Update on German Terrorist Plot

Update: The plot is alleged to have been hatched by young Muslim-German men who had been attending the same mosque in Hamburg where the 9/11 hijackers attended. Some of them went to northwest Pakistan for training, and one of them was captured in Afghanistan in July.

A Mumbai-style attack is inexpensive and logistically unchallenging. If the attackers are willing to die, they can shoot up hotels and malls and set off some bombs. Doing several cities at once would spread panic and is an al-Qaeda MO. The whole thing seems perfectly plausible to me, and while I understand the GWOT fatigue among analysts and commentators, I don’t think it can be dismissed.

It can be said that such operations are hard to forestall and that also they are a comedown for al-Qaeda, since they don’t accomplish anything at all. You will note that Mumbai is doing just fine and PM Manmohan Singh declined to take the bait and go to war with Pakistan, as the Lashkar-i Tayyiba had hoped.

The point of 9/11 for Bin Laden was to drag the US into Middle Eastern quagmires. Not everyone is as gullible as George W. Bush and fringe terrorist groups should be dealt with quietly and effectively, not with big multi-trillion dollar wars.

12 Responses

  1. While I agree with you that handling some terrorist threats is best done quietly and hopefully more effectively, the purpose of the big bang wars is as much for public consumption, they satisfy some bloodlust we have built up to see an entire group of people eliminated more than ridding ourselves of any threat the terrorists pose.

  2. I’m sure you heard the story of The boy who cried “Wolf’.” We have heard this so many times. Bad times for the party in power, terrorist plot avoided by American intelligence. Some day it will be true and nobody will believe it. Maybe this is the time. If so, the ledgend has been fulfilled, because I don’t believe it.

    The proper thing to do if they do prevent such an attack is not brag about it. Not use it as a “causas belli” for more drone attacks. Not use it to whip up anti-Islam fervor in the US. Not use it to justify more war spending. Not use it to justify more American soldiers becoming dead and maimed for a longer time in an unjustified and purposless war. Not use it to escalate an ever upward spiral of hate.

    • It means people are sick of hearing about the war on “terror”, and dismiss half of it as propaganda when they do hear about it.

      Where the reports used to be sexy and exciting and used to instill a sense of self-righteous pride in the target demographic, they now seem boring, dreary and encourage a (well deserved) sensation of guilt and humiliation.

      After a decade of focus on the subject, people are increasingly eager to ignore it, and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

  3. Juan, the irony is that it’s been widely accepted for some time (hasn’t it?) that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda went to war with the US in response to our permanent military presence in close proximity to the holy places of Islam since 1990. Seems a convoluted strategy to 1) announce your goal, the expulsion of the “crusaders” from Muslim lands; 2) carry out a spectacular act of terror within the US, the purpose of which is to 3) provoke us into an even greater deployment of US military forces into Muslim lands, where 4) al-Qaeda can get at us.

  4. Did AQ really lead the US leadership anywhere the US leadership did not really want to go? NO wonder why some people think that the AQ is really a CIA operation.

  5. Foiled by huge war-machinery expenditures and invasions, or like most effective anti-terrorism by ordinary police work? Talk about bang for the buck…

  6. “Not everyone is as gullible as George W. Bush and fringe terrorist groups should be dealt with quietly and effectively, not with big multi-trillion dollar wars.”

    I agree with the second part of your statement–that fringe terrorist groups are indeed more on the scale of a law enforcement problem and should be dealt with accordingly. However, I disagree with the first part of your statement that Bush was gullible and fooled by Al Qaeda. On the contrary, the September 11th attacks allowed him to do exactly what he wanted to do. We know that Bush was seeking a reason to invade Iraq from the first days of his administration. This information has been in the public domain for some time, as in the testimony of Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, as reported by Ron Suskind:

    “Suskind says O’Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from power and planning for the aftermath of Saddam’s downfall — including post-war contingencies like peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals and the future of Iraq’s oil.

    “There are memos,” Suskind tells Stahl, “One of them marked ‘secret’ says ‘Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'”

    As for attacking Afghanistan, there is also plenty of evidence that the U.S. government had plans for doing that well before the 9/11 attacks. Again, I don’t see anything gullible about Bush’s reaction. It was all about great power politics, oil, etc. The 9/11 attacks enabled a host of policies that were already in the pipeline, only awaiting the proper conditions for implementation.

  7. “It can be said that such operations are hard to forestall and that also they are a comedown for al-Qaeda, since they don’t accomplish anything at all. You will note that Mumbai is doing just fine and PM Manmohan Singh declined to take the bait and go to war with Pakistan, as the Lashkar-i Tayyiba had hoped. ”

    I’m afraid that the US would not react with India’s restraint should a Mumbai type operation occur in the US. I would guess that the first thing to happen is an overhaul of the Patriot act to erase any pretense of constitutional protections. FISA would be scrapped and the NSA would get cart blanch and tons of money to make Big Brother a lot bigger. Then we’ll start a new war somewhere. Needless to say the media/political IQ will shrink from the size of a prune to the size of a raisin.

    For bin Ladin – mission accomplished.

  8. This is a police matter even if the intelligence is suspect, a matter that can be easily handled through Europe and gives no reason for us to be at war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This matter however will be used to further justify wars. I just want the wars ended and could not be more saddened with President Obama for vastly intensifying the wars of President Bush in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  9. “While I understand the GWOT fatigue among analysts and commentators, I don’t think it can be dismissed.”

    Very insightful, yes a lot of us including myself certainly have a lot of fatigue on the issue. But I think a lot of it is justified. That was always the fatal flaw in a fear driven environment (eventually the fear will wear off) you can scare a population into consenting to things like the Iraq war or giving up civil liberties for a few years but then the scaremongering becomes less effective.

    Also people are rightly sceptical of the National Security States that exist in America and Europe and even Russia and China. Part of the job of a national military force is deception and it gets to the stage where you cannot trust what they say.

  10. The ready availability of assault weapons in the US would seem to make such an attack inevitable here.

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