of tinder, you’re going to have some fire. Standing by while others do it makes one complicit in it I believe.

Long before 9/11, when Osama was, as Ollie North described, the scariest dude on the planet, he did interviews and tapes.

His rant was interesting — basically it boiled down to the West being a big source of corruption to his and other’s kids. There was always one family that had an “illegal” TV set so the kids could watch Brittney Speer’s gyrating belly button in a land where the norm was the burka (I disagree, with repressing females, but what does that matter?). Parents couldn’t stop it. In other words, at some level, he had a point. Just the little bit of truth it takes to sell the big lies.

Our own Amish preach much the same, but also non-violence — if they want to live in the past, we let them do it, else we’d have a homegrown problem of serious proportions. But our Hollywood didn’t catch the clue in the middle east.

I don’t watch much TV, I have other things to do, but my wife does. What must most of the less-developed (as we call it) world think of us if that’s all they see? Violence, random fornication, people who never seemingly have to work for a living but live higher on the hog than they ever will?

We know better — it isn’t really like that, but they don’t.

You could lay a large fraction of our current troubles with this, finances at Hollywood’s and marketers doors. Think about that one, it’s a serious point. Keeping up with the Joneses (when they can’t afford it either! But we all pretend as our debt goes higher and higher) led to what we have now, and now, some other, violent repercussions around the world.

I opted out of all that a long while back, and it’s given me a rather interesting perspective from here on the farm, where “I eat what I kill” and the banks never enter the picture except to store the rare monetary profits. I have cars that run, and comfortable rags to wear — some people are embarrassed (for) me. I think I have the last laugh. I’m rich, and I have money too — the wealth is mostly in non monetary areas, where it belongs.

Am I making any sense, or should I finish my beer and go nighty-night?

No, I’m not blaming us for their bad behavior directly — we’re just what AA calls “enablers”.
Why don’t we stop doing that for awhile and see if it helps?

And why can’t we get the message across to our government to just man-up and grow a pair, and let us take care of things ourselves. How about a choice to fly unscreened flights if we want? Or the right to be dangerous enough that few terrorists live through the attempt, as in Israel.
There, you’re a hero if you shoot a guy wearing a bomb, here, you go to jail for homicide and new laws are passed to keep it from happening again.

NRA says, refuse to be a victim. Bruce says, refuse to be terrorized. Both ring true to me.

I guess we all feel entitled to have someone else take care of it all, since they charge us so much in taxes for it. Perhaps that’s the root of the problem here? I’d happily (and do already) take care of myself in trade for not having to pay a bunch of @#$#-ups to do it for me.


Dave A November 30, 2010 1:40 AM

Our reaction to these terrorist acts seems like an autoimmune response: an over-reaction to a relatively minor threat. We will spend ourselves into poverty out of fear, and we are helpless to stop doing it.

tensor November 30, 2010 1:45 AM

We might with profit recall the successful long-term anti-terror strategy employed by Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Dowding to win the Battle of Britain, against an enemy infinitely more powerful (and evil) than Al-Qaeda. RAF Bomber Command humiliated Marshal Goering by terror-bombing Berlin, and Corporal Hitler demanded terrorist retaliation against London. This allowed RAF Fighter Command a respite against the Luftwaffe’s strategy of attacking Fighter Command’s airfields, which had come close to eliminating Fighter Command. The civilians of London demanded of Dowding that he use Fighter Command to protect them, but he refused. He knew that not stopping attacks against London would allow him to bleed the Luftwaffe, while offering no advantage to the Germans. Goering and Hitler, by allowing themselves to be provoked by RAF Bomber Command’s (militarily useless) killing of a few German civilians, lost what chance they may have had of eliminating Britain. Londoners died, but Britain survived. That is the cold calculus of armed struggle. Why do we assist bin Laden’s professed strategy, by over-reacting at home, and invading abroad?

Martin Budden November 30, 2010 3:55 AM

John Le Carre, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme (8th September 2010), said:

I grew up, in one way or another we’ve all grown up, under the nuclear threat; it was terrifying when the Berlin Wall went up and I was in Bonn and just getting a vague idea of what the contingency plans were, we were living on the edge of world destruction and believed we were. Now it seems that we, so to speak, have lost our nerve slightly with the encouragement of the government. We went through all of that Irish period with the Birmingham bombings, the Brighton bombings, the Guildford bombings, all the other bombings here on our mainland without losing our nerve and there was a notion abroad in those days which I deeply share that in order to remain a decent democracy you’ve got to be ready to take a few hits: there are always going to be crazy people out there who are going to plant bombs and things. I think we’ve been made too much aware of it.

The full interview is here:

Mauro S November 30, 2010 4:01 AM

Mario wrote: “When Reagan is given credit for the Soviet Union’s collapse”

This is a fallacy. Read “The Hawk and the Dove” on how Regan in Reykjavík walked away from the best arms reduction deal the USSR ever offered, to the dismay of all his aides because “he wanted to keep start wars alive”. Star Wars 1)was – and is – utterly impossible and 2)could be foiled by very cheap countermeasures, like carrying more warheads and hundreds of decoys in each of the heaviest ICBM there was (that belonged to the soviets).

The USSR felt by internal forces, unleashed by Mikhail Gorbachev, this one the man who should be credited with ending the Cold War.

The wasteful Star Wars program disbandment started the moment Poppy Bush took office (1989), not after the fall of the USSR (1991).

BF Skinner November 30, 2010 6:46 AM

@TMcGill “We’re not banning minarets or criminalizing Muslim women’s fashion over here. ”

Uh. Yeah we are. When a polity gathers together to drive out the ‘terrorist training camp’ that has been meeting for prayer for a decade as they did in Iowa or calls and pressure for removal of a privately purchased propert to perform constiutionally protected freedoms as happened in New York becuase it was ‘insensitive’ and when we have loud mouthed but influential talking heads saying things like ‘Muslims attacked us’

Then yeah, we’re banning minarets.

Amy Hunt November 30, 2010 9:49 AM

As I said at the time, for a few days after September 11, 2001, it was still possible to prevent the (admittedly quite successful) airplane attacks from being successful acts of terrorism, by refusing to be terrorized. Giuliani had the right attitude, but Bush and congress set the tone of “oh, my goodness, we’re scared.”

And so the U.S. government has proceeded to spend the last 10 years exceeding bin Laden’s wildest fantasies for the amount of damage he would do.

Can the commander-in-chief be indicted under UCMJ Article 99 for pusillanimous conduct in the face of an enemy? Personally, I would suggest 99(2) for shamefully abandoning a command viz. the constitution, and 99(7) for causing false alarms without any reasonable or sufficient justification or excuse.

I want to smack someone across the face and yell into their ear “you’re in a pit of your own making! Stop digging!”

eas November 30, 2010 3:24 PM

Isn’t there a name for helping implement the strategy and tactics of your country’s enemy?

Besides, stupid, I mean.

Oh yeah: Treason.

Mauro S November 30, 2010 6:16 PM

In WWII American young man volunteered to crew bombers, where the chances of not coming home were 25%-40%. Britain was bombed, most German and Japanese cities were reduced to rubble with horrific causalities and loss of property, many 9/11s each night. Yet they went on living and fighting and not terrorized.

What happened to the US? It’s now a nation of spineless people, afraid of the Arab boogie man.

Richard Steven Hack November 30, 2010 9:37 PM

Late to this discussion.

“Iran may or may not sucessfully subvert SA since it is majority Sunni.”

In other words, no.

“But with Iraq no longer a threat Iran can extend it’s control around the Gulf on other Shia countries and effectively control export of all ME oil.”

Yeah, right. Never happen. Cannot happen.

“Unimpeded by local threats of US carrier battle groups in the Gulf…Iran finishes development of it’s bomb and Israel deploy’s it’s strategic weapons.”

Read my lips. Iran does not have and never has had a nuclear weapons development and deployment program. That is a completely bogus claim on a par with Saddam’s “WMDs”. And Obama knows it. If he doesn’t, he’s too stupid to be President – and no one has ever called him “stupid”.

Even if Iran DID have such a program, there is absolutely no way it could be useful to them since they would be SO far behind Israel, let alone the US, in nuclear weapons.

And the Iranians have said this repeatedly. They know it. Which is why they do not have and never have had a nuclear weapons deployment program.

Their military MAY have had at one time a program to determine HOW to build a nuclear weapon – something ANY military threatened by a nuclear-armed enemy (Israel) would have done. And a number of countries in the world including Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Brazil have done that. But even that program was almost certainly stopped dead in its tracks in 2003 when Khamenei decided once and for all that nukes were “un-Islamic”. And such a program is entirely different from an intent to deploy program.

Clive Robinson December 1, 2010 2:57 AM

@ Richard Steven Hack,

My personal view is that Iran does not want “deployable” nuclear weapons as do most nations that actualy have them as the cost of ownership is way to high (and is one of the reasons South Africa gave up being a nuclear state).

However I think there are reasons they might develop a “test nuke” and that is because of the US political attitude.

If you look at how countries that develop nukes get treated by the US when compared to before they developed a nuke you will realise that the US regard “nuke capability” as a “right of passage” of a nation and their credability.

Or put more simply the US start issuing them invertations to the diplomatic “top table” with all the privileges that confers.

Also there is a very good reason for Iran and some other countries to develop independent nuclear energy and that is oil is running out faster than viable alternatives are being developed.

This means there will be a very real “energy gap” for most countries. Expensive as it is and potentialy as dangerous as it might be nuclear is currently the most viable option to bridge the gap (which is why a number of European countries are dusting off plans for nuclear expansion that have been shelved for some time.

Now put plain and simply a secure access to energy is perhaps the most important thing a nation state can have currently and is up there with clean air, water and food.

From a non “first world” perspective US foreign policy for many years can be put as “rape and plunder”. Thus if you either have nothing the US want or nothing left you will be last in a long que “for scraps from the bottom table”.

Unlike other energy sources fissionable material is most definatly finite and will possibly be one of the most sort after resources in just a few years thus any nation with the financial ability would be daft not to get into the game whilst it is still possible for them to do so. Esspecialy if you have good reason to belive that the US is hostile towards you. Oh and you also know that the US is running around trying to “corner the market” on fissionable resources…

For those who missed out on the bit of history to do with the devestating effects that “resource wars” are go and google the history of water rights that started atleast as far back as any known written records right up untill the present day (for instance get a map out and have a look at water course through say Israel).

As Margaret Thatcher well knew water and energy rights are a very effective means of political control. On being asked why the UK was doing little more than “token argument” over Hong Kong (where as she had fought tooth and nail over the Falklands even against strong US opposition) she said “all they [the Chinese] need to do is turn the water off”.

So if you want to tell if a country is serious about nuclear weapons and not just getting a top table invite or securing their energy rights you need other key indicators and one of those is “deployment technology”.

The reason that Pakistan had reason to aproach North Korea with nuclear technology despite their large ideological differences was “rocket technology”. Specificaly the weapons capable 800mile range Nondong.

North Korea appears to have a fully independent [of China] and very viable rocket technology thus they are one of the few nations to develop the deployment technology before the nuclear weapons technology…

What few realise is it is half a century of US “War Hawk” behaviour of trying to push the North Korean’s into starting another peninsula war that has forced the pace on the North Korean rocket and other potential weapons technology. Untill the last year or so the North Korean’s have not bitten the bullet, however a couple of events of the past few weeks has changed the game play.

First off the US backed “war games” in very much disputed territorial waters close to North Korea using “live fire” towards the North Korean’s was responded to quite bluntly.

Secondly was the informal nuclear inspection visit on the 12th of November that caused a very very major shock ( ).

Basicaly the North Korean’s showed the invited inspector vast arrays of previously unknown centrifuge uranium enrichment facilities built at the site of their now decomissioned plutonium production plant, but importantly the broad hint was dropped that they did not use systems that Stuxnet and similar could attack…

Even though North Korea indicated a little over a year ago it had viable enrichment (after the US renaged on a fuel oil agrement) it was basicaly discounted by many ( )

Further it was clear to the inspector that the fully functioning system although based on Pakistan’s AQ Khan P2 design had been further developed and was vastly superior to the current Iranian P1 test cascade and is capable of producing around 8000Kg of Light Water Reactor fuel (aprox 3.5% enrichment no where near sufficient for weapons use). Interestingly is the two way trade between Japan and North Korea on centrifuge and other nuclear technology that was also revealed.

The fun bit politicaly is the “finger salute” it raises at US LWR proposals in the six party talks, and also the sub line about the stopping production of plutonium hinting that North Korea has enough plutonium for their needs thus nolonger need the old Magnox reactor they have decommissioned.

However there is (US originated) concern that North Korea have other centrefuge plants hidden away ( ) that have the ability to produce Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) suitable for making a test hydrogen bomb.

These concernces have been increased as work at the site of the second North Korean test indicates a third is imminent.

For those that prefere the “Wired Danger Room” style or want additional links,

And for those “Tub thumping war hawks” that may be out there the “Fox” networks bash the administration with over egged pap journalism version,

Jake Kaldenbaugh December 3, 2010 11:30 AM

Bruce, you’re on the money with this line of thought. Now add in the cost that TSA has imposed on our economy in terms of delays, increased travel costs, etc… and realize that Al Qaeda’s objectives are being met exquisitely.

Autolykos December 4, 2010 6:11 AM

This is exactly the point. Terrorism wouldn’t work if the terrorists didn’t have (unknowing?) allies in our governments and media. Governments see the chance to distract us from their failures and make us rally behind them against a “common enemy”, and the media know that nothing sells better than blood (except, probably, sex). So they didn’t “fall for the trick” as much as they serve their own interests instead of ours.

The only winning move is not to play.

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