Terrorism, Part II

On the very first day that our blog was hosted by the New York Times, I wrote a post that generated the most hate mail I’ve gotten since the abortion-crime story first broke almost a decade ago. The people e-mailing me can’t decide whether I am a moron, a traitor, or both. Let me try again.

A lot of the angry responses make me wonder what everyday Americans think terrorists do all day. My guess is that they brainstorm ideas for terrorist plots. And you have to believe that terrorists are total idiots if it never occurred to them after the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings that maybe a sniper plot wasn’t a bad idea. The point is this: there is a virtually infinite array of incredibly simple strategies available to terrorists. The fact that it has been six years since the last major terrorist attack in the United States suggests either that the terrorists are incompetent, or that perhaps their goal isn’t really to generate terror. (A separate factor is the prevention efforts by law enforcement and the government; I’ll address that later.)

Many of the angry emails I received demanded that I write a post explaining how we stop terrorists. But the obvious answer is a disappointing one: If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it. That is the situation in Iraq right now, and, to a lesser degree, in Israel. That was also more or less the situation with the IRA a while back.

So what can we do? Like the British and Israelis have done, if faced with this situation, Americans would figure out how to live with it. The actual cost of this low-grade terrorism in terms of human lives is relatively small, compared to other causes of death like motor-vehicle crashes, heart attacks, homicide, and suicide. It is the fear that imposes the real cost.

But just as people in countries with runaway inflation learn relatively quickly to live with it, the same happens with terrorism. The actual risk of dying from an attack while riding a bus in Israel is low – and so, as Gary Becker and Yona Rubinstein have shown, people who have a lot of experience riding Israeli buses don’t respond much to the threat of bombings. Similarly, there is little wage premium for being a bus driver in Israel.

Beyond this, I think there are a few more prospective things we can do. If the threat is from abroad, then we can do a good job screening risky people from entering the country. That, too, is obvious. Perhaps less obvious is that we can do a good job following potential risks after they enter the country. If someone enters on a student visa and isn’t enrolled in school, for instance, he is worth keeping under close surveillance.

Another option is one the British have used: putting cameras everywhere. This is very anti-American, so it probably would never fly here. I also am not sure it is a good investment. But the recent terrorist attacks in the U.K. suggest that these cameras are at least useful after the fact in identifying the perpetrators.

The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests that the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory. From that perspective, having American troops in Iraq is probably not helping to reduce terrorism — although it may be serving other purposes.

Ultimately, though, it strikes me that there are two possible interpretations of our current situation vis-a-vis terrorism.

One view is the following: the main reason we aren’t currently being decimated by terrorists is that the government’s anti-terror efforts have been successful.

The alternative interpretation is that the terror risk just isn’t that high and we are greatly overspending on fighting it, or at least appearing to fight it. For most government officials, there is much more pressure to look like you are trying to stop terrorism than there is to actually stop it. The head of the TSA can’t be blamed if a plane gets shot down by a shoulder-launched missile, but he is in serious trouble if a tube of explosive toothpaste takes down a plane. Consequently, we put much more effort into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.

Likewise, an individual at the CIA isn’t in trouble if a terrorist attack happens; he or she is only in trouble if there is no written report that details the possibility of such an attack, which someone else should have followed up on, but never did because there are so many such reports written.

My guess is that the second scenario — the terrorism threat just isn’t that great — is the more likely one. Which, if you think about it, is the optimistic view of the world. But that probably still makes me a moron, a traitor, or both.

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COMMENTS: 624


  1. Charles says:

    Great point on how terrorist think. I am sure if they started to read this list it would classify under stuff that has already been thought of long ago. We are just thinking of situations without much discussion when they are putting in much more time and money to thoroughly research all possible ideas.

    What we don’t know can hurt us, so it is best to get these ideas out in the open. Just like how any protection agency plays out difference scenarios to train people we must get ideas in the open to defend against them.

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  2. Charles says:

    Great point on how terrorist think. I am sure if they started to read this list it would classify under stuff that has already been thought of long ago. We are just thinking of situations without much discussion when they are putting in much more time and money to thoroughly research all possible ideas.

    What we don’t know can hurt us, so it is best to get these ideas out in the open. Just like how any protection agency plays out difference scenarios to train people we must get ideas in the open to defend against them.

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  3. john says:

    Nice work, Steven. Keep up the brave work.

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  4. john says:

    Nice work, Steven. Keep up the brave work.

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  5. Michael Jennings says:

    The lack of terrorist activity in the U.S. can be empirically traced to the increased displays of the American flag in the past six years. They’re just simply intimidated. Can you blame them?

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  6. Michael Jennings says:

    The lack of terrorist activity in the U.S. can be empirically traced to the increased displays of the American flag in the past six years. They’re just simply intimidated. Can you blame them?

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  7. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    Hmmmm….How could a “moron, a traitor, or both” be as cute as Mr. Levitt? He makes good points, too. Anyway, maybe the terrorists haven’t struck for a while because they are gearing up for something really big again. In terms of amount of fear relative to the threat, I am one of those who worry terribly, no matter how “small” the likelihood of my dying in, say, a plane crash. And I do wonder if musings such as how low the risk is to be dying this way would flit across my brain (if I could even *think* with all that screaming going on, including my own) as the plane begins its fatal descent?

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  8. Rita: Lovely Meter Maid says:

    Hmmmm….How could a “moron, a traitor, or both” be as cute as Mr. Levitt? He makes good points, too. Anyway, maybe the terrorists haven’t struck for a while because they are gearing up for something really big again. In terms of amount of fear relative to the threat, I am one of those who worry terribly, no matter how “small” the likelihood of my dying in, say, a plane crash. And I do wonder if musings such as how low the risk is to be dying this way would flit across my brain (if I could even *think* with all that screaming going on, including my own) as the plane begins its fatal descent?

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  9. Lauren Nichols says:

    We haven’t had a major terror attack in the US since 911 DESPITE the Iraq invasion–not because of it. If there is anyone to thank for this, it’s not our politicians.

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  10. Lauren Nichols says:

    We haven’t had a major terror attack in the US since 911 DESPITE the Iraq invasion–not because of it. If there is anyone to thank for this, it’s not our politicians.

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  11. Blanchard says:

    I think the morons are the people who got all fired up about your first post.

    Regardless, I believe that you’re correct that the real reason we haven’t had another terrorist attack since 9/11 is because the Al Queda does not view a second attack as it’s highest priority. That organization’s goal is not, as many Americans believe, to destroy America because they “hate our freedom.” Their goal is a third Islamic caliphate — essentially to rule the middle east with a new regressive Islamic theocracy.

    9/11 was a means to this end. It served to chastise us for interfering in the middle east, and united fundamentalists in the middle east against a common enemy. Our heavy handed response with the Iraq war removed one of the secular dictators that stood in Al Queda’s way, openning up the region to more chaos that Al Queda can now exploit.

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  12. Blanchard says:

    I think the morons are the people who got all fired up about your first post.

    Regardless, I believe that you’re correct that the real reason we haven’t had another terrorist attack since 9/11 is because the Al Queda does not view a second attack as it’s highest priority. That organization’s goal is not, as many Americans believe, to destroy America because they “hate our freedom.” Their goal is a third Islamic caliphate — essentially to rule the middle east with a new regressive Islamic theocracy.

    9/11 was a means to this end. It served to chastise us for interfering in the middle east, and united fundamentalists in the middle east against a common enemy. Our heavy handed response with the Iraq war removed one of the secular dictators that stood in Al Queda’s way, openning up the region to more chaos that Al Queda can now exploit.

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  13. St. Kitt says:

    We’re fighting (and inciting) millions of them over there so we don’t have to fight a few dozen of them here.

    A good investment? The declining value of the U.S. dollar tells us.

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  14. St. Kitt says:

    We’re fighting (and inciting) millions of them over there so we don’t have to fight a few dozen of them here.

    A good investment? The declining value of the U.S. dollar tells us.

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  15. Josh says:

    Thinking about terror plots is as bad as committing terrorism.

    What we really need are thought police.

    And book-burning firemen, etc.

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  16. Josh says:

    Thinking about terror plots is as bad as committing terrorism.

    What we really need are thought police.

    And book-burning firemen, etc.

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  17. zadig says:

    Great response. Of course, you’re still going to get a lot of grief flying in the future, but keep up the good work. Bring a laptop so you can work during breaks between interrogations…

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  18. zadig says:

    Great response. Of course, you’re still going to get a lot of grief flying in the future, but keep up the good work. Bring a laptop so you can work during breaks between interrogations…

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  19. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for your piece. It’s always been easy to destroy. A kid with a match can burn down a house, and even a forest. Terrorist acts are almost as easy.

    The police state apparatus we have been developing has two outcomes: compromising our civil rights and increasing the motivations of potential terrorists.

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  20. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for your piece. It’s always been easy to destroy. A kid with a match can burn down a house, and even a forest. Terrorist acts are almost as easy.

    The police state apparatus we have been developing has two outcomes: compromising our civil rights and increasing the motivations of potential terrorists.

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  21. Basho says:

    It’s interesting that it is basically taken for granted, even by those who dispute the “traitor” characterization in this case, that there is an obligation for the news media in a country (or at least, in THIS country) to protect the interests of that country. Assuming all news providers accept this premise, and all news providers are in one country or another, from where would accurate news be available? Are the typical dismissals of al-Jazeera as being biased not really criticisms, but merely commentary that their bias is not the one appropriate for our country?

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  22. Basho says:

    It’s interesting that it is basically taken for granted, even by those who dispute the “traitor” characterization in this case, that there is an obligation for the news media in a country (or at least, in THIS country) to protect the interests of that country. Assuming all news providers accept this premise, and all news providers are in one country or another, from where would accurate news be available? Are the typical dismissals of al-Jazeera as being biased not really criticisms, but merely commentary that their bias is not the one appropriate for our country?

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  23. Robert says:

    I agree fully with your hypothesis that all the furor and overreaction of the government, post 9/11, has been a waste of time, money, and effort. It has all been show. A costly show, in terms of the very freedoms and rights, they purport to protect.

    As for the dearth of terrorism in the US, I have come to think that for terrorists to function they need the support, or at least the apathy, of a disenfranchised population. Also, the cost of reprisal must be low or extreme enough to be galvanizing. If so, then US has been an unfertile place for terrorism after 9/11.

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  24. Robert says:

    I agree fully with your hypothesis that all the furor and overreaction of the government, post 9/11, has been a waste of time, money, and effort. It has all been show. A costly show, in terms of the very freedoms and rights, they purport to protect.

    As for the dearth of terrorism in the US, I have come to think that for terrorists to function they need the support, or at least the apathy, of a disenfranchised population. Also, the cost of reprisal must be low or extreme enough to be galvanizing. If so, then US has been an unfertile place for terrorism after 9/11.

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  25. Wes Hartline says:

    Excellent thoughts sir. Don’t be too concerned about the hate mail. I look forward to the hearing about the hate mail you will now receive after mentioning the abortion/crime rate article for those who hadn’t read it yet…

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  26. Wes Hartline says:

    Excellent thoughts sir. Don’t be too concerned about the hate mail. I look forward to the hearing about the hate mail you will now receive after mentioning the abortion/crime rate article for those who hadn’t read it yet…

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  27. Brian says:

    It is not true that there have been no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since September 11, 2001. The anthrax attacks took place later in 2001.

    The fact that there have been no attacks by Islamic terrorists in the U.S. since 2001 doesn’t really tell us anything. Eight years passed between the first World Trade Center bombing and the September 11 attacks.

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  28. Brian says:

    It is not true that there have been no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since September 11, 2001. The anthrax attacks took place later in 2001.

    The fact that there have been no attacks by Islamic terrorists in the U.S. since 2001 doesn’t really tell us anything. Eight years passed between the first World Trade Center bombing and the September 11 attacks.

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  29. Ann S. says:

    There are an infinite array of simple strategies to any person out there who would like to hurt other people. Something to acknowledge, though, there are also troubled people out there who we might not think of as terrorists but people who are looking for ways to hurt other people. I don’t think we classify high school and college shooters as terrorists however, your column is also reaching people who are troubled and looking for ways to draw attention to themselves. Yes, there are many other influences out in the world and why provide people with the assignment and solutions for how to terrorize and hurt other people? It’s a sad state of affairs when we’re asked to provide our fellow human beings with ideas like that. I still believe yesterday’s post was an irresponsible waste of words and it’s a shame the NYT posted it. We create our world through thoughts and ideas and they are eventually followed up with the reality of actions. Perhaps an apology would also have been helpful.

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  30. Ann S. says:

    There are an infinite array of simple strategies to any person out there who would like to hurt other people. Something to acknowledge, though, there are also troubled people out there who we might not think of as terrorists but people who are looking for ways to hurt other people. I don’t think we classify high school and college shooters as terrorists however, your column is also reaching people who are troubled and looking for ways to draw attention to themselves. Yes, there are many other influences out in the world and why provide people with the assignment and solutions for how to terrorize and hurt other people? It’s a sad state of affairs when we’re asked to provide our fellow human beings with ideas like that. I still believe yesterday’s post was an irresponsible waste of words and it’s a shame the NYT posted it. We create our world through thoughts and ideas and they are eventually followed up with the reality of actions. Perhaps an apology would also have been helpful.

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  31. james singer says:

    You mean Lou Dobbs got it wrong, they’re not amassing on the Mexican border?

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  32. james singer says:

    You mean Lou Dobbs got it wrong, they’re not amassing on the Mexican border?

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  33. Matt says:

    If we refuse to discuss how terror attacks might occur because the enemy could get ideas then we have muzzled our thoughts. We lose the initiative and we dumb ourselves down.

    I would amend Mr Levitt’s idea a little. I would send a group of a dozen men to one small american town, an every-town. I doubt they would get away, but it’s the kind of attack that is easier to imagine and something that has not happened since Kansas during the Civil War. The feeling of powerlessness is what creates dread.

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  34. Matt says:

    If we refuse to discuss how terror attacks might occur because the enemy could get ideas then we have muzzled our thoughts. We lose the initiative and we dumb ourselves down.

    I would amend Mr Levitt’s idea a little. I would send a group of a dozen men to one small american town, an every-town. I doubt they would get away, but it’s the kind of attack that is easier to imagine and something that has not happened since Kansas during the Civil War. The feeling of powerlessness is what creates dread.

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  35. Patrick Mathieu says:

    I have discussed this point in numerous radio interviews, including Oprah & Friends Radio. My contention is that Osama Bin Laden, bird flu and gang violence are all linked. The factors that link them are FEAR and CONTROL.

    Our deepest fear is anything we are powerless to control. Our ULTIMATE fear is the fear of death, which, of course, is generally beyond out control. We fear gang violence, bird flu and Osama Bin Laden precisely because we worry that they could kill us and we feel helpless to control them.

    I would submit that they only effective way to circumvent the terror that is invoked by terrorist acts (or bird flu or gang violence) is to begin to come to terms with our own mortality. This is what I do – I help people by using something I call The Power Of Mortality™.

    The idea is simple, but not easy. You need to embrace your own mortality in order to regain control over your life and live with vitality. Once you’ve done that – terrorism loses its power.

    http://www.PowerOfMortality.com

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  36. Patrick Mathieu says:

    I have discussed this point in numerous radio interviews, including Oprah & Friends Radio. My contention is that Osama Bin Laden, bird flu and gang violence are all linked. The factors that link them are FEAR and CONTROL.

    Our deepest fear is anything we are powerless to control. Our ULTIMATE fear is the fear of death, which, of course, is generally beyond out control. We fear gang violence, bird flu and Osama Bin Laden precisely because we worry that they could kill us and we feel helpless to control them.

    I would submit that they only effective way to circumvent the terror that is invoked by terrorist acts (or bird flu or gang violence) is to begin to come to terms with our own mortality. This is what I do – I help people by using something I call The Power Of Mortality.

    The idea is simple, but not easy. You need to embrace your own mortality in order to regain control over your life and live with vitality. Once you’ve done that – terrorism loses its power.

    http://www.PowerOfMortality.com

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  37. SKAN says:

    @ #15:

    do you really think those “troubled people…looking for ways to hurt other people” are too stupid to figure out any ways of hurting people?

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  38. SKAN says:

    @ #15:

    do you really think those “troubled people…looking for ways to hurt other people” are too stupid to figure out any ways of hurting people?

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  39. Thomas R. Moorer says:

    What ever happened to poor Admiral Poindexter? His suggestion that we open a futures market to speculate on the probability of a terrorist attack was a “wisdom of the crowd” concept long before anybody ever heard of crowd wisdom. Of course, being innovative, the idea horrified Congress and once again relegated the Admiral to obscurity. Sad.

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  40. Thomas R. Moorer says:

    What ever happened to poor Admiral Poindexter? His suggestion that we open a futures market to speculate on the probability of a terrorist attack was a “wisdom of the crowd” concept long before anybody ever heard of crowd wisdom. Of course, being innovative, the idea horrified Congress and once again relegated the Admiral to obscurity. Sad.

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  41. DrNova says:

    You did not mention a “conspiratorial” possibility–timed for successful action after the “gut feeling” of the Principals.

    Your malignant detractors may be “the morons” or “the shills.”

    God bless you for your manly courage. God bless The New York Times for this platform for free speech.

    (ISAIAH 55, JOHN 21:17-19)

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  42. DrNova says:

    You did not mention a “conspiratorial” possibility–timed for successful action after the “gut feeling” of the Principals.

    Your malignant detractors may be “the morons” or “the shills.”

    God bless you for your manly courage. God bless The New York Times for this platform for free speech.

    (ISAIAH 55, JOHN 21:17-19)

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  43. Bryce says:

    I enjoy your thoughts and provoking topics. You aren’t a “moron, a traitor, or both.” It is just a scary topic to some people. We live in a country where we don’t have to worry about going outside because we might get shot, and bringing up the sniper terrorist idea makes people hesitate if only for the length of time it takes for the neurons to fire in their brains before stepping outside each morning.

    Because these people read this idea, they will forever be scared because now there is a possibility of it happening… Maybe the terrorists read the post and agreed, or had thought of it before but never really considered it until now.

    Whereas before your readers saw the post, the idea had not occurred to them, and they didn’t know to be scared when going outside. It’s the whole, “ignorance is bliss,” thing.

    But your readers couldn’t articulate this fear. They were only able to say that thinking up ideas for terrorists was stupid and unpatriotic, and call you names. And for that, they show themselves to be the ones lacking.

    Keep up the great work!

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  44. Bryce says:

    I enjoy your thoughts and provoking topics. You aren’t a “moron, a traitor, or both.” It is just a scary topic to some people. We live in a country where we don’t have to worry about going outside because we might get shot, and bringing up the sniper terrorist idea makes people hesitate if only for the length of time it takes for the neurons to fire in their brains before stepping outside each morning.

    Because these people read this idea, they will forever be scared because now there is a possibility of it happening… Maybe the terrorists read the post and agreed, or had thought of it before but never really considered it until now.

    Whereas before your readers saw the post, the idea had not occurred to them, and they didn’t know to be scared when going outside. It’s the whole, “ignorance is bliss,” thing.

    But your readers couldn’t articulate this fear. They were only able to say that thinking up ideas for terrorists was stupid and unpatriotic, and call you names. And for that, they show themselves to be the ones lacking.

    Keep up the great work!

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  45. Robert says:

    As Ann S. noted, we don’t consider school rampages or the DC Snipings to be acts of terrorism. I do not believe that the anthrax attacks were either.

    I do agree that the lack of attacks in the US does not mean that some group is not planning one. It should indicate to angry responders to yesterday’s column that terrorism is far more difficult than they would like to imagine to successfully carry out.

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  46. Robert says:

    As Ann S. noted, we don’t consider school rampages or the DC Snipings to be acts of terrorism. I do not believe that the anthrax attacks were either.

    I do agree that the lack of attacks in the US does not mean that some group is not planning one. It should indicate to angry responders to yesterday’s column that terrorism is far more difficult than they would like to imagine to successfully carry out.

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  47. Brady Beckham says:

    I feel like the alternative interpretation (“terror risk just isn’t that high and we are greatly overspending”)is right on. Of course, I have no facts to back that up.

    I feel like this problem is similar to the drop in crime that you linked to abortion. Before you guys came along everybody attributed the change to something else. People now attribute the lack of terrorism as a sign that anti-terrorism is working. Maybe it is, but thank you for pointing out this is only taken on faith and isn’t the only logical possibility.

    On a softer note… many Americans still haven’t gotten back on track from 9/11, they still fear more today than they did on 9/10, perhaps justified, but perhaps not. I think many of us could benefit from a clean slate.

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  48. Brady Beckham says:

    I feel like the alternative interpretation (“terror risk just isn’t that high and we are greatly overspending”)is right on. Of course, I have no facts to back that up.

    I feel like this problem is similar to the drop in crime that you linked to abortion. Before you guys came along everybody attributed the change to something else. People now attribute the lack of terrorism as a sign that anti-terrorism is working. Maybe it is, but thank you for pointing out this is only taken on faith and isn’t the only logical possibility.

    On a softer note… many Americans still haven’t gotten back on track from 9/11, they still fear more today than they did on 9/10, perhaps justified, but perhaps not. I think many of us could benefit from a clean slate.

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  49. Chris (Nashville) says:

    You’re doing a great job, Steve. You’re absolutely right to brain-storm about possible terror actions. The more we talk about these things, the less likely that they are to come to fruition. I’m not going to say that you should have never moved your blog over to the NY Times website… but I will say that if you had kept everything like it was, you’d have fewer readers, BUT THEY’D BE MUCH BETTER EDUCATED & OPEN-MINDED.

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  50. Chris (Nashville) says:

    You’re doing a great job, Steve. You’re absolutely right to brain-storm about possible terror actions. The more we talk about these things, the less likely that they are to come to fruition. I’m not going to say that you should have never moved your blog over to the NY Times website… but I will say that if you had kept everything like it was, you’d have fewer readers, BUT THEY’D BE MUCH BETTER EDUCATED & OPEN-MINDED.

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  51. Jake Hanes says:

    (this may be a repost)

    Your decision to try and develop and advertise plans for how to conduct and commit an act of terror in the United States is sick and disturbing. Perhaps you considered it a fun little mind game to think up and talk about ways to kill Americans and do so in a way so as to distribute that information at large. What a sad, horrible little game you opted to play. I don’t honestly expect your moderators to let this comment through but if they do, it will probably be as a sign they too are horrified at what you have done.

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  52. Jake Hanes says:

    (this may be a repost)

    Your decision to try and develop and advertise plans for how to conduct and commit an act of terror in the United States is sick and disturbing. Perhaps you considered it a fun little mind game to think up and talk about ways to kill Americans and do so in a way so as to distribute that information at large. What a sad, horrible little game you opted to play. I don’t honestly expect your moderators to let this comment through but if they do, it will probably be as a sign they too are horrified at what you have done.

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  53. III says:

    it is worth noting that the quality of the commentary has markedly decreased since the switchover to the nyt.

    i hope that the original articles continue to maintain the same level of quality.

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  54. III says:

    it is worth noting that the quality of the commentary has markedly decreased since the switchover to the nyt.

    i hope that the original articles continue to maintain the same level of quality.

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  55. Adam says:

    I think it was the daily show or colbert report that said it best… all the terrorist’s have to do is get nyc wet.

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  56. Adam says:

    I think it was the daily show or colbert report that said it best… all the terrorist’s have to do is get nyc wet.

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  57. Mark says:

    1) A scientist doesnt back down because a point is unpopular..kudos.
    2) Perhaps the terror organization goal is to sustain itself and its members (like every other organization such as govt and church..wait that is another rant for another day). So there is an optimal amount of terrorists acts which will generate maximum profit (or utility such as leading rebel/anti establishment etc). And that amount may be X notable attacks per year globally (note there have been successful attacks abroad) whereas true global terror and fear would ultimately cause revenue/profit (ummm charitable giving I mean) to diminish.

    Ahh knowledge, if you think its scary, try ignorance. Keep up the good work.

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  58. Mark says:

    1) A scientist doesnt back down because a point is unpopular..kudos.
    2) Perhaps the terror organization goal is to sustain itself and its members (like every other organization such as govt and church..wait that is another rant for another day). So there is an optimal amount of terrorists acts which will generate maximum profit (or utility such as leading rebel/anti establishment etc). And that amount may be X notable attacks per year globally (note there have been successful attacks abroad) whereas true global terror and fear would ultimately cause revenue/profit (ummm charitable giving I mean) to diminish.

    Ahh knowledge, if you think its scary, try ignorance. Keep up the good work.

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  59. Poison says:

    I read the last post as well. Most people had some sensible responses – some unhappy about the post, some feeling good and some offering their own ideas. Now my take.

    The most dangerous thing in this country is smart people (most respondents & the blog writers included) who conjured up scenarios of their own in the hopes of being on the lookout for signs of occurance. The right-wingers have it right err correct, cull the wings of these thinking types and everything will be ok.. these thinking types are the ones providing ideas to the real Terrorists.. they think terrorists cant think on their own, hence smart americans shouldnt think for them. Also notice the right wingers are also extra christian, they think non-believers cannot think for themselves, so they will think & dictate to them as well..

    Note: For those on who the point is lost, keep brainstorming – ideas are good.. and fear is reduced when stuff happens as it has been discussed & expected.

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  60. Poison says:

    I read the last post as well. Most people had some sensible responses – some unhappy about the post, some feeling good and some offering their own ideas. Now my take.

    The most dangerous thing in this country is smart people (most respondents & the blog writers included) who conjured up scenarios of their own in the hopes of being on the lookout for signs of occurance. The right-wingers have it right err correct, cull the wings of these thinking types and everything will be ok.. these thinking types are the ones providing ideas to the real Terrorists.. they think terrorists cant think on their own, hence smart americans shouldnt think for them. Also notice the right wingers are also extra christian, they think non-believers cannot think for themselves, so they will think & dictate to them as well..

    Note: For those on who the point is lost, keep brainstorming – ideas are good.. and fear is reduced when stuff happens as it has been discussed & expected.

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  61. Erik says:

    Part of the reason terrorists in general and al Qaeda in particular haven’t engaged in such a sniper plot may be that it doesn’t fit in with their objectives and their world view. They aren’t after terror for the sake of terror, but rather terror as a means toward an end: US out of Saudi Arabia, Israel out of Palestine, and now US out of Iraq. In their world view the World Trade Center was a legitimate target because it was an instrument of domination, as well as – their view, not mine – housing lots and lots of evil Jews.

    Widespread attacks on random civilians just wouldn’t fit with their way of seeing things. Thankfully?

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  62. Erik says:

    Part of the reason terrorists in general and al Qaeda in particular haven’t engaged in such a sniper plot may be that it doesn’t fit in with their objectives and their world view. They aren’t after terror for the sake of terror, but rather terror as a means toward an end: US out of Saudi Arabia, Israel out of Palestine, and now US out of Iraq. In their world view the World Trade Center was a legitimate target because it was an instrument of domination, as well as – their view, not mine – housing lots and lots of evil Jews.

    Widespread attacks on random civilians just wouldn’t fit with their way of seeing things. Thankfully?

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  63. Steven says:

    Thank you for the redux. Much more lucid than yesterday’s post.

    I was struck by the observation that bus riders in Israel don’t change their behavior much in response to threat of bombings. It reminded me that support for the Iraq war, before it began, was lowest in the nation’s large cities, the same cities that are the most likely to be attacked by terrorists. It is horribly ironic that support for the most drastic action often comes from those least at threat.

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  64. Steven says:

    Thank you for the redux. Much more lucid than yesterday’s post.

    I was struck by the observation that bus riders in Israel don’t change their behavior much in response to threat of bombings. It reminded me that support for the Iraq war, before it began, was lowest in the nation’s large cities, the same cities that are the most likely to be attacked by terrorists. It is horribly ironic that support for the most drastic action often comes from those least at threat.

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  65. Bernard F. Erlanger says:

    It would be dangerous to conclude that a terrorist threat no longer exists. A big terrorist operation may be in the planning state. We must remain vigilant.
    I Speakout.vox.com

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  66. Bernard F. Erlanger says:

    It would be dangerous to conclude that a terrorist threat no longer exists. A big terrorist operation may be in the planning state. We must remain vigilant.
    I Speakout.vox.com

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  67. Gib says:

    It’s no coincidence that the 9/11 commission’s report was titled “A Failure of Imagination.” Thank you for trying to use and stimulate our collective imaginations, which is the only way we can stay one step ahead of terrorist situations.

    It’s beneficial to actually use our memories, too; no Homeland Security Department was created after the 1993 WTC bombing, yet it was still another 8 years before the next attack. We all need to pay attention to that fact.

    By the way, the killers of those kids in Newark? They are also terrorists, and a much bigger threat than Al Queda to the average American.

    Gib

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  68. Gib says:

    It’s no coincidence that the 9/11 commission’s report was titled “A Failure of Imagination.” Thank you for trying to use and stimulate our collective imaginations, which is the only way we can stay one step ahead of terrorist situations.

    It’s beneficial to actually use our memories, too; no Homeland Security Department was created after the 1993 WTC bombing, yet it was still another 8 years before the next attack. We all need to pay attention to that fact.

    By the way, the killers of those kids in Newark? They are also terrorists, and a much bigger threat than Al Queda to the average American.

    Gib

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  69. Mighty Mouse says:

    I think that your aim was to start “the very first day that [y]our blog was hosted by the New York Times” with a big bang and you did a fine job at that, much like the “abortion-crime story” made you sell millions of your books. Otherwise, I don’t think a smart man like yourself would have used that provocative jolly tone you had in your initial post.

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  70. Mighty Mouse says:

    I think that your aim was to start “the very first day that [y]our blog was hosted by the New York Times” with a big bang and you did a fine job at that, much like the “abortion-crime story” made you sell millions of your books. Otherwise, I don’t think a smart man like yourself would have used that provocative jolly tone you had in your initial post.

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  71. Patton says:

    Ha, have fun being added to the no fly list all!

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  72. Patton says:

    Ha, have fun being added to the no fly list all!

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  73. Liam Shannon says:

    Good post and discussion.

    However, I think the most interesting aspect of all of it is the nature of many of the negative responses to the entire subject matter. SSHHH DON”T MENTION TERRORISM OR THE TERRORISTS MIGHT HEAR YOU. What exactly do these people think the terrorists are already thinking about?

    It kind of reminds me of the people who in the Harry Potter books won’t mention you-know-who (Voldemort) by name. It’s as if the very act of discussion inceases the likelyhood of a response.

    It makes no real sense. But, and this plays a very large role in economics, it does point to the fascinatingly illogical way in which humans perceive their situations – why they sell when their stock is low, cross the street to avoid black cats, and re-elect Presidents who have clearly demonstrated themselves unable to perform the job.

    Interesting stuff.

    Keep up the good work and the interesting thinking,

    Liam

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  74. Liam Shannon says:

    Good post and discussion.

    However, I think the most interesting aspect of all of it is the nature of many of the negative responses to the entire subject matter. SSHHH DON”T MENTION TERRORISM OR THE TERRORISTS MIGHT HEAR YOU. What exactly do these people think the terrorists are already thinking about?

    It kind of reminds me of the people who in the Harry Potter books won’t mention you-know-who (Voldemort) by name. It’s as if the very act of discussion inceases the likelyhood of a response.

    It makes no real sense. But, and this plays a very large role in economics, it does point to the fascinatingly illogical way in which humans perceive their situations – why they sell when their stock is low, cross the street to avoid black cats, and re-elect Presidents who have clearly demonstrated themselves unable to perform the job.

    Interesting stuff.

    Keep up the good work and the interesting thinking,

    Liam

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  75. Ross D. says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    Is your colleague a Ron Paul supporter, by any chance? That line of thinking does make quite a bit of sense to me. It’s curious that more empathetic approaches aren’t worked into this issue. I think it was a good post, just for that reason. It forced readers to empathize with a terrorist, if only for a second… and it apparently made some of them uncomfortable.

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  76. Ross D. says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    Is your colleague a Ron Paul supporter, by any chance? That line of thinking does make quite a bit of sense to me. It’s curious that more empathetic approaches aren’t worked into this issue. I think it was a good post, just for that reason. It forced readers to empathize with a terrorist, if only for a second… and it apparently made some of them uncomfortable.

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  77. David says:

    I just wanted to express my support for the post. I believe open and honest discussion about reality will help us move forward as a public. Yes, the thoughts are initally scary, but that’s precisely why we have to probe deeper into them and understand them better. After all, once we’ve analyzed and understood the probabilities behind it all, we’ll understand how safe we actually are.

    …Hopefully…

    At any rate, thank you for your post Steven and keep up the good work.

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  78. David says:

    I just wanted to express my support for the post. I believe open and honest discussion about reality will help us move forward as a public. Yes, the thoughts are initally scary, but that’s precisely why we have to probe deeper into them and understand them better. After all, once we’ve analyzed and understood the probabilities behind it all, we’ll understand how safe we actually are.

    …Hopefully…

    At any rate, thank you for your post Steven and keep up the good work.

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  79. mapotofu says:

    Terrorism is a media strategy. It’s about gaming mass media to get move political discourse around to where you want it.

    There is a way to beat terrorism – ignore it. Shut off the teevee when they start cranking up the fearmongering, don’t click that link, even if your just curious, just blank it out and it will go away.

    Remember the Oklahoma City bombing? Neither does anyone else. The agenda behind it is now totally forgotten, because everyone has been ignoring it for years.

    Talking about terrorism encourages terrorism, just like talking about suicide encourages suicide.

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  80. mapotofu says:

    Terrorism is a media strategy. It’s about gaming mass media to get move political discourse around to where you want it.

    There is a way to beat terrorism – ignore it. Shut off the teevee when they start cranking up the fearmongering, don’t click that link, even if your just curious, just blank it out and it will go away.

    Remember the Oklahoma City bombing? Neither does anyone else. The agenda behind it is now totally forgotten, because everyone has been ignoring it for years.

    Talking about terrorism encourages terrorism, just like talking about suicide encourages suicide.

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  81. Jon says:

    Given the influence mass media has on people’s perceptions of risk via the Availability Heuristic, I’d guess it would be *technically* correct to describe mainstream news organisations as ‘terrorists’, as the weighting with which they tend to report stories is so disproportionate to their actual occurrence as to completely warp everyday judgements about risks and rewards: believe the media and there are terrorists and celebrities on every corner.
    However this perspective sounds too reactionary to seem plausible to most people.

    wrt the UK and cameras everywhere: they’re generally hugely popular, with the exception of speed cameras…

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  82. Jon says:

    Given the influence mass media has on people’s perceptions of risk via the Availability Heuristic, I’d guess it would be *technically* correct to describe mainstream news organisations as ‘terrorists’, as the weighting with which they tend to report stories is so disproportionate to their actual occurrence as to completely warp everyday judgements about risks and rewards: believe the media and there are terrorists and celebrities on every corner.
    However this perspective sounds too reactionary to seem plausible to most people.

    wrt the UK and cameras everywhere: they’re generally hugely popular, with the exception of speed cameras…

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  83. BP says:

    The reason why the terrorists havent struck after 9/11 wasnt that they couldnt, they still can…But, that they dared! 9/11 had the world’s attention, the highest impact factor. They have to pull out something out of ordinary to top 9/11. Maybe the intelligence agency ought to look at Nash equilibrium to think what the terrorists are up to.

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  84. BP says:

    The reason why the terrorists havent struck after 9/11 wasnt that they couldnt, they still can…But, that they dared! 9/11 had the world’s attention, the highest impact factor. They have to pull out something out of ordinary to top 9/11. Maybe the intelligence agency ought to look at Nash equilibrium to think what the terrorists are up to.

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  85. Mike says:

    On the issue of whether US/UK forces in Iraq are affecting the risk of terrorism: they are increasing it, as was predicted before the invasion. This is according to the US and UK intelligence services – what more reliable source could there be?

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  86. Mike says:

    On the issue of whether US/UK forces in Iraq are affecting the risk of terrorism: they are increasing it, as was predicted before the invasion. This is according to the US and UK intelligence services – what more reliable source could there be?

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  87. sygyzy says:

    I am not sure what wackjobs wrote hate mail to you about this topic. I learned from my Law and Econ class that Economists are heartless. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that it’s black and white, 1′s and 0′s not happy faces and sad faces. How else would they be able to determine the value of a person’s life?

    I enjoyed the question you posed and this response even more. The only part I have a problem with is how you said that installing survellance cameras would be Un-American. Are you joking? With spyplanes, wiretapping, Escelon, etc, you think that installing cameras is Un-American? Nowdaday, it’s more American than apple pie.

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  88. sygyzy says:

    I am not sure what wackjobs wrote hate mail to you about this topic. I learned from my Law and Econ class that Economists are heartless. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that it’s black and white, 1′s and 0′s not happy faces and sad faces. How else would they be able to determine the value of a person’s life?

    I enjoyed the question you posed and this response even more. The only part I have a problem with is how you said that installing survellance cameras would be Un-American. Are you joking? With spyplanes, wiretapping, Escelon, etc, you think that installing cameras is Un-American? Nowdaday, it’s more American than apple pie.

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  89. Jesse says:

    It makes me laugh to think of a bunch of terrorists sitting around a laptop (in a cave, no doubt), browsing NYTimes.com, finding your blog, and slapping their foreheads shouting “Argh! How did we not think of that!?!?!”

    Hahahahahahahaha

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  90. Jesse says:

    It makes me laugh to think of a bunch of terrorists sitting around a laptop (in a cave, no doubt), browsing NYTimes.com, finding your blog, and slapping their foreheads shouting “Argh! How did we not think of that!?!?!”

    Hahahahahahahaha

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  91. Doug says:

    Right on Patrick in Post #18. I will definitely visit your Website. Right after the Virginia Tech shootings I caught heck from my wife for saying that people are way to afraid of dying. It is the reason they are willing to give up their civil rights and the reason terrorism works.

    If all non-terrorist people were confident and unafraid and led happy fear free lives, we’d certainly outnumber the terroists. Some of us may be killed by terrorism, but eventually terorists would give up. For my part, if I am killed by a terrorist, I would want nobody to notice and for them to keep on living a fear-free and normal life. The same courtesy I would expect anyone to give to make the world a better place for good people and to eliminate terrorism by removing the effectiveness of terrorism.

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  92. Doug says:

    Right on Patrick in Post #18. I will definitely visit your Website. Right after the Virginia Tech shootings I caught heck from my wife for saying that people are way to afraid of dying. It is the reason they are willing to give up their civil rights and the reason terrorism works.

    If all non-terrorist people were confident and unafraid and led happy fear free lives, we’d certainly outnumber the terroists. Some of us may be killed by terrorism, but eventually terorists would give up. For my part, if I am killed by a terrorist, I would want nobody to notice and for them to keep on living a fear-free and normal life. The same courtesy I would expect anyone to give to make the world a better place for good people and to eliminate terrorism by removing the effectiveness of terrorism.

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  93. David says:

    While I think that speculating about potential terrorist attacks is a worthless way to spend time, considering the infinite number of potential scenarios, and the fact that there are already many hundreds or thousands of law enforcement officials brainstorming already, I do not agree that the idea is “sick” or traitorous. In fact the obtuse belligerence of some of the commentators is revolting. This is just a drop in the bucket of history’s ‘dangerous ideas’, without which we would not have Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Hobbes, or even Galileo and Darwin. Let the marketplace decide the merit of ideas.

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  94. David says:

    While I think that speculating about potential terrorist attacks is a worthless way to spend time, considering the infinite number of potential scenarios, and the fact that there are already many hundreds or thousands of law enforcement officials brainstorming already, I do not agree that the idea is “sick” or traitorous. In fact the obtuse belligerence of some of the commentators is revolting. This is just a drop in the bucket of history’s ‘dangerous ideas’, without which we would not have Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Hobbes, or even Galileo and Darwin. Let the marketplace decide the merit of ideas.

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  95. Kelly says:

    I think you are doing a terrific job actually THINKING about our situation rather than reacting like so many of our fellow Americans. I recall a thought expressed by one of the kids in the classroom that Bush read to on 9/11 – he asked, Who are we to ever expect not to be attacked again and isn’t that the reason the terroist win?

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  96. Kelly says:

    I think you are doing a terrific job actually THINKING about our situation rather than reacting like so many of our fellow Americans. I recall a thought expressed by one of the kids in the classroom that Bush read to on 9/11 – he asked, Who are we to ever expect not to be attacked again and isn’t that the reason the terroist win?

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  97. Asmodeus says:

    I can’t believe the number of people that are crying about your article. Somehow they’ve been convinced that if you don’t talk about something, it will just go away. Tip : That’s not how reality works…sorry. I’ll give you two ideas, seeing as how the other news story is no longer accepting comments:

    1.) Ergot fungus, lots of it. Toss it in the food, especially the breads. Done in enough places we could have a replay of the Salem witch trials.

    2.) Start recruiting people who do not fit into the socially accepted “norm”. Housewife types, skater punks, hell… how about some die-hard christian types? Given enough people, eventually they won’t have a specific group to blame. Then the chaos and paranoia set in.

    Really, the easiest way to have a large group of people destroy themselves is to give them just enough rope to make a noose. Given the habit of our lawmakers to wildly over-react, I’d say just a few instances of someone using our beloved freedoms for the bad guys’ purposes and they would happily take them away. Hell, it’s already happening.

    Also, kudos for the article. It’s my belief that more journalists should be writing about what is on their minds than about the latest movie, car, or politician to promote.

    –Asmodeus–

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  98. Asmodeus says:

    I can’t believe the number of people that are crying about your article. Somehow they’ve been convinced that if you don’t talk about something, it will just go away. Tip : That’s not how reality works…sorry. I’ll give you two ideas, seeing as how the other news story is no longer accepting comments:

    1.) Ergot fungus, lots of it. Toss it in the food, especially the breads. Done in enough places we could have a replay of the Salem witch trials.

    2.) Start recruiting people who do not fit into the socially accepted “norm”. Housewife types, skater punks, hell… how about some die-hard christian types? Given enough people, eventually they won’t have a specific group to blame. Then the chaos and paranoia set in.

    Really, the easiest way to have a large group of people destroy themselves is to give them just enough rope to make a noose. Given the habit of our lawmakers to wildly over-react, I’d say just a few instances of someone using our beloved freedoms for the bad guys’ purposes and they would happily take them away. Hell, it’s already happening.

    Also, kudos for the article. It’s my belief that more journalists should be writing about what is on their minds than about the latest movie, car, or politician to promote.

    –Asmodeus–

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  99. Jose Zamora says:

    The 9/11 report established that the main two reasons for the attacks were: 1) The lack of imagination; and 2)The lack of communication between governmental inteligence agencies. I think this article, specially the first part, helps both citizens and the authorities to brainstorm and think of scenarios of possible future attacks, and by thinking of possible scenarios, figuring out the best way to prevent them from happening.

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  100. Jose Zamora says:

    The 9/11 report established that the main two reasons for the attacks were: 1) The lack of imagination; and 2)The lack of communication between governmental inteligence agencies. I think this article, specially the first part, helps both citizens and the authorities to brainstorm and think of scenarios of possible future attacks, and by thinking of possible scenarios, figuring out the best way to prevent them from happening.

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  101. Tim Boyle says:

    Great post … i read a fair amount of the responses on the original post.
    and I learned
    I learned that I should always callenge my assumptions.
    I had assumed that the terrorists would look for “economical” strikes. but if that was the goal there have been many oppurtunities.

    Thx Mr. L and all of the responders for enabling me to open my mind.

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  102. Tim Boyle says:

    Great post … i read a fair amount of the responses on the original post.
    and I learned
    I learned that I should always callenge my assumptions.
    I had assumed that the terrorists would look for “economical” strikes. but if that was the goal there have been many oppurtunities.

    Thx Mr. L and all of the responders for enabling me to open my mind.

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  103. Chas says:

    It seems that a great many responders here have forgotten the puny reaction to terrorists activity (including an attempt on the World Trade Center)prior to the current administration emboldened the terrorists by giving them the impression that we (the U.S.) would not go after them because of the previous administration wanted to treat them as though they were citizens. THAT caused them to pull off 9/11, they fully expected us to run from the fight. Thank GOD we had a president that understood the threat and responded properly. Iraq invasion was always meant to strategiclly change the course of the middle east situation which has dumfounded administrations for decades. Bush was bold, and decisive and has (and will) stay the course in spite of the socialists,cowards, and uninformed in this country.Their collective activity helps only the terrorists, not this country. If we had put up a united support for the presidents actions, this thing would be a much different result at this point. Those who oppose the administration are giving hope to the terrorists…why do they not understand this?

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  104. Chas says:

    It seems that a great many responders here have forgotten the puny reaction to terrorists activity (including an attempt on the World Trade Center)prior to the current administration emboldened the terrorists by giving them the impression that we (the U.S.) would not go after them because of the previous administration wanted to treat them as though they were citizens. THAT caused them to pull off 9/11, they fully expected us to run from the fight. Thank GOD we had a president that understood the threat and responded properly. Iraq invasion was always meant to strategiclly change the course of the middle east situation which has dumfounded administrations for decades. Bush was bold, and decisive and has (and will) stay the course in spite of the socialists,cowards, and uninformed in this country.Their collective activity helps only the terrorists, not this country. If we had put up a united support for the presidents actions, this thing would be a much different result at this point. Those who oppose the administration are giving hope to the terrorists…why do they not understand this?

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  105. Aaron says:

    Steve, I think it is important that we THINK about terrorism in the manner you pushed us to do.

    As I did, I came to the same (to me, startling) conclusion that you did (and a bit more). That is, EITHER:

    1) Terrorists are just not that smart or for some reason not motivated to spread fear in the many way open to them (perhaps willing only to die for highly-symbolic, high-value targets);

    2) Our intelligence community is so incredible that we have somehow, someway spiked every single attempt by terrorists–an amazing record of achievement! Of course, as an IRA terrorist said about Margaret Thatcher, “She has to be lucky every time…we just have to be lucky once.”

    3) As you mentioned, perhaps the terror threat just isn’t as high as it is portrayed–which can certainly be used to make our intelligence community look good.

    OR…OR…OR

    4) We are wrong about the whole matter, and terrorists events are happening all the time. But are somehow being hidden or explained away…or perhaps defined as, for instance, “structural faults in the bridge,” etc.

    As a conservative, I certainly would not want to think that President Bush would countenance some of the above things. But, still, those are the conclusions that one is led to when you consider that, as easy as it is to spread fear, we are not seeing more of it.

    I will tell you one thing: If WE ever decide to go into the terrorist business, we will be a WHOLE LOT MORE EFFECTIVE than the Muslim terrorists have been. That’s either funny…or very sad.

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  106. Aaron says:

    Steve, I think it is important that we THINK about terrorism in the manner you pushed us to do.

    As I did, I came to the same (to me, startling) conclusion that you did (and a bit more). That is, EITHER:

    1) Terrorists are just not that smart or for some reason not motivated to spread fear in the many way open to them (perhaps willing only to die for highly-symbolic, high-value targets);

    2) Our intelligence community is so incredible that we have somehow, someway spiked every single attempt by terrorists–an amazing record of achievement! Of course, as an IRA terrorist said about Margaret Thatcher, “She has to be lucky every time…we just have to be lucky once.”

    3) As you mentioned, perhaps the terror threat just isn’t as high as it is portrayed–which can certainly be used to make our intelligence community look good.

    OR…OR…OR

    4) We are wrong about the whole matter, and terrorists events are happening all the time. But are somehow being hidden or explained away…or perhaps defined as, for instance, “structural faults in the bridge,” etc.

    As a conservative, I certainly would not want to think that President Bush would countenance some of the above things. But, still, those are the conclusions that one is led to when you consider that, as easy as it is to spread fear, we are not seeing more of it.

    I will tell you one thing: If WE ever decide to go into the terrorist business, we will be a WHOLE LOT MORE EFFECTIVE than the Muslim terrorists have been. That’s either funny…or very sad.

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  107. Adrian says:

    I think you’re dangerously mistaken to think that speculating in public about new types of terrorism is harmless. No doubt terrorists already brainstorm, but there’s probably a rather small number of really bright jihadist terrorist leaders who are capable of thinking through where all our vulnerabilities are and which attacks are optimal. On the other hand, there are a much larger number of bright NYT readers, who between them understand our societies and our weaknesses very well indeed. Supplying the terrorists with a distillation of this accumulated wisdom seems a very bad idea indeed.

    I (who am no security expert) can think of some horribly effective tactics that terrorists have never employed. One or two of them are easy enough that I think it’s pretty clear they haven’t occurred to Al Qaeda, otherwise they’d have been used already. In that limited sense, the terrorists are incompetent — they could be much more effective with the minimal resources (a few modestly equipped agents working in Western countries unknown to authorities) that we pretty much know they have. But I’m certainly not going to use a public forum to help them become a little more competent.

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  108. Adrian says:

    I think you’re dangerously mistaken to think that speculating in public about new types of terrorism is harmless. No doubt terrorists already brainstorm, but there’s probably a rather small number of really bright jihadist terrorist leaders who are capable of thinking through where all our vulnerabilities are and which attacks are optimal. On the other hand, there are a much larger number of bright NYT readers, who between them understand our societies and our weaknesses very well indeed. Supplying the terrorists with a distillation of this accumulated wisdom seems a very bad idea indeed.

    I (who am no security expert) can think of some horribly effective tactics that terrorists have never employed. One or two of them are easy enough that I think it’s pretty clear they haven’t occurred to Al Qaeda, otherwise they’d have been used already. In that limited sense, the terrorists are incompetent — they could be much more effective with the minimal resources (a few modestly equipped agents working in Western countries unknown to authorities) that we pretty much know they have. But I’m certainly not going to use a public forum to help them become a little more competent.

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  109. Jessica says:

    Thank you!
    I think that there have been others before me that made excellent points about the importance of this line of communication, but I just want to underscore something to those readers who think that we are blaspheming or traitorous: if you think that talking about this type of situation will bring about negative consequences, you have already let the terrorists win, because they have obviously already instilled fear in your minds.
    The only way to dispel these fears is to talk about them!
    This does not mean we should be careless or capricious in our foreign policy and/or our domestic regulations, it just means that we should have a perspective that is unclouded by fear.

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  110. Jessica says:

    Thank you!
    I think that there have been others before me that made excellent points about the importance of this line of communication, but I just want to underscore something to those readers who think that we are blaspheming or traitorous: if you think that talking about this type of situation will bring about negative consequences, you have already let the terrorists win, because they have obviously already instilled fear in your minds.
    The only way to dispel these fears is to talk about them!
    This does not mean we should be careless or capricious in our foreign policy and/or our domestic regulations, it just means that we should have a perspective that is unclouded by fear.

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  111. W K says:

    Do you know where José Dirceu, Dilma Roussef, and Franklin Martins are? The last two are now Ministers of brazilian Lula’s government; the first one resigned as a Minister some time ago and was succeeded by Dilma.

    Nothing exciting, yeah? But Dilma and Franklin are also, let’s say, retired terrorists. They played important rules on hijacking Charles Burke Elbrick, an american ambassador in Brazil. One of the terrorist’s request was the freedom of José Dirceu.

    Later, Dirceu joined a terrorist school at Habanna, Cuba. All of this happened in the 1968 – 1971 years.

    At year 1979, brazilian military government gave an unrestricted amnesty to all terrorists, including all jailed ones.

    Since them, we did never more had any terror in Brazil. The amnesty plays a very important rule to terrorists since such guys, if “working” at this branch, do not have any other choice to go away.

    If you gave them an amnesty, automatically the world gets open for them again, and they can run away from their leaders.

    About terrorists, I think on an economic standpoint, it may not be a good idea to pay training for suicide terrorists, since they cost too much and can be used only once. The Hezzbolah group on south Lebanon abandoned such soldiers, and got another way.

    How better would be the Middle East, if Palestinians and Israelis join together on construction companies to construct the israeli way of life on other middle east countries, instead of fighting ?

    At Angola the civil war between two hard heads was ended with a peace treaty at 2002, and now its economy is making chinese Economy Minister jealous: its GNP increased 19% last year …

    Please tell those facts to Bush and company …

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  112. W K says:

    Do you know where José Dirceu, Dilma Roussef, and Franklin Martins are? The last two are now Ministers of brazilian Lula’s government; the first one resigned as a Minister some time ago and was succeeded by Dilma.

    Nothing exciting, yeah? But Dilma and Franklin are also, let’s say, retired terrorists. They played important rules on hijacking Charles Burke Elbrick, an american ambassador in Brazil. One of the terrorist’s request was the freedom of José Dirceu.

    Later, Dirceu joined a terrorist school at Habanna, Cuba. All of this happened in the 1968 – 1971 years.

    At year 1979, brazilian military government gave an unrestricted amnesty to all terrorists, including all jailed ones.

    Since them, we did never more had any terror in Brazil. The amnesty plays a very important rule to terrorists since such guys, if “working” at this branch, do not have any other choice to go away.

    If you gave them an amnesty, automatically the world gets open for them again, and they can run away from their leaders.

    About terrorists, I think on an economic standpoint, it may not be a good idea to pay training for suicide terrorists, since they cost too much and can be used only once. The Hezzbolah group on south Lebanon abandoned such soldiers, and got another way.

    How better would be the Middle East, if Palestinians and Israelis join together on construction companies to construct the israeli way of life on other middle east countries, instead of fighting ?

    At Angola the civil war between two hard heads was ended with a peace treaty at 2002, and now its economy is making chinese Economy Minister jealous: its GNP increased 19% last year …

    Please tell those facts to Bush and company …

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  113. Ted says:

    I just want to thank you for existing. (You too Dubs.) Thanks guys.

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  114. Ted says:

    I just want to thank you for existing. (You too Dubs.) Thanks guys.

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  115. Clive Warner says:

    Those of us who have spent years working in Arab countries, as I have, would probably subscribe more to the “incompetent” viewpoint.
    Effective terror would, I should imagine, require an effective knowledge of engineering, probably including chemistry, mechanical engineering, possibly biology and nuclear physics.
    There are 150 or more words in Arabic for “camel” but just a few to describe even the simple tools you’d find in a toolbox. I haven’t noticed any exploding camels in Manhattan lately.

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  116. Clive Warner says:

    Those of us who have spent years working in Arab countries, as I have, would probably subscribe more to the “incompetent” viewpoint.
    Effective terror would, I should imagine, require an effective knowledge of engineering, probably including chemistry, mechanical engineering, possibly biology and nuclear physics.
    There are 150 or more words in Arabic for “camel” but just a few to describe even the simple tools you’d find in a toolbox. I haven’t noticed any exploding camels in Manhattan lately.

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  117. Sill says:

    This post strays from the topic, but am I naive to think that if muslim terrorists began shooting people with rifles at random, the muslim population in the U.S. would experience some severe vigilante justice? As in, people would start attacking muslim cab drivers, business owners, etc…in way higher numbers than after 9/11? I have nothing to support this, but I don’t think Americans would just “learn to deal with it”…I would not want to be a muslim living in the U.S. if terrorists began using these tactics on U.S. soil.

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  118. Sill says:

    This post strays from the topic, but am I naive to think that if muslim terrorists began shooting people with rifles at random, the muslim population in the U.S. would experience some severe vigilante justice? As in, people would start attacking muslim cab drivers, business owners, etc…in way higher numbers than after 9/11? I have nothing to support this, but I don’t think Americans would just “learn to deal with it”…I would not want to be a muslim living in the U.S. if terrorists began using these tactics on U.S. soil.

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  119. Steve J. says:

    The comment that perhaps the goal of terrorists isn’t really to generate terrorism is a point rarely addressed – but it should be. It is generally assumed that terrorists have no real goals and no strategy, other than mass murder. I don’t find that credible at all.

    Bin Laden has already stated that he wanted to stage a provocation that the U.S. could not ignore, and that his objective is to force the U.S. to bankrupt itself in counterproductive actions like the occupation of Iraq. The strategy is to provoke a foolish and destructive reaction – and that strategy has been a runaway success. What would launching another terrorist attack accomplish that has not already been accomplished? I believe the main reason that no other major attack has been launched is that Al Queda has little to gain by it.

    In any event, thanks for your sensible and lucid commentary.

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  120. Steve J. says:

    The comment that perhaps the goal of terrorists isn’t really to generate terrorism is a point rarely addressed – but it should be. It is generally assumed that terrorists have no real goals and no strategy, other than mass murder. I don’t find that credible at all.

    Bin Laden has already stated that he wanted to stage a provocation that the U.S. could not ignore, and that his objective is to force the U.S. to bankrupt itself in counterproductive actions like the occupation of Iraq. The strategy is to provoke a foolish and destructive reaction – and that strategy has been a runaway success. What would launching another terrorist attack accomplish that has not already been accomplished? I believe the main reason that no other major attack has been launched is that Al Queda has little to gain by it.

    In any event, thanks for your sensible and lucid commentary.

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  121. Robin says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests that the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    If occupation works to recruit terrorists, then a terrorist attack which provokes an occupation is rational, if a terrorist group wants more adherents to, say, take over Saudi Arabia

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  122. Robin says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests that the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    If occupation works to recruit terrorists, then a terrorist attack which provokes an occupation is rational, if a terrorist group wants more adherents to, say, take over Saudi Arabia

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  123. Bret says:

    Wow, that whole “inverted pyramid” thing must have really thrown Steven for a loop. And I thought Organic Chemistry was difficult.

    Just a few of the contradictory and non-sensical comments:

    1. “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it. That is the situation in Iraq right now, and, to a lesser degree, in Israel. That was also more or less the situation with the IRA a while back.”

    So on one hand we are powerless to stop this tyoe of terrorism, but the writer clearly acknowledges that the IRA, using the same type of terrorism, was able to be stopped.

    2. “Consequently, we put much more effort into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.”

    Yeah, those tubes of toothpaste are inconsequential and harmless, as harmeless as say…box cutters.

    Perhaps a more intriguing question for the Times is how to resolve the long, slow downtrend in their stock performance and subscription rates.

    “Dont it fell like 9/10?” The Tonic

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  124. Bret says:

    Wow, that whole “inverted pyramid” thing must have really thrown Steven for a loop. And I thought Organic Chemistry was difficult.

    Just a few of the contradictory and non-sensical comments:

    1. “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it. That is the situation in Iraq right now, and, to a lesser degree, in Israel. That was also more or less the situation with the IRA a while back.”

    So on one hand we are powerless to stop this tyoe of terrorism, but the writer clearly acknowledges that the IRA, using the same type of terrorism, was able to be stopped.

    2. “Consequently, we put much more effort into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.”

    Yeah, those tubes of toothpaste are inconsequential and harmless, as harmeless as say…box cutters.

    Perhaps a more intriguing question for the Times is how to resolve the long, slow downtrend in their stock performance and subscription rates.

    “Dont it fell like 9/10?” The Tonic

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  125. Michael says:

    I think your point about terrorist attacks being a low risk is well made. I agree that it is unlikely I will ever even witness an attack, let alone be a victim of one. I do not, however, agree with the idea that just because they are terrorists they have thought of every conceivable way to create terror. I know every job I have had was ripe with new opportunities. There were always plenty of ideas that people had not thought of because they had been doing it the same way for so long. Even though it was their job to be thinking of how to best do business at least 8 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week there were still ideas they had not thought of. An outsider always has a fresh perspective.

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  126. Michael says:

    I think your point about terrorist attacks being a low risk is well made. I agree that it is unlikely I will ever even witness an attack, let alone be a victim of one. I do not, however, agree with the idea that just because they are terrorists they have thought of every conceivable way to create terror. I know every job I have had was ripe with new opportunities. There were always plenty of ideas that people had not thought of because they had been doing it the same way for so long. Even though it was their job to be thinking of how to best do business at least 8 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week there were still ideas they had not thought of. An outsider always has a fresh perspective.

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  127. Ann says:

    I think #35 is right on: your topic yesterday was a fine way to call attention to yourself and your new gig at the NYT. I still don’t think that brainstorming terrorist attack ideas was a productive subject, and wish you would move on.

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  128. Ann says:

    I think #35 is right on: your topic yesterday was a fine way to call attention to yourself and your new gig at the NYT. I still don’t think that brainstorming terrorist attack ideas was a productive subject, and wish you would move on.

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  129. Mike says:

    #62: You said

    “So on one hand we are powerless to stop this tyoe of terrorism, but the writer clearly acknowledges that the IRA, using the same type of terrorism, was able to be stopped.”

    But isn’t that sort of the point? The IRA wasn’t stopped by the military and occupation forces. It was stopped by coming to terms with the opposition politically.

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  130. Mike says:

    #62: You said

    “So on one hand we are powerless to stop this tyoe of terrorism, but the writer clearly acknowledges that the IRA, using the same type of terrorism, was able to be stopped.”

    But isn’t that sort of the point? The IRA wasn’t stopped by the military and occupation forces. It was stopped by coming to terms with the opposition politically.

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  131. Scott Banks says:

    In the earlier post you wanted to help the terror fighters by giving them some idea what the terrorists might do. Now you dismiss the terror fighters as a bunch of ineffectual, butt-covering bureaucrats, and suggest there’s no real terror threat because the terrorists aren’t really coming after us.

    So if we weren’t really trying to help the terror fighters before, what were we doing?

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  132. Scott Banks says:

    In the earlier post you wanted to help the terror fighters by giving them some idea what the terrorists might do. Now you dismiss the terror fighters as a bunch of ineffectual, butt-covering bureaucrats, and suggest there’s no real terror threat because the terrorists aren’t really coming after us.

    So if we weren’t really trying to help the terror fighters before, what were we doing?

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  133. j says:

    i find it thought provoking that so many readers here (and on the first post) come up with a multitude of great plots, ideas, criticisms etc. now if only:
    1)the readers of nyto could get into positions that they could actually do something.
    and 2) they would actually do something.

    so many smart people around…

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  134. j says:

    i find it thought provoking that so many readers here (and on the first post) come up with a multitude of great plots, ideas, criticisms etc. now if only:
    1)the readers of nyto could get into positions that they could actually do something.
    and 2) they would actually do something.

    so many smart people around…

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  135. Bret says:

    to 66:

    No..that wasn’t the point. The point being made was that we are powerless to stop this type of terrorism but the write provides proof to the contrary.

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  136. Bret says:

    to 66:

    No..that wasn’t the point. The point being made was that we are powerless to stop this type of terrorism but the write provides proof to the contrary.

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  137. Caleb Powers says:

    The DC sniper shootings and the Virginia Tech shootings proved to us, if we didn’t already know it, that anyone with $300 and access to a gun show can become a terrorist. The fact that there aren’t a million terrorists out there isn’t because we stop them, it’s because there aren’t a million people out there who want to be terrorists.

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  138. Caleb Powers says:

    The DC sniper shootings and the Virginia Tech shootings proved to us, if we didn’t already know it, that anyone with $300 and access to a gun show can become a terrorist. The fact that there aren’t a million terrorists out there isn’t because we stop them, it’s because there aren’t a million people out there who want to be terrorists.

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  139. william marbourg says:

    I read most of the posts. I see no mention of pacifying the Muslims by means of handing over Israel to them. Backing Israel is what got us into this mess back in the Carter-Reagan-Clinton years in the first place. So, why not bail out on Israel? I oppose such a move, but it is ignored as a means to an end as demonstrated by posters to this blog.

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  140. william marbourg says:

    I read most of the posts. I see no mention of pacifying the Muslims by means of handing over Israel to them. Backing Israel is what got us into this mess back in the Carter-Reagan-Clinton years in the first place. So, why not bail out on Israel? I oppose such a move, but it is ignored as a means to an end as demonstrated by posters to this blog.

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  141. Robert says:

    If I were fanatically committeed to gun control to a point of near-insanity, the proposal to shoot people randomly, especially middle-class white people in Republican-leaning cities, would make a lot of sense, at least in the sense of working toward my goal of majority acceptance of gun control. And yes, I would freely think of my self as a “terrorist” in that context. On the other hand, if I werea radical Islamist, committed to restoring the Caliphate by striking at the Great Satan, that sort of act would be so minor as to be just silly. What would make sense would be using the G.S’s technology to accomplish a spectacular mass-casualty strike, just like the G.S. did by the way, admittedly with a deadlier technology, on this day, for the second time ever, 62 years ago. But just like the G.S did, I’d call that a military strike, not terrorism. Which is why what we have now is not and never was a war on terror, or terrorism. It’s just war, which in fact is what the Islamists wanted in the first place.

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  142. Robert says:

    If I were fanatically committeed to gun control to a point of near-insanity, the proposal to shoot people randomly, especially middle-class white people in Republican-leaning cities, would make a lot of sense, at least in the sense of working toward my goal of majority acceptance of gun control. And yes, I would freely think of my self as a “terrorist” in that context. On the other hand, if I werea radical Islamist, committed to restoring the Caliphate by striking at the Great Satan, that sort of act would be so minor as to be just silly. What would make sense would be using the G.S’s technology to accomplish a spectacular mass-casualty strike, just like the G.S. did by the way, admittedly with a deadlier technology, on this day, for the second time ever, 62 years ago. But just like the G.S did, I’d call that a military strike, not terrorism. Which is why what we have now is not and never was a war on terror, or terrorism. It’s just war, which in fact is what the Islamists wanted in the first place.

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  143. qualityg says:

    It takes money to be a terrorist. The best way to get some is to set up charities in East Dearborn Michigan that act as fronts for the assh (bad guys).

    Don’t worry the FBI and HLS are on the job. About 3 years too late. I think it is like you said and the good guys at the FBI are still going through loads of paperwork to determine which charity is the worst.

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  144. qualityg says:

    It takes money to be a terrorist. The best way to get some is to set up charities in East Dearborn Michigan that act as fronts for the assh (bad guys).

    Don’t worry the FBI and HLS are on the job. About 3 years too late. I think it is like you said and the good guys at the FBI are still going through loads of paperwork to determine which charity is the worst.

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  145. jim cibulka says:

    Well stated Mr. Levitt . . . I look forward to more ‘Too obvious to be seen’ views of the world . . . keep up the good work!

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  146. jim cibulka says:

    Well stated Mr. Levitt . . . I look forward to more ‘Too obvious to be seen’ views of the world . . . keep up the good work!

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  147. Steve says:

    Sir, unable to determine if you are demonic, but your actions are demonic.

    Contemplate this name, Christine Lee Hanson.

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  148. Steve says:

    Sir, unable to determine if you are demonic, but your actions are demonic.

    Contemplate this name, Christine Lee Hanson.

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  149. Andy Leung says:

    I think the answer as to why there aren’t as many terrorist attacks has something to do with the fact that it’s a lot easier for us, as citizens and residents of Western culture to figure out how to “get around” in our society, and also how to exploit its weaknesses.

    Consider the fact that most potential terrorists are probably foreign born, possibly in Europe or the Middle East. To get to the US, you need a passport and a visa. I don’t know how difficult it is to get one, but I hope it is pretty hard without a legitimate reason for being in the US. Then you need a plane ticket. Alternatively, you might fly into Mexico and try to get in illegally. Either way, somebody has to pay for the plane ticket. If our intelligence knows that someone has terrorist connections, it’s not that difficult to trace the money trail.

    Once they get here, they need solid English in order to fit in. More importantly, they need to possess enough “cultural knowledge” to be able to fit in – working at a job or being a student – all the while waiting for some signal to act.

    Getting a gun illegally is easy in this country – if you know what you’re doing. If I (and I suspect most people reading this blog) wanted to purchase a gun illegally, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue where to begin.

    That’s why I suspect that most of these small-scale terrorist actions are home-grown (DC Sniper, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City, etc.).

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  150. Andy Leung says:

    I think the answer as to why there aren’t as many terrorist attacks has something to do with the fact that it’s a lot easier for us, as citizens and residents of Western culture to figure out how to “get around” in our society, and also how to exploit its weaknesses.

    Consider the fact that most potential terrorists are probably foreign born, possibly in Europe or the Middle East. To get to the US, you need a passport and a visa. I don’t know how difficult it is to get one, but I hope it is pretty hard without a legitimate reason for being in the US. Then you need a plane ticket. Alternatively, you might fly into Mexico and try to get in illegally. Either way, somebody has to pay for the plane ticket. If our intelligence knows that someone has terrorist connections, it’s not that difficult to trace the money trail.

    Once they get here, they need solid English in order to fit in. More importantly, they need to possess enough “cultural knowledge” to be able to fit in – working at a job or being a student – all the while waiting for some signal to act.

    Getting a gun illegally is easy in this country – if you know what you’re doing. If I (and I suspect most people reading this blog) wanted to purchase a gun illegally, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue where to begin.

    That’s why I suspect that most of these small-scale terrorist actions are home-grown (DC Sniper, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City, etc.).

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  151. Detroit Red says:

    I think you have hit the nail on the head.. Terrorism though it can some times have spectacular results is best dealt with with a cool, rational approach. Our response has been frantic and quite frankly foolish. Perhaps we have not been attacked again because they have achieved their goal- with minimum expense for them, a small group has caused the US to spend what will end up being nearly one trillion dollars and interrupted airport travel, imposed on our civil liberties, and affected various forms of commerce. One could argue the instability and increased prices for energy as a result of our invasion of Iraq (nominally to fight terrorism) accelerated the housing crisis we face today. America is still in a state of paranoia and fear. As far as overspending, for the cost of the Iraq War, we could have built a World Trade Center in every major American city. What more could they have ever hoped to achieve?

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  152. Detroit Red says:

    I think you have hit the nail on the head.. Terrorism though it can some times have spectacular results is best dealt with with a cool, rational approach. Our response has been frantic and quite frankly foolish. Perhaps we have not been attacked again because they have achieved their goal- with minimum expense for them, a small group has caused the US to spend what will end up being nearly one trillion dollars and interrupted airport travel, imposed on our civil liberties, and affected various forms of commerce. One could argue the instability and increased prices for energy as a result of our invasion of Iraq (nominally to fight terrorism) accelerated the housing crisis we face today. America is still in a state of paranoia and fear. As far as overspending, for the cost of the Iraq War, we could have built a World Trade Center in every major American city. What more could they have ever hoped to achieve?

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  153. AjaxJones says:

    i posted a few ideas on the what would terror dudes do, it wasnt published. Err does that mean it was a good idea and the NSA are on the way>

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  154. AjaxJones says:

    i posted a few ideas on the what would terror dudes do, it wasnt published. Err does that mean it was a good idea and the NSA are on the way>

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  155. corinne says:

    Rosepetals! Confetti! We love you!

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  156. corinne says:

    Rosepetals! Confetti! We love you!

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  157. Andrew says:

    Loved post 79; very funny.

    Steven,
    You mention the anti-american act of installing cameras everywhere. I wonder if you have any contacts in the Boston area that you can engage. The Democratic National Convention, in 2004, installed a ton of cameras ALL OVER Boston. I’d like to know if the city claims this has helped with terrorism. The city is pretty adamant about leaving them installedand continues to use them to monitor “activity.”

    Thanks! I love this blog more everyday.

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  158. Andrew says:

    Loved post 79; very funny.

    Steven,
    You mention the anti-american act of installing cameras everywhere. I wonder if you have any contacts in the Boston area that you can engage. The Democratic National Convention, in 2004, installed a ton of cameras ALL OVER Boston. I’d like to know if the city claims this has helped with terrorism. The city is pretty adamant about leaving them installedand continues to use them to monitor “activity.”

    Thanks! I love this blog more everyday.

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  159. Pete Gratta says:

    Personally, I feel that what you have done is as stupid as the press, as well as some in our own government, telling the enemy where we are, what we’re doing & when we’re going to do it. Ever consider asking something that makes more sense, like what WE can do as WE THE PEOPLE to protect our families, neighbors & selves instead of making more laws against things like the right to bare arms? Ever consider running for office? Your mentality would fit right in with Reid, Pelosi & Clinton.

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  160. Pete Gratta says:

    Personally, I feel that what you have done is as stupid as the press, as well as some in our own government, telling the enemy where we are, what we’re doing & when we’re going to do it. Ever consider asking something that makes more sense, like what WE can do as WE THE PEOPLE to protect our families, neighbors & selves instead of making more laws against things like the right to bare arms? Ever consider running for office? Your mentality would fit right in with Reid, Pelosi & Clinton.

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  161. Edward Szu says:

    The authors state two reasons why few terror attacks in the US.
    There are many more.
    Terrorism by professionals is rarely a pure random attack. It has an intended purpose and intended outcome.
    We can have a few people doing terror acts for its own sake or pleasure, like vandals destroying cars or spray painting, etc. Americans in major cities live under the threat of vandals and criminals every day and we pay a huge price for these random attacks. Not intended to cause major damage, just to steal or kill randomly or damage property.
    This can be stopped with VERY strong punishment.
    According to my mathematical models, very strong punishment works and deters crime. Theoretically, it can cut recidivism or recurrence to zero.
    Although it may not be ethically or legally acceptable, eliminating criminals eliminates recurrence.
    Many countries have very low crime, so it is possible to have very low crime (albeit with consequences).

    But professionals intend to change the world in some way. They have outcomes, goals.
    Thus, I propose these other reasons for relatively few terror attacks in the US.

    A few small terror attacks produce trivial desirable changes, can change world opinion against terrorists, not worth the effort. Better focus on something big.
    Difficult to identify specific desirable outcome achievable by terrorism in the US, so still thinking.
    Terror attacks against big cities like NY or Wash, DC likely have undesirable consequences, hurting friends. It can hurt friendly countries who could retaliate in ways the US does not. Like wiping out families.
    Terror attacks in the middle of nowhere do not hurt friends but hurt few enemies.

    I do not believe the ideas you propose are most effective for the intended purpose of professional terrorists. And perhaps that is the reason they are not happening. Obviously, this is not the place to provide better ideas, but better solutions.

    The US needs to simplify its infrastructure of rules and procedures. I believe our system is harmful to us.
    We are forced to sign agreements at banks, web sites and many other places that are very difficult to read and highly undesirable. Try to open a bank account if you disagree with the bank’s proposed agreement. Or use Windows if you disagree. Or many other web sites or software or appliances or buy at stores.
    Life is unnecessarily complicated. If there is a problem, not necessarily a terrorist attack (think Katrina, winter trouble in subways, etc.), cities practically paralyze. With a minor epidemic, electrical power could be cut off for several days (if employees become sick, etc.). Then subways would soon flood (particularly in NY), food would not be delivered, etc.
    Optimal planning by the government is terrible. Think about passport production delays, immigration applications processing, court delays, etc. Just visit the civil courts for landlord tenant, or crime in a major city to see how different life is from TV.

    The emergency response and infrastructure is extremely poor. Not just because bridges are falling down. It is the entire way of thinking. Computers do not improve the system, they automate some responses. In a crisis, the system will collapse.
    We need to re-think the way government operates. Make it simpler. We are supposed to know and respect all laws, but this is fictitious. Reminds me of a foreign country who I was told was implementing US mandates against money laundering. Every time a person exchanges $100, he must sign a statement that he has read and understood all banking laws, the criminal code, and related laws. Of course, no one has read them. It is a fiction. Same in the US, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but none can read and understand all the relevant law (most people understand trivial portions of it).

    Our system of government has technically made us all violators of rules that we either do not know or make no sense.
    Life is becoming more miserable for everyone. Mortgages. Travel time. Economic difficulties. Education problems (kids have problems at most schools, can’t walk to schools anymore), food quality uncertain, pollution, resource depletion, etc.
    Maybe terrorists think we are creating our own doom, why interfere with it and produce changes?
    There are very good reasons to believe that in 25 to 50 years we would have wiped out most species, ocean fish, major natural resources. At some point, society will tip over and collapse. The last one to leave will not have to turn the lights off: there will be no electricity.
    When that happens, simpler, more primitive groups will survive. Most of us will not.
    Terror attacks could bring change and stop this likely future. So, perhaps the smartest thing for a terrorist to do is to do nothing in the US. Why stop the US from self-destructing?

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  162. Edward Szu says:

    The authors state two reasons why few terror attacks in the US.
    There are many more.
    Terrorism by professionals is rarely a pure random attack. It has an intended purpose and intended outcome.
    We can have a few people doing terror acts for its own sake or pleasure, like vandals destroying cars or spray painting, etc. Americans in major cities live under the threat of vandals and criminals every day and we pay a huge price for these random attacks. Not intended to cause major damage, just to steal or kill randomly or damage property.
    This can be stopped with VERY strong punishment.
    According to my mathematical models, very strong punishment works and deters crime. Theoretically, it can cut recidivism or recurrence to zero.
    Although it may not be ethically or legally acceptable, eliminating criminals eliminates recurrence.
    Many countries have very low crime, so it is possible to have very low crime (albeit with consequences).

    But professionals intend to change the world in some way. They have outcomes, goals.
    Thus, I propose these other reasons for relatively few terror attacks in the US.

    A few small terror attacks produce trivial desirable changes, can change world opinion against terrorists, not worth the effort. Better focus on something big.
    Difficult to identify specific desirable outcome achievable by terrorism in the US, so still thinking.
    Terror attacks against big cities like NY or Wash, DC likely have undesirable consequences, hurting friends. It can hurt friendly countries who could retaliate in ways the US does not. Like wiping out families.
    Terror attacks in the middle of nowhere do not hurt friends but hurt few enemies.

    I do not believe the ideas you propose are most effective for the intended purpose of professional terrorists. And perhaps that is the reason they are not happening. Obviously, this is not the place to provide better ideas, but better solutions.

    The US needs to simplify its infrastructure of rules and procedures. I believe our system is harmful to us.
    We are forced to sign agreements at banks, web sites and many other places that are very difficult to read and highly undesirable. Try to open a bank account if you disagree with the bank’s proposed agreement. Or use Windows if you disagree. Or many other web sites or software or appliances or buy at stores.
    Life is unnecessarily complicated. If there is a problem, not necessarily a terrorist attack (think Katrina, winter trouble in subways, etc.), cities practically paralyze. With a minor epidemic, electrical power could be cut off for several days (if employees become sick, etc.). Then subways would soon flood (particularly in NY), food would not be delivered, etc.
    Optimal planning by the government is terrible. Think about passport production delays, immigration applications processing, court delays, etc. Just visit the civil courts for landlord tenant, or crime in a major city to see how different life is from TV.

    The emergency response and infrastructure is extremely poor. Not just because bridges are falling down. It is the entire way of thinking. Computers do not improve the system, they automate some responses. In a crisis, the system will collapse.
    We need to re-think the way government operates. Make it simpler. We are supposed to know and respect all laws, but this is fictitious. Reminds me of a foreign country who I was told was implementing US mandates against money laundering. Every time a person exchanges $100, he must sign a statement that he has read and understood all banking laws, the criminal code, and related laws. Of course, no one has read them. It is a fiction. Same in the US, ignorance of the law is no excuse, but none can read and understand all the relevant law (most people understand trivial portions of it).

    Our system of government has technically made us all violators of rules that we either do not know or make no sense.
    Life is becoming more miserable for everyone. Mortgages. Travel time. Economic difficulties. Education problems (kids have problems at most schools, can’t walk to schools anymore), food quality uncertain, pollution, resource depletion, etc.
    Maybe terrorists think we are creating our own doom, why interfere with it and produce changes?
    There are very good reasons to believe that in 25 to 50 years we would have wiped out most species, ocean fish, major natural resources. At some point, society will tip over and collapse. The last one to leave will not have to turn the lights off: there will be no electricity.
    When that happens, simpler, more primitive groups will survive. Most of us will not.
    Terror attacks could bring change and stop this likely future. So, perhaps the smartest thing for a terrorist to do is to do nothing in the US. Why stop the US from self-destructing?

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  163. Kimo says:

    “I agree fully with your hypothesis that all the furor and overreaction of the government, post 9/11, has been a waste of time, money, and effort… If so, then US has been an unfertile place for terrorism after 9/11.

    — Posted by Robert”

    Tell that to the people who lost a loved one. I’ll bet you’d be singing a different song if you were on a plane post 9/11 with a terrorist… what an idiot.

    BTW keep up the good work this is a great idea no matter what the haters think.

    We American’s apply our filter to the World at large… but only we think this way. We would never have dreamed of using aircraft to kill thousands of innocent people. Why do you think they did… because they share our beliefs and morality?

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  164. Kimo says:

    “I agree fully with your hypothesis that all the furor and overreaction of the government, post 9/11, has been a waste of time, money, and effort… If so, then US has been an unfertile place for terrorism after 9/11.

    - Posted by Robert”

    Tell that to the people who lost a loved one. I’ll bet you’d be singing a different song if you were on a plane post 9/11 with a terrorist… what an idiot.

    BTW keep up the good work this is a great idea no matter what the haters think.

    We American’s apply our filter to the World at large… but only we think this way. We would never have dreamed of using aircraft to kill thousands of innocent people. Why do you think they did… because they share our beliefs and morality?

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  165. GDMarker says:

    I do not fear a terrorist attack as much as I do the politicians response to it. I certainly would like to know how much money has been wasted in the U.S alone on programs and equipment that have nothing to do with responding to a terrorist attack.

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  166. GDMarker says:

    I do not fear a terrorist attack as much as I do the politicians response to it. I certainly would like to know how much money has been wasted in the U.S alone on programs and equipment that have nothing to do with responding to a terrorist attack.

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  167. Curt says:

    After reading all (80) of the above comments no one suggested that we try dialog. If your neighbor bothers you do you throw garbage in his yard or go and talk to him about your COMMON problem? In this day and age we can’t be so arrogant as to think we are going to kill everyone that wants to kill us. Of course 9/11 was terrible but can anyone deny that there are more terrorists today than there were pre 9/11? What besides killing people are we doing to solve the problem?

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  168. Curt says:

    After reading all (80) of the above comments no one suggested that we try dialog. If your neighbor bothers you do you throw garbage in his yard or go and talk to him about your COMMON problem? In this day and age we can’t be so arrogant as to think we are going to kill everyone that wants to kill us. Of course 9/11 was terrible but can anyone deny that there are more terrorists today than there were pre 9/11? What besides killing people are we doing to solve the problem?

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  169. viking says:

    I agree. The risk of terrorism is overrated, partly because politicians hype it up for their own ends, but mostly because it is ‘hypeable.’ owing to mass psychology. Yet, it is wrong to think that instilling fear is the only major objective of terrorist acts. There is also the matter of the symbolism of the targets.

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  170. viking says:

    I agree. The risk of terrorism is overrated, partly because politicians hype it up for their own ends, but mostly because it is ‘hypeable.’ owing to mass psychology. Yet, it is wrong to think that instilling fear is the only major objective of terrorist acts. There is also the matter of the symbolism of the targets.

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  171. Neale Adams says:

    I think the real terrorists were those Yankee Minute Men Terrorists circa 1775-76 who failed not only to accept the legitimate authority of King George but refused to fight his redcoats fairly-sniping from behind stone walls and all that-and forced a premature republic on the American Colonies to crop up instead of a proper parliamentary democracy. If the US had a proper parliament you would have replaced Bush long ago and wouldn’t be in this mess in Iraq.
    (Of course most Americans probably think the Yankee Minute Men Terrorists were patriot freedom fighters.)

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  172. Neale Adams says:

    I think the real terrorists were those Yankee Minute Men Terrorists circa 1775-76 who failed not only to accept the legitimate authority of King George but refused to fight his redcoats fairly-sniping from behind stone walls and all that-and forced a premature republic on the American Colonies to crop up instead of a proper parliamentary democracy. If the US had a proper parliament you would have replaced Bush long ago and wouldn’t be in this mess in Iraq.
    (Of course most Americans probably think the Yankee Minute Men Terrorists were patriot freedom fighters.)

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  173. tyler sipprelle says:

    please fix the rss feed as soon as possible

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  174. tyler sipprelle says:

    please fix the rss feed as soon as possible

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  175. Purple Fury says:

    “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it.”

    Very cagey statement, Steven. Your entire article is based on it, but unfortunately it isn’t true, and once that premise is removed, the rest of the reasoning that follows from it pretty much falls apart.

    The problem is, Al Qaeda is not interested in low-grade, low-tech terror. They are on record as saying as much. What they want is another 9/11-style spectacular. It might end up being accomplished with low-tech means, but the fact that we do not have terrorists engaging in constant low-grade terror does not mean the risk is low. It simply means they’re not interested in low-grade terror.

    Car bombs may be ok for Iraq & the UK, but I’m quite sure they’re saving the good stuff for the US of A.

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  176. Purple Fury says:

    “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it.”

    Very cagey statement, Steven. Your entire article is based on it, but unfortunately it isn’t true, and once that premise is removed, the rest of the reasoning that follows from it pretty much falls apart.

    The problem is, Al Qaeda is not interested in low-grade, low-tech terror. They are on record as saying as much. What they want is another 9/11-style spectacular. It might end up being accomplished with low-tech means, but the fact that we do not have terrorists engaging in constant low-grade terror does not mean the risk is low. It simply means they’re not interested in low-grade terror.

    Car bombs may be ok for Iraq & the UK, but I’m quite sure they’re saving the good stuff for the US of A.

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  177. Lauren says:

    I disagree that “ALL” of our time and money dedicated to fighting terrorism since 911 has been wasted. I think we only have wasted about 75%. Oh, and as long as Republicans claim that we would be less safe if we elect anyone else, well, that would mean they haven’t done the job they claim they are doing.

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  178. Lauren says:

    I disagree that “ALL” of our time and money dedicated to fighting terrorism since 911 has been wasted. I think we only have wasted about 75%. Oh, and as long as Republicans claim that we would be less safe if we elect anyone else, well, that would mean they haven’t done the job they claim they are doing.

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  179. Mike says:

    A number of years back a group of Palestinian terrorists went on a shooting spree in an Israeli city and were promptly shot and stopped by Israeli citizens carrying concealed handguns. At least one of the wounded killers expressed great surprise that their intended victims could shoot back and lamented the unfairness of it all.

    Is terrorism a serious threat or merely the crazed imagining of the fevered brains of President Bush and his evil minions? One need only review the words and actions of the terrorists for the answer. If they could run wild in America, randomly cutting off heads and shooting up malls, they surely would. They have said so. Their intentions are unambiguous.

    So why haven’t they done this to date? Post 9-11, they want something dramatic, something at least as publicity friendly. They also know that thanks to concealed weapons laws in most states (no thanks to the NYT), they’re awfully likely to become martyrs in any open public attack long before the police arrive and before much damage can be done. But another major factor is that, for all of the failings of our security apparatus, they’ve been successful in peventing another sigificant attack. Part of the reason for that is that we have been, for years, killing wholesale lots of those who would kill us, but we’ve been doing it a world away instead of on American streets. For rational people, this is a good thing. For Democrats, a problem.

    At one time, giving an enemy any suport, including ideas, would have been considered treason by all. For many Americans, it still is.

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  180. Mike says:

    A number of years back a group of Palestinian terrorists went on a shooting spree in an Israeli city and were promptly shot and stopped by Israeli citizens carrying concealed handguns. At least one of the wounded killers expressed great surprise that their intended victims could shoot back and lamented the unfairness of it all.

    Is terrorism a serious threat or merely the crazed imagining of the fevered brains of President Bush and his evil minions? One need only review the words and actions of the terrorists for the answer. If they could run wild in America, randomly cutting off heads and shooting up malls, they surely would. They have said so. Their intentions are unambiguous.

    So why haven’t they done this to date? Post 9-11, they want something dramatic, something at least as publicity friendly. They also know that thanks to concealed weapons laws in most states (no thanks to the NYT), they’re awfully likely to become martyrs in any open public attack long before the police arrive and before much damage can be done. But another major factor is that, for all of the failings of our security apparatus, they’ve been successful in peventing another sigificant attack. Part of the reason for that is that we have been, for years, killing wholesale lots of those who would kill us, but we’ve been doing it a world away instead of on American streets. For rational people, this is a good thing. For Democrats, a problem.

    At one time, giving an enemy any suport, including ideas, would have been considered treason by all. For many Americans, it still is.

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  181. mirzafarazbeg says:

    The hate mail you received reminded me of this quote from David Letterman:
    “New York now leads the world’s great cities in the number of people around whom you shouldn’t make a sudden move.”

    Seriously, you guys must come and live for a week in the subcontinent. The fact of the matter is, since 2001, there hasn’t been a single case of terrorist attack, let alone suicide attack, in the US. Whereas in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Srilanka, each month has been marked by a terrorist activity… Especially in Pakistan since the American invasion in Afghanistan, the city of Karachi has been a suicide bombing hotspot…

    So how much do terrorists scare us Pakistanis? Pretty much actually… but I think when such incidents take place on a daily basis, the fear factor is replaced by basic human needs. The heads of the families, especially those who work on daily wages, can’t afford to sit home and have to provide for the food and shelter of their children. That probably is the single biggest factor that forces the proceedings to revert to normal… Iraqis it seems, however, have grown resilient against suicide bombings, as is evident from their celebrations on their team’s Asia cup triumph…

    I think Mr. Pape nailed it in his interview, the reason why Americans are so scared of terrorist attacks because their government is continuing to provide reasons for them… The American Govt is itself creating so much fear in it’s people, for something that hasn’t materialized… and we hope it never would…

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  182. mirzafarazbeg says:

    The hate mail you received reminded me of this quote from David Letterman:
    “New York now leads the world’s great cities in the number of people around whom you shouldn’t make a sudden move.”

    Seriously, you guys must come and live for a week in the subcontinent. The fact of the matter is, since 2001, there hasn’t been a single case of terrorist attack, let alone suicide attack, in the US. Whereas in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Srilanka, each month has been marked by a terrorist activity… Especially in Pakistan since the American invasion in Afghanistan, the city of Karachi has been a suicide bombing hotspot…

    So how much do terrorists scare us Pakistanis? Pretty much actually… but I think when such incidents take place on a daily basis, the fear factor is replaced by basic human needs. The heads of the families, especially those who work on daily wages, can’t afford to sit home and have to provide for the food and shelter of their children. That probably is the single biggest factor that forces the proceedings to revert to normal… Iraqis it seems, however, have grown resilient against suicide bombings, as is evident from their celebrations on their team’s Asia cup triumph…

    I think Mr. Pape nailed it in his interview, the reason why Americans are so scared of terrorist attacks because their government is continuing to provide reasons for them… The American Govt is itself creating so much fear in it’s people, for something that hasn’t materialized… and we hope it never would…

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  183. Chet says:

    While you bring up some good points in this posting, you probably only did so because you needed to do some damage control to protect your name. Your initial comments served no good. They were absolutely absurd… not because they twisted any truth, but because they contributed nothing to our society and they were at best freaking sick. From me, you get credit only for creating dialog.

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  184. Chet says:

    While you bring up some good points in this posting, you probably only did so because you needed to do some damage control to protect your name. Your initial comments served no good. They were absolutely absurd… not because they twisted any truth, but because they contributed nothing to our society and they were at best freaking sick. From me, you get credit only for creating dialog.

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  185. Tino says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests that the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    Dear Professor Levitt:

    Robert Pape’s work is unconvincing, to say it mildly. His argument is that radical Islam has little or nothing to do with terrorism, they are just angry Americans are “occupying” the Arab Peninsula.

    First of all as an Econometrician you should have serious doubts about Papes regressions, where 70% or so of the data points come from one (non muslim) group, even though all other suicide bombing group is muslim.
    No wonder he finds no effect for Islam.
    This despite the fact that about 80% of casualties from international terrorist attacks, EXCLUDING 9/11, were caused by Muslim terrorist.
    Secondly Pape is only looking at the surface. Yes, American presence in these countries is a driving force. But you have to ask yourself WHY Al-Quida and its audience viewed American troops protecting them and other gulf states as occupation.

    Do you expect Germany, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Iceland or Italy to react with American military presence with suicide attacks? No? What is the difference?
    Common sense tells us occupation encourages terrorism. But America is in fact not occupying Iraq. You are there at the request of their government. Most Americans that are not insane or paranoid realize that the US has no intention of colonizing or annexing Iraq, you would prefer to get out as soon as you could, if the country was stable.

    So why is well meaning American presence, asked by the governments of Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait and now Iraq seen as occupation? The answer is the deeper roots of terrorism, namely the islamist ideology.

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  186. Tino says:

    “The work of my University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape suggests that the strongest predictor of terrorist acts is the occupation of a group’s territory.”

    Dear Professor Levitt:

    Robert Pape’s work is unconvincing, to say it mildly. His argument is that radical Islam has little or nothing to do with terrorism, they are just angry Americans are “occupying” the Arab Peninsula.

    First of all as an Econometrician you should have serious doubts about Papes regressions, where 70% or so of the data points come from one (non muslim) group, even though all other suicide bombing group is muslim.
    No wonder he finds no effect for Islam.
    This despite the fact that about 80% of casualties from international terrorist attacks, EXCLUDING 9/11, were caused by Muslim terrorist.
    Secondly Pape is only looking at the surface. Yes, American presence in these countries is a driving force. But you have to ask yourself WHY Al-Quida and its audience viewed American troops protecting them and other gulf states as occupation.

    Do you expect Germany, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Iceland or Italy to react with American military presence with suicide attacks? No? What is the difference?
    Common sense tells us occupation encourages terrorism. But America is in fact not occupying Iraq. You are there at the request of their government. Most Americans that are not insane or paranoid realize that the US has no intention of colonizing or annexing Iraq, you would prefer to get out as soon as you could, if the country was stable.

    So why is well meaning American presence, asked by the governments of Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait and now Iraq seen as occupation? The answer is the deeper roots of terrorism, namely the islamist ideology.

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  187. david adewumi says:

    I think, Americans aren’t ready to come to terms with what is necessary to thwart terrorism.

    First off, all airports would be under military/police armed guard.
    As in, there would be a gate at least two miles away from the terminals, where EVERY vehicle is stopped and checked. That would obviously cause huge delays, but that is what is necessary.

    I recently flew out of the Denver airport. One could jump the security line near the train to the flight terminals with a suitcase full of automatic weapons or explosives and hijack a terminal or an airplane.

    Now imagine it was synchronized, 10 people, or 100 people all have weapons at the same time jump over the barricades and make a run for the trains. Lets say even half get caught before they can wreak havoc. That’s still 5, or 50 people on the loose with weapons and explosives.

    Maybe airports, or government buildings have plans or police in hiding that isn’t aware to the public, but I generally think, pulling of an act of terror against many Americans would not be a difficult thing to do.

    It comes down to, 1) are we willing to trade our CONVENIENCE in order to be more secure. 2)And are we willing to put our money where our mouth is?

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  188. david adewumi says:

    I think, Americans aren’t ready to come to terms with what is necessary to thwart terrorism.

    First off, all airports would be under military/police armed guard.
    As in, there would be a gate at least two miles away from the terminals, where EVERY vehicle is stopped and checked. That would obviously cause huge delays, but that is what is necessary.

    I recently flew out of the Denver airport. One could jump the security line near the train to the flight terminals with a suitcase full of automatic weapons or explosives and hijack a terminal or an airplane.

    Now imagine it was synchronized, 10 people, or 100 people all have weapons at the same time jump over the barricades and make a run for the trains. Lets say even half get caught before they can wreak havoc. That’s still 5, or 50 people on the loose with weapons and explosives.

    Maybe airports, or government buildings have plans or police in hiding that isn’t aware to the public, but I generally think, pulling of an act of terror against many Americans would not be a difficult thing to do.

    It comes down to, 1) are we willing to trade our CONVENIENCE in order to be more secure. 2)And are we willing to put our money where our mouth is?

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  189. Frank says:

    It seems to me that all of the analyzing in the universe isn’t going to stop someone from killing others if they have half a brain and the will to do it. My conclusions are simple. We’ve had just about non-existent borders for six years under Presidente Boosh and no hits on American soil in a supposed war on terror. Why is that? We have towns and cities being over run by illegal aliens. There is no way possible that either the FBI or Homeland Security have enough resources to check twenty plus million illegal immigrants. As it is, obviously a large number of illegal aliens have aliasas. Homeland Security is a Joke. Even now President Bush does nothing to secure our borders. Perhaps agendas run alot deeper than most of us would like to even contemplate. Also the idea consistently being preached by conservative talk radio host is that our military is fighting “over there” so the enemy won’t come over here and yet every so often someone from the FBI or Homeland Security tell us that terrorist cells are already in America. Who is B.S.ing whom? Sometimes we as individuals complicate what is so simple at times. Doesn’t it (the war on terror) seem dishonest and manipulated in light of everything else being compromised on the homefront? This is not to say that Jihad is a figment of anyone’s immagination. No doubt many want the destruction of America and Israel.

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  190. Frank says:

    It seems to me that all of the analyzing in the universe isn’t going to stop someone from killing others if they have half a brain and the will to do it. My conclusions are simple. We’ve had just about non-existent borders for six years under Presidente Boosh and no hits on American soil in a supposed war on terror. Why is that? We have towns and cities being over run by illegal aliens. There is no way possible that either the FBI or Homeland Security have enough resources to check twenty plus million illegal immigrants. As it is, obviously a large number of illegal aliens have aliasas. Homeland Security is a Joke. Even now President Bush does nothing to secure our borders. Perhaps agendas run alot deeper than most of us would like to even contemplate. Also the idea consistently being preached by conservative talk radio host is that our military is fighting “over there” so the enemy won’t come over here and yet every so often someone from the FBI or Homeland Security tell us that terrorist cells are already in America. Who is B.S.ing whom? Sometimes we as individuals complicate what is so simple at times. Doesn’t it (the war on terror) seem dishonest and manipulated in light of everything else being compromised on the homefront? This is not to say that Jihad is a figment of anyone’s immagination. No doubt many want the destruction of America and Israel.

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  191. David S. says:

    I agree with a friend who proposed that the safest thing to do on airplanes nowadays is to give everyone a nice sharp steak knife. As we all know, no group of 50-200 passengers will sit around and let anyone hijack a plane any more. Even if the potential terrorist has a fully loaded Uzi s/he could not kill very many before being subdued and “disabled”.

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  192. David S. says:

    I agree with a friend who proposed that the safest thing to do on airplanes nowadays is to give everyone a nice sharp steak knife. As we all know, no group of 50-200 passengers will sit around and let anyone hijack a plane any more. Even if the potential terrorist has a fully loaded Uzi s/he could not kill very many before being subdued and “disabled”.

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  193. Amit Sahai says:

    My guess is that you’ve got the terrorist utility function wrong. The anti-US terrorists are probably less interested in actually terrorizing US citizens than creating propaganda for morale/recruitment. 9/11 was a huge event, and thus very successful in this regard. Small semi-random acts of violence wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

    Probably, terrorizing US citizens is only a desirable secondary goal for the terrorists. But with very high costs for planting operatives, it is probably not worth letting them get caught in these small things.

    I’m certainly no expert on this, but this would be my guess.

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  194. Amit Sahai says:

    My guess is that you’ve got the terrorist utility function wrong. The anti-US terrorists are probably less interested in actually terrorizing US citizens than creating propaganda for morale/recruitment. 9/11 was a huge event, and thus very successful in this regard. Small semi-random acts of violence wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

    Probably, terrorizing US citizens is only a desirable secondary goal for the terrorists. But with very high costs for planting operatives, it is probably not worth letting them get caught in these small things.

    I’m certainly no expert on this, but this would be my guess.

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  195. dfctomm says:

    You’re right about there being many simple strategies that yield low grade terror, but Al Quada

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  196. dfctomm says:

    You’re right about there being many simple strategies that yield low grade terror, but Al Quada

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  197. Mark Zilberman says:

    It’s not PC to say but it seems clear that the war in Iraq has had an effect of protecting us. Clearly the war’s been a disaster from many perspectives. But…, we’ve killed LOTS of people and caused great destruction. The fantasy of the peoples of the Middle East was that America was a paper tiger. That 9/11 was a great victory for those who were “suffering at the hands of America” pre-9/11. They now know that there’s far more they can suffer at the hands of America than they ever thought. In other words, they are suffering consequence. To be sure, the powers that be in that part of the world are not interested in more American retaliation. If this is what 140K soldiers is like what would 11 million (the WW2 force level) be like? There’s no guarentee that we’ll not suffer terror again. But, the fear of consequence will surely mobilize the forces of the Middle East to try to intercede. Previous to 9/11 those controls did not exist. Why should they have? We are safer. We’re not safe. God help the Middle East if there’s a nuclear attack here. The only thing that’ll be left there will be bouncing rubble.

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  198. Mark Zilberman says:

    It’s not PC to say but it seems clear that the war in Iraq has had an effect of protecting us. Clearly the war’s been a disaster from many perspectives. But…, we’ve killed LOTS of people and caused great destruction. The fantasy of the peoples of the Middle East was that America was a paper tiger. That 9/11 was a great victory for those who were “suffering at the hands of America” pre-9/11. They now know that there’s far more they can suffer at the hands of America than they ever thought. In other words, they are suffering consequence. To be sure, the powers that be in that part of the world are not interested in more American retaliation. If this is what 140K soldiers is like what would 11 million (the WW2 force level) be like? There’s no guarentee that we’ll not suffer terror again. But, the fear of consequence will surely mobilize the forces of the Middle East to try to intercede. Previous to 9/11 those controls did not exist. Why should they have? We are safer. We’re not safe. God help the Middle East if there’s a nuclear attack here. The only thing that’ll be left there will be bouncing rubble.

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  199. Purple Fury says:

    #100, Amit:

    Exactly right. Al Qaedra is interested in theatrics more than actual terror. They also believe that their cause is divinely sanctioned, and think that with just the right “push” from devout jihadis, a collapse will ensue. They don’t merely want to terrorize Americans — ideally they’d like the country (its economy, political apparatus, and military) to collapse entirely. This is not speculation — it is their openly declared goal.

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  200. Purple Fury says:

    #100, Amit:

    Exactly right. Al Qaedra is interested in theatrics more than actual terror. They also believe that their cause is divinely sanctioned, and think that with just the right “push” from devout jihadis, a collapse will ensue. They don’t merely want to terrorize Americans — ideally they’d like the country (its economy, political apparatus, and military) to collapse entirely. This is not speculation — it is their openly declared goal.

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  201. mandala oblongata says:

    I tried to read all the posts responding to this and the original, but at approaching 700, I got tired. So apologies if I’m repeating.

    Three interesting (economics-related!) questions are to be:
    1) What is the optimal amount of money to spend to minimize terrorism (and therefore are we spending too much or too little)?
    2) If you assume we are spending the “right” amount to minimize terrorism, what is the most effective way to allocate the money?
    3) What creative tactics / incentives could we create to reduce the likely amount of terrorism?

    It is just intellectual laziness and a cop-out to say: “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it.” I’m not saying that I have the answer, but we could do lots of things, such as:
    a) offering economic incentives (and amnesty) to people involved in terror plots to provide information to law enforcement; at the very least, this would make plotters worry about the loyalties of their recruits;
    b) spending money to reduce fear among our citizens
    c) offer Marshall Plan-like aid to countries at risk of disintegrating (assuming we think these are more likely to foster terrorism)
    d) creating a Department of Help, so that we can do more things like our use of our military to respond to the tsunami, thereby spreading goodwill across the globe (a better investment to me than invading and occupying Iraq)
    e) etc.

    It seems like these issues could be tackled with several of the tools of economicists.

    Some variation on these topics sees like at least as valid a Freakonomics Quorum topic as, say, developing strategies to save African rhinos.

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  202. mandala oblongata says:

    I tried to read all the posts responding to this and the original, but at approaching 700, I got tired. So apologies if I’m repeating.

    Three interesting (economics-related!) questions are to be:
    1) What is the optimal amount of money to spend to minimize terrorism (and therefore are we spending too much or too little)?
    2) If you assume we are spending the “right” amount to minimize terrorism, what is the most effective way to allocate the money?
    3) What creative tactics / incentives could we create to reduce the likely amount of terrorism?

    It is just intellectual laziness and a cop-out to say: “If terrorists want to engage in low-grade, low-tech terror, we are powerless to stop it.” I’m not saying that I have the answer, but we could do lots of things, such as:
    a) offering economic incentives (and amnesty) to people involved in terror plots to provide information to law enforcement; at the very least, this would make plotters worry about the loyalties of their recruits;
    b) spending money to reduce fear among our citizens
    c) offer Marshall Plan-like aid to countries at risk of disintegrating (assuming we think these are more likely to foster terrorism)
    d) creating a Department of Help, so that we can do more things like our use of our military to respond to the tsunami, thereby spreading goodwill across the globe (a better investment to me than invading and occupying Iraq)
    e) etc.

    It seems like these issues could be tackled with several of the tools of economicists.

    Some variation on these topics sees like at least as valid a Freakonomics Quorum topic as, say, developing strategies to save African rhinos.

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  203. Adam Frederic Dorin, M.D., MBA says:

    Post-911, I became ‘converted’ to the cause of fighting terror in any and all forms to protect the American homeland. On 9-11, I observed Middle-Eastern doctors (working here on ‘work VISAs’ by the good graces of the U.S. Gov’t) who actually cheered. This vile act, amongst other things, became the impetus for a personal journey exploring those safety and security risks inherent to the American medical system that leave us all vulnerable to the next potential terrorist attack. The recent UK Doctor Terrorist ordeal only serves to reinforce one of the many themes of my mission to ‘get the word out’. My ‘journey’ led to a 300-page text, “Jihad and American Medicine” (www.JihadandAmericanMedicine.com), which will be published by Greenwood Publishing Group/Praeger Securities International this Fall.

    As I describe in the introduction to my book, my family and I lived through the 2002 DC Beltway Sniper incident and can vouch for the fact that terror and panic can be instilled in the population at large with mischief and murder on a much smaller scale than we experienced on 911. Clearly, our enemies would love to detonate a nuclear device, but they are also very clever and more than aware of other, lesser crimes which can be committed against Western civilization. To this end, I wholeheartedly support the notion of ‘thinking like a terrorist’ because it is only through this mechanism that we can hope to thwart the next devastating attack.

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  204. Adam Frederic Dorin, M.D., MBA says:

    Post-911, I became ‘converted’ to the cause of fighting terror in any and all forms to protect the American homeland. On 9-11, I observed Middle-Eastern doctors (working here on ‘work VISAs’ by the good graces of the U.S. Gov’t) who actually cheered. This vile act, amongst other things, became the impetus for a personal journey exploring those safety and security risks inherent to the American medical system that leave us all vulnerable to the next potential terrorist attack. The recent UK Doctor Terrorist ordeal only serves to reinforce one of the many themes of my mission to ‘get the word out’. My ‘journey’ led to a 300-page text, “Jihad and American Medicine” (www.JihadandAmericanMedicine.com), which will be published by Greenwood Publishing Group/Praeger Securities International this Fall.

    As I describe in the introduction to my book, my family and I lived through the 2002 DC Beltway Sniper incident and can vouch for the fact that terror and panic can be instilled in the population at large with mischief and murder on a much smaller scale than we experienced on 911. Clearly, our enemies would love to detonate a nuclear device, but they are also very clever and more than aware of other, lesser crimes which can be committed against Western civilization. To this end, I wholeheartedly support the notion of ‘thinking like a terrorist’ because it is only through this mechanism that we can hope to thwart the next devastating attack.

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  205. Scott Rose says:

    The critical weakness in Levitt’s argument is that he never acknowledges the true motivations of the people who attacked the World Trade Center on two occasions, the first attack less successful than the first.

    Unless and until a critical mass of non-Muslims reads the Koran from cover to cover and follows that up with a reading of the Hadith, non-Muslims will never understand what we are up against.

    The Muslim struggle – (the Arabic word for struggle is jihad, the German word is Kampf) – to impose an Islamic system on all of the known world has been going on since Mohammed in the 600s preposterously claimed that the book he was dictating was spoken to him by the alleged archangel Gabriel by an alleged supreme being called Allah.

    Between the Koran and the Hadith there is no ambiguity on this point; Muslims have a “holy” obligation to “Allah” to make Islam dominant throughout the world, and once it achieves that dominance, to become the only religion practiced, because, according to the Koran, it is the only true religion. I am not making this up. This is all in the Koran and the Hadith; the problem is that not enough non-Muslims have read those texts cover to cover.

    Anyway; the attacks of 9/11 are NOT going to be followed up by attacks of lesser scope. Individual Muslims in a jihad to impose Islam on the world are not acting for themselves; they are acting for Islam. It is sheer madness; but such are their motivations, due to their having been brainwashed by the Koran. Their struggle, their jihad, has been going on since the 600s. If they have to wait an extra year or two or five to have success in a second major, major attack on the US, they will wait. But the fact that there has not yet been a second major, major attack does not mean that they are not planning for one and hoping for it to succeed with all their being. They are not going to pussy-foot around with attacks on the US of lesser scope.

    This fact is so obvious, yet is never mentioned in mainstream discussions of how to strategize against the threat. It’s time it was.

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  206. Scott Rose says:

    The critical weakness in Levitt’s argument is that he never acknowledges the true motivations of the people who attacked the World Trade Center on two occasions, the first attack less successful than the first.

    Unless and until a critical mass of non-Muslims reads the Koran from cover to cover and follows that up with a reading of the Hadith, non-Muslims will never understand what we are up against.

    The Muslim struggle – (the Arabic word for struggle is jihad, the German word is Kampf) – to impose an Islamic system on all of the known world has been going on since Mohammed in the 600s preposterously claimed that the book he was dictating was spoken to him by the alleged archangel Gabriel by an alleged supreme being called Allah.

    Between the Koran and the Hadith there is no ambiguity on this point; Muslims have a “holy” obligation to “Allah” to make Islam dominant throughout the world, and once it achieves that dominance, to become the only religion practiced, because, according to the Koran, it is the only true religion. I am not making this up. This is all in the Koran and the Hadith; the problem is that not enough non-Muslims have read those texts cover to cover.

    Anyway; the attacks of 9/11 are NOT going to be followed up by attacks of lesser scope. Individual Muslims in a jihad to impose Islam on the world are not acting for themselves; they are acting for Islam. It is sheer madness; but such are their motivations, due to their having been brainwashed by the Koran. Their struggle, their jihad, has been going on since the 600s. If they have to wait an extra year or two or five to have success in a second major, major attack on the US, they will wait. But the fact that there has not yet been a second major, major attack does not mean that they are not planning for one and hoping for it to succeed with all their being. They are not going to pussy-foot around with attacks on the US of lesser scope.

    This fact is so obvious, yet is never mentioned in mainstream discussions of how to strategize against the threat. It’s time it was.

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  207. Daniel Broe says:

    Your hypothesis has much merit. Last week, a summer camp event in our area (the Hamptons), featured a ‘pirate show’ in the local regional high school. A cannon was used (with blanks) as part of the show. The shot of the cannon triggered a fire alarm, which led to the evacuation of all attending and the response of a myriad of local emergency services. Why school personnel had not been pre-informed about the event is unknown (or whether they were informed but did not plan properly). What was amazing was the dispatch of a low hovering Coast Guard (think Dept of Homeland Security) helicopter from the nearby Coast Guard station, as part of the response. And it stayed there for quite a while. The children enjoyed this perhaps more than the aborted show. But for adults it raises questions – are we devoting too many resources to a remote threat? There has been no follow-up terrorist attack in a country of 300 million over a time (six years) in which more than 100,000 Americans have been murdered and more than 200,000 have died in traffic accidents. One wonders how much the public appreciates the relative magnitude of the threat posed by everyday activities as compared to terrorism?

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  208. Daniel Broe says:

    Your hypothesis has much merit. Last week, a summer camp event in our area (the Hamptons), featured a ‘pirate show’ in the local regional high school. A cannon was used (with blanks) as part of the show. The shot of the cannon triggered a fire alarm, which led to the evacuation of all attending and the response of a myriad of local emergency services. Why school personnel had not been pre-informed about the event is unknown (or whether they were informed but did not plan properly). What was amazing was the dispatch of a low hovering Coast Guard (think Dept of Homeland Security) helicopter from the nearby Coast Guard station, as part of the response. And it stayed there for quite a while. The children enjoyed this perhaps more than the aborted show. But for adults it raises questions – are we devoting too many resources to a remote threat? There has been no follow-up terrorist attack in a country of 300 million over a time (six years) in which more than 100,000 Americans have been murdered and more than 200,000 have died in traffic accidents. One wonders how much the public appreciates the relative magnitude of the threat posed by everyday activities as compared to terrorism?

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  209. anon says:

    9/11 Truth

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  210. anon says:

    9/11 Truth

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  211. harmon says:

    Seems like there are plenty of terrorist acts in Iraq. Could be that they think that terrorism in Iraq is more important that terrorism in the USA. My guess is that terrorist acts in the USA would be aimed toward symbolism, whereas terrorist acts in Iraq are aimed at removing the infidel. If you are a religious fanatic Moslem, it seems that you deal with the problem that is close to home. These guys aren’t deep thinkers…

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  212. harmon says:

    Seems like there are plenty of terrorist acts in Iraq. Could be that they think that terrorism in Iraq is more important that terrorism in the USA. My guess is that terrorist acts in the USA would be aimed toward symbolism, whereas terrorist acts in Iraq are aimed at removing the infidel. If you are a religious fanatic Moslem, it seems that you deal with the problem that is close to home. These guys aren’t deep thinkers…

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  213. Brian in NC says:

    On the idea that we have over-reacted, or wrongly reacted to the terrorist threat: it’s well documented and well argued (IMHO) in “Overblown” by John Mueller (Free Press, 2006). Check it out of your library, at least.

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  214. Brian in NC says:

    On the idea that we have over-reacted, or wrongly reacted to the terrorist threat: it’s well documented and well argued (IMHO) in “Overblown” by John Mueller (Free Press, 2006). Check it out of your library, at least.

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  215. Bruce H says:

    That was a nice read.

    I wonder, where are these people who seem to think you’re a moron, anyway? Seems to me that, judging by the responses to your article, you have a lot of NYT online-reading admirers. You might not want to get too comfortable with that, however, if the intent is provocation. I challenge you to ruffle some liberal feathers, not just the plumage of the religious right!

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  216. Bruce H says:

    That was a nice read.

    I wonder, where are these people who seem to think you’re a moron, anyway? Seems to me that, judging by the responses to your article, you have a lot of NYT online-reading admirers. You might not want to get too comfortable with that, however, if the intent is provocation. I challenge you to ruffle some liberal feathers, not just the plumage of the religious right!

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  217. Issai Chizen says:

    Ron Susskind writes in The One Percent Solution about terror actions that were ready to go operational and were canceled at the last moment on orders from Al-Qaeda. The reason? They didn’t want to undermine the Bush government. Their worst fear is a US president who will withhdraw from Iraq and shift the focus to areas where actual terrorists live and train. I would anticipate an attack next year if it looks like a moderate anti-interventionist is winning the race for the White House. George Bush and Dick Cheney are perfect for them, and they would most likely prefer the next president to be as similar as possible. Al-Qaeda wants the US belligerent and aggressive, acting exactly as they say we do. Like now.

    Israel has proven that terror can never be defeated by force or repression. In the long run, the only way to defeat terrorists is to take away their issues. A solution for Palestinians, one that is truly just in their own eyes, is the only way to begin winning the war on terror. Anything else is living in denial.

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  218. Issai Chizen says:

    Ron Susskind writes in The One Percent Solution about terror actions that were ready to go operational and were canceled at the last moment on orders from Al-Qaeda. The reason? They didn’t want to undermine the Bush government. Their worst fear is a US president who will withhdraw from Iraq and shift the focus to areas where actual terrorists live and train. I would anticipate an attack next year if it looks like a moderate anti-interventionist is winning the race for the White House. George Bush and Dick Cheney are perfect for them, and they would most likely prefer the next president to be as similar as possible. Al-Qaeda wants the US belligerent and aggressive, acting exactly as they say we do. Like now.

    Israel has proven that terror can never be defeated by force or repression. In the long run, the only way to defeat terrorists is to take away their issues. A solution for Palestinians, one that is truly just in their own eyes, is the only way to begin winning the war on terror. Anything else is living in denial.

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  219. Disappointed... says:

    As a soldier, citizen, and conspiracy theorist… I would like to respond to those that think that terrorists dont subscribe to US Periodicals, watch US television, etc. Do yourselves a favor and Google “Overt Collection”. Perhaps Wiki can clear you up on a few things.

    Furthermore, to those who believe that terrorists are smart and powerful enough to NOT get an advantage out of this…. ever consider the actual REASONS that we’re not fighting a conventional war? They’re obviously not as powerful… but SMART? Is there a Flight school in either of these Middle East countries, student VISAs that are worth the time? Clever perhaps… but only because the media insists on giving them freebies….

    We lost Osama thanks to the media, and great thanks shall go to them as well when our country’s maps look similar to Iraq’s, ie that little word “Ruins” under the names of 75% of the cities.

    People like you make our Presidnets job even harder, yet you tuen around and say that he’s not doing well. One thing’s for sure: something IS more of a threat than terrorism to America…. the American Media…

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  220. Disappointed... says:

    As a soldier, citizen, and conspiracy theorist… I would like to respond to those that think that terrorists dont subscribe to US Periodicals, watch US television, etc. Do yourselves a favor and Google “Overt Collection”. Perhaps Wiki can clear you up on a few things.

    Furthermore, to those who believe that terrorists are smart and powerful enough to NOT get an advantage out of this…. ever consider the actual REASONS that we’re not fighting a conventional war? They’re obviously not as powerful… but SMART? Is there a Flight school in either of these Middle East countries, student VISAs that are worth the time? Clever perhaps… but only because the media insists on giving them freebies….

    We lost Osama thanks to the media, and great thanks shall go to them as well when our country’s maps look similar to Iraq’s, ie that little word “Ruins” under the names of 75% of the cities.

    People like you make our Presidnets job even harder, yet you tuen around and say that he’s not doing well. One thing’s for sure: something IS more of a threat than terrorism to America…. the American Media…

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  221. mike orkin says:

    Wow! I can’t believe that I’m reading this great stuff in the stodgy N.Y. times. Keep it up, freaksters!!!

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  222. mike orkin says:

    Wow! I can’t believe that I’m reading this great stuff in the stodgy N.Y. times. Keep it up, freaksters!!!

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  223. Purple Fury says:

    #107: No, his hypothesis does not have merit. It collapses utterly under even casual scrutiny. Al Qaeda is not interested in low-grade terror attacks. The reason there has not been another attack after 9/11 is not because the risk is low, but because AQ is not interested in a mall shooting here, and a car bomb there. Because — as the author acknowledges — cultures get used to that. They are after much bigger stakes.

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  224. Purple Fury says:

    #107: No, his hypothesis does not have merit. It collapses utterly under even casual scrutiny. Al Qaeda is not interested in low-grade terror attacks. The reason there has not been another attack after 9/11 is not because the risk is low, but because AQ is not interested in a mall shooting here, and a car bomb there. Because — as the author acknowledges — cultures get used to that. They are after much bigger stakes.

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  225. Derek says:

    Mr. Levitt,

    As a student of International Relations, specifically International Political Economy at a major US university, I have held this view for some time. It is still not easy to say in this country; however, I do hope that our rational approach to this issue will eventually take precedence over the emotional appeals currently at the forefront of political rhetoric. Perhaps you could address in a future article the possible effectiveness and drawbacks of fighting terrorism by spending drastically less on it?

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  226. Derek says:

    Mr. Levitt,

    As a student of International Relations, specifically International Political Economy at a major US university, I have held this view for some time. It is still not easy to say in this country; however, I do hope that our rational approach to this issue will eventually take precedence over the emotional appeals currently at the forefront of political rhetoric. Perhaps you could address in a future article the possible effectiveness and drawbacks of fighting terrorism by spending drastically less on it?

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  227. Jonathan says:

    I am really glad we are having this conversation, and that reason is prevailing (at least on this blog) over so much nonsense.

    The bottom line is that, if someone really wanted to attack they would. There is no complete security it is just an unattainable illusion. There’s little we can do except some of the obvious things already mentioned. Like Steve said, we will just have to deal with it like so many other countries in the world already have. Life goes on.

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  228. Jonathan says:

    I am really glad we are having this conversation, and that reason is prevailing (at least on this blog) over so much nonsense.

    The bottom line is that, if someone really wanted to attack they would. There is no complete security it is just an unattainable illusion. There’s little we can do except some of the obvious things already mentioned. Like Steve said, we will just have to deal with it like so many other countries in the world already have. Life goes on.

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  229. Josh Millard says:

    Crap, Al Qaeda has figured out the whole anonymous drive-by internet sloganeering thing.

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  230. Josh Millard says:

    Crap, Al Qaeda has figured out the whole anonymous drive-by internet sloganeering thing.

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  231. Brian Niemeyer says:

    Considering the liklihood that terrorists have limited resources, and that the US government has chosen to send around 150,000 young people-our future-into those same terrorists part of the planet, they might have decided that coming back to the US is less cost-effective.

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  232. Brian Niemeyer says:

    Considering the liklihood that terrorists have limited resources, and that the US government has chosen to send around 150,000 young people-our future-into those same terrorists part of the planet, they might have decided that coming back to the US is less cost-effective.

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  233. bb says:

    I live in an area where I am in constant fear of an attack. I don’t live in New York, Chicago, Detroit, LA, Orlando….I live in West Virginia…

    Within 25 mile radius of my house we have the water supply to DC, electric supply to DC and northern VA and a ballistics lab…

    I do fear of some kind of attack near my town. If terrorists would bomb a HUGE dam near my house, they could kill well above 15,000 people….

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  234. bb says:

    I live in an area where I am in constant fear of an attack. I don’t live in New York, Chicago, Detroit, LA, Orlando….I live in West Virginia…

    Within 25 mile radius of my house we have the water supply to DC, electric supply to DC and northern VA and a ballistics lab…

    I do fear of some kind of attack near my town. If terrorists would bomb a HUGE dam near my house, they could kill well above 15,000 people….

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  235. Keith Terrance says:

    Keep up the good work.

    Look at the damage caused to America by “patriotic” journalists and “patriotic politicians” who “patriotically” failed to go question “patriotic” public opinion back when that “patriotic” public opinion supported invading Iraq because “Iraq had WMDs”. (Albiet because that patriotic public had been lied to by the executive branch of their government.)

    Spreading unquestioning patriotism and xenophobia is perhaps the best and fastest way to destroy a superpower.

    The only way to advance knowledge is ask questions that go against “accepted belief” and “accepted knowledge”.

    Learning to question accepted beliefs and authority figures is the key to growth in intelligence, knowledge, honest, integrity, and yes, national security too.

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  236. Keith Terrance says:

    Keep up the good work.

    Look at the damage caused to America by “patriotic” journalists and “patriotic politicians” who “patriotically” failed to go question “patriotic” public opinion back when that “patriotic” public opinion supported invading Iraq because “Iraq had WMDs”. (Albiet because that patriotic public had been lied to by the executive branch of their government.)

    Spreading unquestioning patriotism and xenophobia is perhaps the best and fastest way to destroy a superpower.

    The only way to advance knowledge is ask questions that go against “accepted belief” and “accepted knowledge”.

    Learning to question accepted beliefs and authority figures is the key to growth in intelligence, knowledge, honest, integrity, and yes, national security too.

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  237. Aditya says:

    for the actual reasons why ‘they’ hate us, read Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA bin Laden unit. Then read Blowback by Chalmers Johnson. Then you will see why claims like ‘they hate us for our freedoms’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ are red herrings, distracting from their main grievances; our military/political/financial actions in the middle east.

    Oh yeah, by the way there is no war on terror, at least according to Newt–
    http://harpers.org/archive/2007/08/hbc-90000784

    regards,

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  238. Aditya says:

    for the actual reasons why ‘they’ hate us, read Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA bin Laden unit. Then read Blowback by Chalmers Johnson. Then you will see why claims like ‘they hate us for our freedoms’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ are red herrings, distracting from their main grievances; our military/political/financial actions in the middle east.

    Oh yeah, by the way there is no war on terror, at least according to Newt–
    http://harpers.org/archive/2007/08/hbc-90000784

    regards,

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  239. Manish says:

    Prof. Levitt,

    Personally, I think that there is nothing wrong (and a lot good) about this kind of a discussion.

    I would like to point out thought that it is fairly obvious that some folks would be disturbed by a discussion of the nature of your previous . While it doesn’t qualify as serious enough to make one a “moron”, I think that if you had thought about it, you could have put in a para or 2 in your original post along the lines of this post — basically explaining why the topic was needed.

    As a modern day economist, you surely understand that people aren’t perfectly rational. :)

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  240. Manish says:

    Prof. Levitt,

    Personally, I think that there is nothing wrong (and a lot good) about this kind of a discussion.

    I would like to point out thought that it is fairly obvious that some folks would be disturbed by a discussion of the nature of your previous . While it doesn’t qualify as serious enough to make one a “moron”, I think that if you had thought about it, you could have put in a para or 2 in your original post along the lines of this post — basically explaining why the topic was needed.

    As a modern day economist, you surely understand that people aren’t perfectly rational. :)

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  241. Daniel Garfield says:

    I think that the author’s might not have a clear understanding of the political objectives of Al Qaeda.

    It is more realistic to consider it a large scale propaganda organization with the primary aim of making Muslims become distrustful (if not outright hateful)of the United States, Israel, and Western Europe.

    They do provide support to insurgents and terrorists who attack U.S. soldiers in Muslim countries. But their acts of international terrorism are very different. They think big. They only attack symbolic targets in extremely visible locations. Merely killing people isn’t enough, they don’t believe that individual lives are worth very much. Merely causing fear amongst the general population of the U.S. isn’t enough, they don’t especially care about the psychological welfare of americans.

    They are a political group and their activities can only be understood in that context. They want to influence U.S. government policy, to foment war between the West and the Muslim world (which they believe is good for their cause despite the carnage). They want to inspire angry Muslims to fight on their behalf. These goals can only be achieved by large scale terrorism that can be used as a source of propaganda. Highway shootings and tainted groceries doesn’t achieve any of their goals. They haven’t done it (despite it being easy) because there’s no point. They aren’t irrational or stupid. I can guarantee you that they’ve been spending their time planning their next major large-scale international attack though. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, these kind of things tend to only happen about once every ten years.

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  242. Daniel Garfield says:

    I think that the author’s might not have a clear understanding of the political objectives of Al Qaeda.

    It is more realistic to consider it a large scale propaganda organization with the primary aim of making Muslims become distrustful (if not outright hateful)of the United States, Israel, and Western Europe.

    They do provide support to insurgents and terrorists who attack U.S. soldiers in Muslim countries. But their acts of international terrorism are very different. They think big. They only attack symbolic targets in extremely visible locations. Merely killing people isn’t enough, they don’t believe that individual lives are worth very much. Merely causing fear amongst the general population of the U.S. isn’t enough, they don’t especially care about the psychological welfare of americans.

    They are a political group and their activities can only be understood in that context. They want to influence U.S. government policy, to foment war between the West and the Muslim world (which they believe is good for their cause despite the carnage). They want to inspire angry Muslims to fight on their behalf. These goals can only be achieved by large scale terrorism that can be used as a source of propaganda. Highway shootings and tainted groceries doesn’t achieve any of their goals. They haven’t done it (despite it being easy) because there’s no point. They aren’t irrational or stupid. I can guarantee you that they’ve been spending their time planning their next major large-scale international attack though. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, these kind of things tend to only happen about once every ten years.

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  243. joe collard says:

    I am so glad you write the facts and probabilities about potentially sensitive subjects regardless of popularity. Thanks

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  244. joe collard says:

    I am so glad you write the facts and probabilities about potentially sensitive subjects regardless of popularity. Thanks

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  245. fred says:

    well, it makes sense. if you were a young islamic firebrand would you try and join a planned attack on innocent civilians in the US (dealing with immigration, years of lonely living under cover, the CIA on your doorstep), or would you go to iraq, where you can fight an unpopular occupation, kill soldiers not civilians, and be involved in action every day?

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  246. fred says:

    well, it makes sense. if you were a young islamic firebrand would you try and join a planned attack on innocent civilians in the US (dealing with immigration, years of lonely living under cover, the CIA on your doorstep), or would you go to iraq, where you can fight an unpopular occupation, kill soldiers not civilians, and be involved in action every day?

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  247. Frank Rork says:

    Mapotofu in post no. 40 has a great point. Imagine for a moment that terrorist attacks simply did not enter the media at all. I would think that an effective way to deter potential terrorists is to establish that the acts themselves will go basically unnoticed. The media, in the sense that it promotes awareness of this or that event, is terrorism’s oxygen. Ignorance may indeed be bliss.

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  248. Frank Rork says:

    Mapotofu in post no. 40 has a great point. Imagine for a moment that terrorist attacks simply did not enter the media at all. I would think that an effective way to deter potential terrorists is to establish that the acts themselves will go basically unnoticed. The media, in the sense that it promotes awareness of this or that event, is terrorism’s oxygen. Ignorance may indeed be bliss.

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  249. Jack Spalding says:

    I admire your work on cause and affect. However, I am at a complete loss on your terrorism study. In your attempt to generalize terrorism, are you implying that IRA/UK, PLO/Israeli, Serb/Croat/Muslim terrorism are the same? I disagree on that generaization. Some are political, some are ethnic, some are religious. And although fear is a main component, sometimes the reason for a terrorist act is just to cause confusion and chaos (we don’t hear a lot about this because there are no lives lost.)

    Your point on ‘low grade’ terrorism is also misleading. An attack on an Israeli bus has a much greater consequence than an attack on an American bus. Why? Using your own reasoning, there are fewer Israelis than Americans. As a result, the Iraeli government places MORE value on the possible attack on a bus than Americans.

    You forget also, the experience of Entabbe back in the 70s and Munich have solidified the methods of prevention against terrorism for the Israelis.

    As for the IRA, the Basques, Shining Path etc…..the Dept. of Homeland Security and TSA have no affect on these organization…unless ofcourse they are targeting the US.

    best regards,
    j.spalding

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  250. Jack Spalding says:

    I admire your work on cause and affect. However, I am at a complete loss on your terrorism study. In your attempt to generalize terrorism, are you implying that IRA/UK, PLO/Israeli, Serb/Croat/Muslim terrorism are the same? I disagree on that generaization. Some are political, some are ethnic, some are religious. And although fear is a main component, sometimes the reason for a terrorist act is just to cause confusion and chaos (we don’t hear a lot about this because there are no lives lost.)

    Your point on ‘low grade’ terrorism is also misleading. An attack on an Israeli bus has a much greater consequence than an attack on an American bus. Why? Using your own reasoning, there are fewer Israelis than Americans. As a result, the Iraeli government places MORE value on the possible attack on a bus than Americans.

    You forget also, the experience of Entabbe back in the 70s and Munich have solidified the methods of prevention against terrorism for the Israelis.

    As for the IRA, the Basques, Shining Path etc…..the Dept. of Homeland Security and TSA have no affect on these organization…unless ofcourse they are targeting the US.

    best regards,
    j.spalding

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  251. John Patriot says:

    Here is an idea for a terrorist attack….I would turn the US govt into a bunch of greedy rich ppl that dont care about the country and are more worried about helping out the big corporations that are lining their pockets. i would ensure that they ran our nations credit into the ground, overextended our military to protect a country that is little better than a terrorist nation itself (Isreal), and destroyed every civil right we have as well as all our civil programs…to top it off I would have them led by a guy that is no smarter than a trained chimp….oh wait..nm
    Rob erto: I think i should put that idea on the site

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  252. John Patriot says:

    Here is an idea for a terrorist attack….I would turn the US govt into a bunch of greedy rich ppl that dont care about the country and are more worried about helping out the big corporations that are lining their pockets. i would ensure that they ran our nations credit into the ground, overextended our military to protect a country that is little better than a terrorist nation itself (Isreal), and destroyed every civil right we have as well as all our civil programs…to top it off I would have them led by a guy that is no smarter than a trained chimp….oh wait..nm
    Rob erto: I think i should put that idea on the site

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  253. TAR ART RAT says:

    that post was delightful (especially if you have the luxury of reading it from a removed/objective viewpoint, which many NYers understandably could not)
    anyhow, keep on truckin’.
    ;p

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  254. TAR ART RAT says:

    that post was delightful (especially if you have the luxury of reading it from a removed/objective viewpoint, which many NYers understandably could not)
    anyhow, keep on truckin’.
    ;p

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  255. Suhas says:

    I would like to raise a question (indeed, related) of my own before trying to answer the one inherent in your piece:
    1. There is no reason to believe that the people working in terrorism (as it were) have the capability to do an analysis such as this. I understand that it is likely that they would but it is still probabilistic. In which case, the people calling you a “traitor” might not be entirely wrong- but surely, a better word could be found-for you might aactually be the source of a brand new idea that is aired from a sufficiently significant forum to galanize terrorism.
    2. Now, my guess is that point number 1 is not valid- after all, its just common sense to see that softer targets are available. However, having thought about this earlier (being from India, there are even softer targets very clearly visible), I think that there is a constituency that all terrorists try to appeal to. Now, killing people is in itself a difficult task to get a constituency to align to- add to it, an attack on soft targets and the needed symbolism (attacking WTC/ military targets) to counter the dissonance is gone. Accordingly, I think the constituency would have not liked the attack on Bombay’s Local Train Network or London’s tube as much as September 11.

    Therefore, my guess is that the second point explains why the terrorists so not do it. However, there’s nothing to say that it can not be the first point.

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  256. Suhas says:

    I would like to raise a question (indeed, related) of my own before trying to answer the one inherent in your piece:
    1. There is no reason to believe that the people working in terrorism (as it were) have the capability to do an analysis such as this. I understand that it is likely that they would but it is still probabilistic. In which case, the people calling you a “traitor” might not be entirely wrong- but surely, a better word could be found-for you might aactually be the source of a brand new idea that is aired from a sufficiently significant forum to galanize terrorism.
    2. Now, my guess is that point number 1 is not valid- after all, its just common sense to see that softer targets are available. However, having thought about this earlier (being from India, there are even softer targets very clearly visible), I think that there is a constituency that all terrorists try to appeal to. Now, killing people is in itself a difficult task to get a constituency to align to- add to it, an attack on soft targets and the needed symbolism (attacking WTC/ military targets) to counter the dissonance is gone. Accordingly, I think the constituency would have not liked the attack on Bombay’s Local Train Network or London’s tube as much as September 11.

    Therefore, my guess is that the second point explains why the terrorists so not do it. However, there’s nothing to say that it can not be the first point.

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  257. dave stone says:

    what do you get hate mail for…???
    none of the plots and plans of the the terrorists are particularily sophisticated…our government is the one telling the people about how they make bombs out of fertilizer (nitric acid,I guess)and would demand signing a form when you buy a bag and Bush and his gang tell us their potential military plans…

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  258. dave stone says:

    what do you get hate mail for…???
    none of the plots and plans of the the terrorists are particularily sophisticated…our government is the one telling the people about how they make bombs out of fertilizer (nitric acid,I guess)and would demand signing a form when you buy a bag and Bush and his gang tell us their potential military plans…

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  259. Justin says:

    Terrorism is the fight of our generation. Any politician worth his salt knows that from his gut. German nazism was nothing compared to this Islamic facism. The fact that it is stateless and transnational is just becuase the globalisting forces have created the conditions to make it possible as well as inevetable. We are indeed a global village with a psychopathic nutter amongst us. Iraq does push the momentum away from the terrorists intended objectives and towards ours – a democratic world. It has also been a necessary learning curve for the American military to equip it to prevail against this asymetrical threat. If we had waited longer the threat would grow to overwelming preportions considering the spread of WMD’s. The essential factor is that we have reacted sooner not later. Been proactive not reactive. Globalisation has created unpredictability in everything and these are the only qualities that will help Western values prevail over dictatorship and intollerance. I know there are paradox’s in this, but History really does show these lessons.
    Prof De Mazia

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  260. Justin says:

    Terrorism is the fight of our generation. Any politician worth his salt knows that from his gut. German nazism was nothing compared to this Islamic facism. The fact that it is stateless and transnational is just becuase the globalisting forces have created the conditions to make it possible as well as inevetable. We are indeed a global village with a psychopathic nutter amongst us. Iraq does push the momentum away from the terrorists intended objectives and towards ours – a democratic world. It has also been a necessary learning curve for the American military to equip it to prevail against this asymetrical threat. If we had waited longer the threat would grow to overwelming preportions considering the spread of WMD’s. The essential factor is that we have reacted sooner not later. Been proactive not reactive. Globalisation has created unpredictability in everything and these are the only qualities that will help Western values prevail over dictatorship and intollerance. I know there are paradox’s in this, but History really does show these lessons.
    Prof De Mazia

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  261. -Andy says:

    Dear Steve Levitt:

    I’d like to support the rational approach advocated by
    posters 65, 77, 86, 104 and 107 above.

    There are various cost-benefit analyses of various aspects of
    terrorism that I would like better studied and publicized.
    Your shock-treatment opening NYTimes blog hopefully helps
    create an opening for such discussions.

    First, what is the cost of a terrorist act vs its “benefit”
    (the value of the damage it causes). Some say the US won
    the cold war against the Soviet Union by spending it to death.
    We spent a dollar on a missile and that caused the Soviets
    to spend 25 rubles for a missile. And they couldn’t afford it.
    So the Soviet system collapsed. There are two aspects to
    this question:

    a) Direct consequences. For 9/11 the terrorists spent
    $100K and 19 lives and got, say 3000 deaths and $5 billion
    in damage. Say lives are valued at $2 million. That’s
    $8 billion in damage at a cost of $40 million.
    That’s a 200 to 1 payoff. This would seem like a
    winning strategy for the terrorists. But what if
    you take the financial resources and number of people
    willing and able to be terrorists into account?
    With that scaling it seems like the terrorists
    probably lose in the long run if their numbers are
    as small as they seem.

    b) Indirect consequences. The soviets didn’t have to build
    a missile every time the US did. Similalry the US didn’t
    have to spend a trillion dollars in response to the terrorists
    and cause 3500 US deaths and 10s of thousands of other
    deaths. This “terrorist benefit” seems to be about
    100 times bigger than the Direct effect above, depending
    on the relative value of US lives, foriegn lives, and money.
    That makes the 9/11 payoff to the terrorists about
    20,000 to 1.

    Second, what is the direct cost to our society of terrorist
    attacks. When you (Levitt) say “the risk is small” people
    seem to interpret this as your saying another big attack
    is unlikely. But, let’s say a 9/11 size attack happenned every
    year. How big a cost does that have on our society? Counting
    the attacks as murders, it increases the murder rate by 15%
    or so. Many more people are murdered every year by other
    (presumably preventable) means. And the dollar cost of
    $8 billion is about $25 per person.

    Third, what are the incremental costs and benefits to the
    US of various strategies of preventing terrorism? Its
    hard to see how, even if we stopped one 9/11 every year,
    that its worth the “war on terror” price we have been
    paying. Unless we place a very high value on maintaining
    national pride independent of any direct costs or benefits.

    What if we look at spending money to prevent premature death of
    Americans by all means? How effective are our “war on
    terror” dollars compared to, say, laws to make car and truck
    bumper heights match? Install smoke alarms? etc.

    These arithmetics, cold as they seem, should at least inform
    the national debate about how to spend national resources.
    I hope you pursue them.

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  262. -Andy says:

    Dear Steve Levitt:

    I’d like to support the rational approach advocated by
    posters 65, 77, 86, 104 and 107 above.

    There are various cost-benefit analyses of various aspects of
    terrorism that I would like better studied and publicized.
    Your shock-treatment opening NYTimes blog hopefully helps
    create an opening for such discussions.

    First, what is the cost of a terrorist act vs its “benefit”
    (the value of the damage it causes). Some say the US won
    the cold war against the Soviet Union by spending it to death.
    We spent a dollar on a missile and that caused the Soviets
    to spend 25 rubles for a missile. And they couldn’t afford it.
    So the Soviet system collapsed. There are two aspects to
    this question:

    a) Direct consequences. For 9/11 the terrorists spent
    $100K and 19 lives and got, say 3000 deaths and $5 billion
    in damage. Say lives are valued at $2 million. That’s
    $8 billion in damage at a cost of $40 million.
    That’s a 200 to 1 payoff. This would seem like a
    winning strategy for the terrorists. But what if
    you take the financial resources and number of people
    willing and able to be terrorists into account?
    With that scaling it seems like the terrorists
    probably lose in the long run if their numbers are
    as small as they seem.

    b) Indirect consequences. The soviets didn’t have to build
    a missile every time the US did. Similalry the US didn’t
    have to spend a trillion dollars in response to the terrorists
    and cause 3500 US deaths and 10s of thousands of other
    deaths. This “terrorist benefit” seems to be about
    100 times bigger than the Direct effect above, depending
    on the relative value of US lives, foriegn lives, and money.
    That makes the 9/11 payoff to the terrorists about
    20,000 to 1.

    Second, what is the direct cost to our society of terrorist
    attacks. When you (Levitt) say “the risk is small” people
    seem to interpret this as your saying another big attack
    is unlikely. But, let’s say a 9/11 size attack happenned every
    year. How big a cost does that have on our society? Counting
    the attacks as murders, it increases the murder rate by 15%
    or so. Many more people are murdered every year by other
    (presumably preventable) means. And the dollar cost of
    $8 billion is about $25 per person.

    Third, what are the incremental costs and benefits to the
    US of various strategies of preventing terrorism? Its
    hard to see how, even if we stopped one 9/11 every year,
    that its worth the “war on terror” price we have been
    paying. Unless we place a very high value on maintaining
    national pride independent of any direct costs or benefits.

    What if we look at spending money to prevent premature death of
    Americans by all means? How effective are our “war on
    terror” dollars compared to, say, laws to make car and truck
    bumper heights match? Install smoke alarms? etc.

    These arithmetics, cold as they seem, should at least inform
    the national debate about how to spend national resources.
    I hope you pursue them.

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  263. Gina Brown says:

    I just caught the news about ‘If you were a terrorist, how would you attack the U.S.?’ on CNN’s Headline news and I guess this has inflamed some people, but the question really needs to be adressed, like it or not, and I really wanted to add my 2 cents!

    It’s curious that the U.K. has been attacked several times, Isreal has always been attacked and other European countries have had terrorist/Al-Qaeda linked terrorist attacks, Spain is the only one I can think of at the moment though…

    Why haven’t we been attacked again? It would be pretty easy I think. I’m scared they’ll start loading cars with as many containers full of flammable liquids, probably gasoline or kerosene I would think, and start crashing them into gas stations. That would seriously mess things up! That’s just one thing I could think of, that I’d watch for, at least for now…we’re not secure, other then the fact that they’re probably scared of us on our own soil! All I have to say about that is they’d better be!

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  264. Gina Brown says:

    I just caught the news about ‘If you were a terrorist, how would you attack the U.S.?’ on CNN’s Headline news and I guess this has inflamed some people, but the question really needs to be adressed, like it or not, and I really wanted to add my 2 cents!

    It’s curious that the U.K. has been attacked several times, Isreal has always been attacked and other European countries have had terrorist/Al-Qaeda linked terrorist attacks, Spain is the only one I can think of at the moment though…

    Why haven’t we been attacked again? It would be pretty easy I think. I’m scared they’ll start loading cars with as many containers full of flammable liquids, probably gasoline or kerosene I would think, and start crashing them into gas stations. That would seriously mess things up! That’s just one thing I could think of, that I’d watch for, at least for now…we’re not secure, other then the fact that they’re probably scared of us on our own soil! All I have to say about that is they’d better be!

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  265. Jay says:

    You are worse than a traitor or a moron, you’re extremely boring. These warmed-over tidbits of wisdom have all been said many times before.

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  266. Jay says:

    You are worse than a traitor or a moron, you’re extremely boring. These warmed-over tidbits of wisdom have all been said many times before.

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  267. Andrew Ian Dodge says:

    When I read your original piece I could not really understand what the fuss was about. It is not like other blogs have not had the same discussion since 9/11. I think many people have sat around considering what they would hit next.

    Those attacking you, sometimes viciously like the dolt above named Harriman, are ones who do not even like to contemplate a new attack. In order to prevent another succeeding we need to constantly examine our weaknesses and make sure people know what they are. Information is the key in any war and the more of it we have the better.

    Lateral thinking on this subject is an asset to security not a detriment to it. Its a shame some people are too bloody minded to realise that and need to resort to personal attacks to express their opinion.

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  268. Andrew Ian Dodge says:

    When I read your original piece I could not really understand what the fuss was about. It is not like other blogs have not had the same discussion since 9/11. I think many people have sat around considering what they would hit next.

    Those attacking you, sometimes viciously like the dolt above named Harriman, are ones who do not even like to contemplate a new attack. In order to prevent another succeeding we need to constantly examine our weaknesses and make sure people know what they are. Information is the key in any war and the more of it we have the better.

    Lateral thinking on this subject is an asset to security not a detriment to it. Its a shame some people are too bloody minded to realise that and need to resort to personal attacks to express their opinion.

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  269. Bill p says:

    Nice column. Imagine someone actually discussing Terrorism, exactly what is terrorism?, or should I say terrorist acts in a clear, lucid and unemotional manner. By the way, if anyone can give me a definition of terroism as an ideology, I’d love to hear it.
    I believe that you touched on the truth about terrorists. Terrorists like politics is all local. Terrorists have a political adgenda and it makes little sense to express yourself about South American trade issues in a speech to the Chinese. It isn’t relevant from the Asian viewpoint.

    Stopping terroist acts requires a two pronged approach. Overseas you need a solid and effect feet on the ground INTELLIGENCE presence. In other words you need lots of CIA employees looking for people who would like to do something violent to this country. The bombings of the Cole and the embassies highlight how poor our foreign intelligence capabilities were in the late 90s. I am not at all sure they are better today, but we hope they are. The second led is solid INS or ICE as it is now called, work. The INS/ICE need to work with FBI and LOCAL POLICE to identify and track people who come here to cause mischief or who are citizens who want to make a political statement with a bomb or a gun. I am not sure taking my shoes off at an airport does either of those things, but what can you do?

    Iraq is a waste of resources, men/women – material – money – military equipment and political energy. It accomplishes nothing but giving people who oppose the repressive regimes we support, and in some cases prop up with our military. If you were riding a hourse and a burr got under the saddle what would you do? I know, remove the horse shoes? Cut off the tail and the mane? Pull on the reins harder, put blinders on the horse? Or would you remove the burr? The same prinicpal applies to terroists. Remove the reason they are angry and you remove the reason for them to use violence to attain their local political goals.

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  270. Bill p says:

    Nice column. Imagine someone actually discussing Terrorism, exactly what is terrorism?, or should I say terrorist acts in a clear, lucid and unemotional manner. By the way, if anyone can give me a definition of terroism as an ideology, I’d love to hear it.
    I believe that you touched on the truth about terrorists. Terrorists like politics is all local. Terrorists have a political adgenda and it makes little sense to express yourself about South American trade issues in a speech to the Chinese. It isn’t relevant from the Asian viewpoint.

    Stopping terroist acts requires a two pronged approach. Overseas you need a solid and effect feet on the ground INTELLIGENCE presence. In other words you need lots of CIA employees looking for people who would like to do something violent to this country. The bombings of the Cole and the embassies highlight how poor our foreign intelligence capabilities were in the late 90s. I am not at all sure they are better today, but we hope they are. The second led is solid INS or ICE as it is now called, work. The INS/ICE need to work with FBI and LOCAL POLICE to identify and track people who come here to cause mischief or who are citizens who want to make a political statement with a bomb or a gun. I am not sure taking my shoes off at an airport does either of those things, but what can you do?

    Iraq is a waste of resources, men/women – material – money – military equipment and political energy. It accomplishes nothing but giving people who oppose the repressive regimes we support, and in some cases prop up with our military. If you were riding a hourse and a burr got under the saddle what would you do? I know, remove the horse shoes? Cut off the tail and the mane? Pull on the reins harder, put blinders on the horse? Or would you remove the burr? The same prinicpal applies to terroists. Remove the reason they are angry and you remove the reason for them to use violence to attain their local political goals.

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  271. ewkpates says:

    1. Terrorists have demonstrated their lack of imagination, critical problem solving skills, and education in many ways: past plots, their assessments of outcomes of successful plots, and their current terrorist activities.

    We need look no farther than their public and private education systems for the main culprit.

    2. I am beginning to resent even calling them terrorists. Their agenda is too amorphous; their political vision too obviously unrealistic given the political lessons to be learned from the current crop of Muslim countries; and their progress toward their goals too much of the one step forward two steps back variety… they really are just criminals. International criminals to be sure, but criminals nonetheless. Their “acts of terrorism” are much more like gang warfare than they are like political statements.

    3. Muslims aren’t any different than Christians and Jews. Most would like healthy kids, good jobs, and nice houses. Oh, and the rule of law. We’ve got to do a better job at reducing violent crime around the world if we want to feel safer, that’s all there is to it.

    It wouldn’t hurt to decriminalize non-violent crime to the greatest extent possible, either. That’s where criminals get their operational funding. That’s what stretches law enforcements resources to the breaking point. Plus, white collar crime doesn’t appear to scare anyone.

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  272. ewkpates says:

    1. Terrorists have demonstrated their lack of imagination, critical problem solving skills, and education in many ways: past plots, their assessments of outcomes of successful plots, and their current terrorist activities.

    We need look no farther than their public and private education systems for the main culprit.

    2. I am beginning to resent even calling them terrorists. Their agenda is too amorphous; their political vision too obviously unrealistic given the political lessons to be learned from the current crop of Muslim countries; and their progress toward their goals too much of the one step forward two steps back variety… they really are just criminals. International criminals to be sure, but criminals nonetheless. Their “acts of terrorism” are much more like gang warfare than they are like political statements.

    3. Muslims aren’t any different than Christians and Jews. Most would like healthy kids, good jobs, and nice houses. Oh, and the rule of law. We’ve got to do a better job at reducing violent crime around the world if we want to feel safer, that’s all there is to it.

    It wouldn’t hurt to decriminalize non-violent crime to the greatest extent possible, either. That’s where criminals get their operational funding. That’s what stretches law enforcements resources to the breaking point. Plus, white collar crime doesn’t appear to scare anyone.

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  273. Chad says:

    Here is a simple way to cause tremendous havoc, enormous property damage, and probably kill a fair number to boot:

    Gasoline, matches, and the America west.

    Any idiot could fashion a simple timer device to start a fire, hike one a few hundred yards into a national or state forest in the very dry west, and merrily be on his way when his little firebomb went off.

    I generally agree with Levitt. There just can’t be that many people trying to do such obscene things.

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  274. Chad says:

    Here is a simple way to cause tremendous havoc, enormous property damage, and probably kill a fair number to boot:

    Gasoline, matches, and the America west.

    Any idiot could fashion a simple timer device to start a fire, hike one a few hundred yards into a national or state forest in the very dry west, and merrily be on his way when his little firebomb went off.

    I generally agree with Levitt. There just can’t be that many people trying to do such obscene things.

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  275. Todd says:

    Any group of individuals with a high school education (or perhaps a lot of violent video game exposure) could sit down for 20 minutes and come up with a list of horrific things that could be done to this country that would inflict the maximum amount of terror. Of course the “terrorists” in the world have done this. Clearly the reason that these things have not happened has nothing to do with the competence or effectiveness of the current administration. The fact is that the threat is no where near as great at the selling of the FEAR of terror would lead you to believe. “since 9/11 we haven’t been attacked on American soil” is a common chorus from our current administration to show everyone what a great job they are doing. Well, how many times had we been attacked BEFORE 9/11 on American Soil? 9/11 simply created the opportunity to perpetuate fear. The selling of FEAR has sold and funded a war, kept a thoroughly incompetent president in office for a second term, and completely pacified Congress to the point where they are afraid to fight back against the lies and distortions being propagated to the people. But, the root cause of this problem is that there are too many people in this country who ignore the facts and willingly internalize the spin!!!

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  276. Todd says:

    Any group of individuals with a high school education (or perhaps a lot of violent video game exposure) could sit down for 20 minutes and come up with a list of horrific things that could be done to this country that would inflict the maximum amount of terror. Of course the “terrorists” in the world have done this. Clearly the reason that these things have not happened has nothing to do with the competence or effectiveness of the current administration. The fact is that the threat is no where near as great at the selling of the FEAR of terror would lead you to believe. “since 9/11 we haven’t been attacked on American soil” is a common chorus from our current administration to show everyone what a great job they are doing. Well, how many times had we been attacked BEFORE 9/11 on American Soil? 9/11 simply created the opportunity to perpetuate fear. The selling of FEAR has sold and funded a war, kept a thoroughly incompetent president in office for a second term, and completely pacified Congress to the point where they are afraid to fight back against the lies and distortions being propagated to the people. But, the root cause of this problem is that there are too many people in this country who ignore the facts and willingly internalize the spin!!!

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  277. Marc says:

    One element missing from the puzzle is what the “terrorists” want. In Israel and in Ireland it was pretty clear, they wanted the Jews, and either the Catholics or the Protestants (British) out. That may be true in Iraq too.

    But it is less clear to us what the purpose of a terrorist attack in the U.S. would be. Perhaps protest (Timothy McVeigh), demonstration of possibility (WTC I), showing they can do it (WTCII). I don’t think that most terrorist attacks are done just to kill people for the sake of killing.

    Part of the “terror” seems to be that we don’t really know why this is happening to us, which creates a lot of fear, and fear leads us to allow for draconian measures to make us “safe”.

    Such fear is easy pickings for demagogues.

    Marc

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  278. Marc says:

    One element missing from the puzzle is what the “terrorists” want. In Israel and in Ireland it was pretty clear, they wanted the Jews, and either the Catholics or the Protestants (British) out. That may be true in Iraq too.

    But it is less clear to us what the purpose of a terrorist attack in the U.S. would be. Perhaps protest (Timothy McVeigh), demonstration of possibility (WTC I), showing they can do it (WTCII). I don’t think that most terrorist attacks are done just to kill people for the sake of killing.

    Part of the “terror” seems to be that we don’t really know why this is happening to us, which creates a lot of fear, and fear leads us to allow for draconian measures to make us “safe”.

    Such fear is easy pickings for demagogues.

    Marc

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  279. Alexander Boldizar says:

    Why would the terrorists need another attack? They’ve already succeeded.

    http://www.boldizar.com

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  280. Alexander Boldizar says:

    Why would the terrorists need another attack? They’ve already succeeded.

    http://www.boldizar.com

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  281. Grant says:

    Reading all this is a mix of being irritated and depressed. Nothing here changes the world for the better. While it is risible that some posters blame the media, the Koran, or Bush, the whole gaggle of posts reads like everyone’s idle chatter to keep the grim reaper at bay – very different than helping the country in practical ways. Marx was right here – too many seem content to interpret the world rather than change it. Kudos to those of you who offered solutions instead of just projected feelings.

    I think the original post was not so much dumb as incomplete. What’s the point of such imagining if not to propose solutions to the most likely scenarios? Concealed weapons is NOT a great solution as anyone who looks at death certificates knows – almost all people killed by guns know the shooter. Killing innocent people in the middle east is not a solution either.

    My solution? Polya had it right in math 50 years ago. First you have to get the problem statement right. You have to define the problem. What is clear in these postings is that everyone has a solution but not much of a problem statement that can be justified.

    FACT: we do not know if a big attack is in the works
    FACT: America’s standing in the world has plummeted in opinion polls
    FACT: the US government has (as it always does – cf. japanese intenemnt) overreacted and violated civil rights
    FACT: The military leadership ignored tons of evidence and reports from Dept of State and other agencies that led us into the current quagmire
    FACT: the President has scared and intimidated Americans with such talk as fight them there so we do not fight them here.

    Conclusion that I draw about the problem statement: the problem statement has changed since 9/11. We do not know what will happen next; vigilance is required – but without damaging what is core American values. The recent article in the NYT may offer the best problem statement of all: do not treat these people as combatants but dangerous criminals. And then work feverishly to improve our standing in the world.

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  282. Grant says:

    Reading all this is a mix of being irritated and depressed. Nothing here changes the world for the better. While it is risible that some posters blame the media, the Koran, or Bush, the whole gaggle of posts reads like everyone’s idle chatter to keep the grim reaper at bay – very different than helping the country in practical ways. Marx was right here – too many seem content to interpret the world rather than change it. Kudos to those of you who offered solutions instead of just projected feelings.

    I think the original post was not so much dumb as incomplete. What’s the point of such imagining if not to propose solutions to the most likely scenarios? Concealed weapons is NOT a great solution as anyone who looks at death certificates knows – almost all people killed by guns know the shooter. Killing innocent people in the middle east is not a solution either.

    My solution? Polya had it right in math 50 years ago. First you have to get the problem statement right. You have to define the problem. What is clear in these postings is that everyone has a solution but not much of a problem statement that can be justified.

    FACT: we do not know if a big attack is in the works
    FACT: America’s standing in the world has plummeted in opinion polls
    FACT: the US government has (as it always does – cf. japanese intenemnt) overreacted and violated civil rights
    FACT: The military leadership ignored tons of evidence and reports from Dept of State and other agencies that led us into the current quagmire
    FACT: the President has scared and intimidated Americans with such talk as fight them there so we do not fight them here.

    Conclusion that I draw about the problem statement: the problem statement has changed since 9/11. We do not know what will happen next; vigilance is required – but without damaging what is core American values. The recent article in the NYT may offer the best problem statement of all: do not treat these people as combatants but dangerous criminals. And then work feverishly to improve our standing in the world.

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  283. Andrew Buonocore says:

    There is an issue here between someone who thinks freely and clearly and someone who allows other sources to do their thinking for them.

    Let me level here, I am not American. I am a European who travels by air twice a week and see first hand the lunacy of current Security policy when it comes to air travel.

    We are subjected to limits on liquids being carried on board, shoes being checked, anyone who dares ask airport security staff to slow or calm down is treated as a terror suspect.

    The issue is that Governments only deal with threats that have just taken place, never thinking about what what else may come.

    ONE person tried to blow up a plane with a pair of shoes. Have explosives been found in any sandals since? Of course not, because the terrorist know that particular game is up, yet still we have to remove our shoes.

    Terrorists in the UK were at one point BELIEVED to be plotting the use of liquid explosives but have any ever been found during security checks? Of course not.

    The politicians seem to believe that the next step the terrorists will take is a repeat of one they just tried, but when someone says “if I were a terrorist, I would probably target (whatever)” then they are treated with only marginally less hysteria than someone who was actually plotting such an atrocity.

    More mental effort should be spent on guessing the next threat we face, not overreacting to the last one.

    Worry less about coming up with the next restriction on air travel and think about the influence that is growing among the oil producing nations. One cushion that America enjoys is that if the price of oil went up by 5%, then chances are that the price at the pump will rise by the same percentage.

    Should enough heat be put under the argument to denominate the price of oil in Euros (for example) then you are faced not only with the price increase that comes from the increase in the cost of oil, but also the increase from the decline in value of the dollar.

    If that happens, criticising someone for thinking freely won’t seem so important, the only way would be down.

    http://andrewbuonocore.com

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  284. Andrew Buonocore says:

    There is an issue here between someone who thinks freely and clearly and someone who allows other sources to do their thinking for them.

    Let me level here, I am not American. I am a European who travels by air twice a week and see first hand the lunacy of current Security policy when it comes to air travel.

    We are subjected to limits on liquids being carried on board, shoes being checked, anyone who dares ask airport security staff to slow or calm down is treated as a terror suspect.

    The issue is that Governments only deal with threats that have just taken place, never thinking about what what else may come.

    ONE person tried to blow up a plane with a pair of shoes. Have explosives been found in any sandals since? Of course not, because the terrorist know that particular game is up, yet still we have to remove our shoes.

    Terrorists in the UK were at one point BELIEVED to be plotting the use of liquid explosives but have any ever been found during security checks? Of course not.

    The politicians seem to believe that the next step the terrorists will take is a repeat of one they just tried, but when someone says “if I were a terrorist, I would probably target (whatever)” then they are treated with only marginally less hysteria than someone who was actually plotting such an atrocity.

    More mental effort should be spent on guessing the next threat we face, not overreacting to the last one.

    Worry less about coming up with the next restriction on air travel and think about the influence that is growing among the oil producing nations. One cushion that America enjoys is that if the price of oil went up by 5%, then chances are that the price at the pump will rise by the same percentage.

    Should enough heat be put under the argument to denominate the price of oil in Euros (for example) then you are faced not only with the price increase that comes from the increase in the cost of oil, but also the increase from the decline in value of the dollar.

    If that happens, criticising someone for thinking freely won’t seem so important, the only way would be down.

    http://andrewbuonocore.com

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  285. Colin, London, UK says:

    The voice of reason.

    In the UK there has been a strong debate about the potential for erosion, by anti-terrorist surveillance and other measures, of the civil liberties we want to protect. To what extent can protect ourselves through these measures without moving towards the kind of oppression that we abhor so much in the philosophies if the Islamists?

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  286. Colin, London, UK says:

    The voice of reason.

    In the UK there has been a strong debate about the potential for erosion, by anti-terrorist surveillance and other measures, of the civil liberties we want to protect. To what extent can protect ourselves through these measures without moving towards the kind of oppression that we abhor so much in the philosophies if the Islamists?

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  287. G. A. Volb says:

    Steve, in the next month or so I stand a very good chance of being smack dab in the middle of the terrorist’s “test range” known as Iraq; given your request for additional insight into their mind set (and future ideas to help spread their particular brand of carnage to the U.S.), I want to offer you an invitation to see their world up close and personal. Once in country, I’m quite sure I could arrange a visit to some of the more dangerous neighborhoods for you, with the very-real possibility of experiencing current terrorist methods. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll put you on my short list of individuals to contact — after arriving — for what will surely be a reality check. Of course, it may be easier for you to talk-to-talk, and not walk-the-walk.

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  288. G. A. Volb says:

    Steve, in the next month or so I stand a very good chance of being smack dab in the middle of the terrorist’s “test range” known as Iraq; given your request for additional insight into their mind set (and future ideas to help spread their particular brand of carnage to the U.S.), I want to offer you an invitation to see their world up close and personal. Once in country, I’m quite sure I could arrange a visit to some of the more dangerous neighborhoods for you, with the very-real possibility of experiencing current terrorist methods. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll put you on my short list of individuals to contact — after arriving — for what will surely be a reality check. Of course, it may be easier for you to talk-to-talk, and not walk-the-walk.

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  289. Ava says:

    I think the amount of hate mail you got simply proves your theory that Americans and humans in gerneral fear the extrodinarily gruesome as opposed to the more likely. Since the statistics show that being hurt or injured in a terror plot is less likly than say your child drowning in a swimming pool. At least in America.

    Back to plots ideas: there is a big concrete structure built by the US Army corps of engineers trying to keep the Mississippi River from redirecting along the Atchafalaya (Details can be found in Control of Nature by John McPhee). Blow up this and an entire community floods, all the businesses and petrochemical plants along the Mississippi have to close and/or relocate. It would cause massive economic problems, provoke fear, etc.

    Oh and this is an extremely unstable structure, authorities are worried about barges accidentally bumping into it….yet it’s not garded… makes you wonder doesn’t it?

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  290. Ava says:

    I think the amount of hate mail you got simply proves your theory that Americans and humans in gerneral fear the extrodinarily gruesome as opposed to the more likely. Since the statistics show that being hurt or injured in a terror plot is less likly than say your child drowning in a swimming pool. At least in America.

    Back to plots ideas: there is a big concrete structure built by the US Army corps of engineers trying to keep the Mississippi River from redirecting along the Atchafalaya (Details can be found in Control of Nature by John McPhee). Blow up this and an entire community floods, all the businesses and petrochemical plants along the Mississippi have to close and/or relocate. It would cause massive economic problems, provoke fear, etc.

    Oh and this is an extremely unstable structure, authorities are worried about barges accidentally bumping into it….yet it’s not garded… makes you wonder doesn’t it?

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  291. A Westerner says:

    We forget one factor in this debate. This is a religious terror. Islam is the only religion that guarantees those who die fighting a place in heaven. The only other way is though suffering and the weight of ones deeds. So murders have a major spiritual benefit to die. Think carefully about this, it’s ALL about how the Muslim dies NOT how we die! Also Islam is all about personal and community pride and loss of face, so little things like the cartoons create major mob actions, while the death of thousands in the Sudan does not even rate a mention. The occupation of a group’s territory has very little to do with anything, like the crusades they are just a smoke screen, the Arab using their knowledge of us and our sense of what’s important against us. Territory disputes are common, remember these countries ONLY came into being after the World Wars, we have seen Iraq claim and fight for ownership of Kuwait and Iran claims Bahrain. In the Arab world all through history the one with the best terror and biggest stick wins, just look at ALL Muslim governments they all have an element of banditry about them. If we would only stop thinking like Liberal Westerns and more like Muslims we would see how important it is to close madrassas, stop building and repairing mosques, we should be killing the Mullahs who preach the destruction of the West, particularly those who claim they are direct descendents to Mohammad. (There a major lot of pride in being related to the man) This may seem harsh, but think Soviet political officer or Gestapo and you see the role of the Mullah, its all ideology and encouragement and they use force if necessary. Just look who leads Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Militias in Iraq they are all Mullahs! We should also financially ruin the Ben Laden family and NOT allow any of his family to live in the West. This is because a lot of pride and control comes through families; underneath it all they are proud of the achievements of little Ben, the religious boy who took the fight to America. They will think differently if it costs dearly in travel restrictions and financially, ruin what the grandfather built and the family would turn on Ben, it’s a given. At the moment we are not affecting the motivation centres of the movement. All Mosques are allowed to continue preaching ideology and recruiting of the willing. Mosques associated with terror organizations and its members should be closed and the building without compensation pulled down. Its important that we use the knowledge of the Arab power base, family structures and pride against them. Then we will win.

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  292. A Westerner says:

    We forget one factor in this debate. This is a religious terror. Islam is the only religion that guarantees those who die fighting a place in heaven. The only other way is though suffering and the weight of ones deeds. So murders have a major spiritual benefit to die. Think carefully about this, it’s ALL about how the Muslim dies NOT how we die! Also Islam is all about personal and community pride and loss of face, so little things like the cartoons create major mob actions, while the death of thousands in the Sudan does not even rate a mention. The occupation of a group’s territory has very little to do with anything, like the crusades they are just a smoke screen, the Arab using their knowledge of us and our sense of what’s important against us. Territory disputes are common, remember these countries ONLY came into being after the World Wars, we have seen Iraq claim and fight for ownership of Kuwait and Iran claims Bahrain. In the Arab world all through history the one with the best terror and biggest stick wins, just look at ALL Muslim governments they all have an element of banditry about them. If we would only stop thinking like Liberal Westerns and more like Muslims we would see how important it is to close madrassas, stop building and repairing mosques, we should be killing the Mullahs who preach the destruction of the West, particularly those who claim they are direct descendents to Mohammad. (There a major lot of pride in being related to the man) This may seem harsh, but think Soviet political officer or Gestapo and you see the role of the Mullah, its all ideology and encouragement and they use force if necessary. Just look who leads Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Militias in Iraq they are all Mullahs! We should also financially ruin the Ben Laden family and NOT allow any of his family to live in the West. This is because a lot of pride and control comes through families; underneath it all they are proud of the achievements of little Ben, the religious boy who took the fight to America. They will think differently if it costs dearly in travel restrictions and financially, ruin what the grandfather built and the family would turn on Ben, it’s a given. At the moment we are not affecting the motivation centres of the movement. All Mosques are allowed to continue preaching ideology and recruiting of the willing. Mosques associated with terror organizations and its members should be closed and the building without compensation pulled down. Its important that we use the knowledge of the Arab power base, family structures and pride against them. Then we will win.

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  293. Steve says:

    Perhaps terrorists have not attacked us simply because they don’t need to at this time. OBL’s strategic goals re: his 9/11 attack were stated in advance:

    1. foment insurecction in Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt

    2.initiate more adherents to Al Qaeda

    3. draw the US into a prolonged protracted war in the Middle East.

    None of these strategic goals were achieved. insurecction in the ME did not occur, some more volunteers were drawn to AQ but very few. In fact there was little celebration in the Muslim world. And the US response in Afghanistan was not going to produce the economic drain and adverse military impact OBL desired.

    Going into Iraq accomplished all of OBL’s strategic goals. Consequently, the need for any attacks in the US at this time are completely unnecessary.

    Al Qaeda’s tactical capacity may be over stated but terrorist entry into the US is hardly an insurmountable task. Open borders, unprotected ports, ineffective immigration procedures make entry easy.

    In fact the dichotomy between Bush’s fear-mongering and his failure to take any effective action to secure these areas of vulnerability raises questions about the degree of ability of the terrorists.

    AQ’s mistake(and they make plenty)may be its penchant for the dramatic and catastrophic attack. As stated the Beltway snipers were a perfect object lesson in paralyzing this country. A lesson that should not have been lost on terrorists and would-be terrorists. Two dummies, a rifle, a handful of ammunition, an old car and a motel room was all that was necessary to paralyze the DC area.

    An area of this country with the most law enforcement presence with federal, state, county and local police augmented by the presence of the military and intelligence communities was stymied by the low tech low profile attack.

    Had they been well trained, highly motivated, highly disciplined terrorists with in country support systems, they’d still be killing people. Magnify this approach with small teams across the country and the economy would crash within the month. No economic engine; no taxes, no taxes; no military, no military; no global influence. Game, set, match.

    As OBL said he will crush the dollar. So far this government has been playing his game.

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  294. Steve says:

    Perhaps terrorists have not attacked us simply because they don’t need to at this time. OBL’s strategic goals re: his 9/11 attack were stated in advance:

    1. foment insurecction in Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt

    2.initiate more adherents to Al Qaeda

    3. draw the US into a prolonged protracted war in the Middle East.

    None of these strategic goals were achieved. insurecction in the ME did not occur, some more volunteers were drawn to AQ but very few. In fact there was little celebration in the Muslim world. And the US response in Afghanistan was not going to produce the economic drain and adverse military impact OBL desired.

    Going into Iraq accomplished all of OBL’s strategic goals. Consequently, the need for any attacks in the US at this time are completely unnecessary.

    Al Qaeda’s tactical capacity may be over stated but terrorist entry into the US is hardly an insurmountable task. Open borders, unprotected ports, ineffective immigration procedures make entry easy.

    In fact the dichotomy between Bush’s fear-mongering and his failure to take any effective action to secure these areas of vulnerability raises questions about the degree of ability of the terrorists.

    AQ’s mistake(and they make plenty)may be its penchant for the dramatic and catastrophic attack. As stated the Beltway snipers were a perfect object lesson in paralyzing this country. A lesson that should not have been lost on terrorists and would-be terrorists. Two dummies, a rifle, a handful of ammunition, an old car and a motel room was all that was necessary to paralyze the DC area.

    An area of this country with the most law enforcement presence with federal, state, county and local police augmented by the presence of the military and intelligence communities was stymied by the low tech low profile attack.

    Had they been well trained, highly motivated, highly disciplined terrorists with in country support systems, they’d still be killing people. Magnify this approach with small teams across the country and the economy would crash within the month. No economic engine; no taxes, no taxes; no military, no military; no global influence. Game, set, match.

    As OBL said he will crush the dollar. So far this government has been playing his game.

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  295. JL says:

    This reflects the writings of an American who was stuck in LA on a UK-Australia flight layover (where the travelers NEVER left the terminal. They were all made to deplane, bringing ALL their carry-on baggage. After hours of paperwork, searches and re-searches, the other travelers, all European, vented on the American, saying “Why don’t you Americans grow up? We’ve been living with this for decades. The IRA, the Basques. You act like you’re the first to deal with CRIMINAL activity”.

    I live in Philly. We’ve had 260 murders this year already. People can’t walk their neighborhoods at night, and in MANY areas, not even during the day.

    Just another form of “terrorism”. The Europeans view it as criminal activity, which it is. There are more threats to the every day lives of Americans that can cause death, violence, lack of health insurance.

    But we let this government frighten us into becoming schoolchildren hiding under our desks, hoping the government can protect us from the boogeyman while the real threats continue to kill us.

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  296. JL says:

    This reflects the writings of an American who was stuck in LA on a UK-Australia flight layover (where the travelers NEVER left the terminal. They were all made to deplane, bringing ALL their carry-on baggage. After hours of paperwork, searches and re-searches, the other travelers, all European, vented on the American, saying “Why don’t you Americans grow up? We’ve been living with this for decades. The IRA, the Basques. You act like you’re the first to deal with CRIMINAL activity”.

    I live in Philly. We’ve had 260 murders this year already. People can’t walk their neighborhoods at night, and in MANY areas, not even during the day.

    Just another form of “terrorism”. The Europeans view it as criminal activity, which it is. There are more threats to the every day lives of Americans that can cause death, violence, lack of health insurance.

    But we let this government frighten us into becoming schoolchildren hiding under our desks, hoping the government can protect us from the boogeyman while the real threats continue to kill us.

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  297. Doug Johnston says:

    You neither a moron or a traitor.

    You’re right.

    The so-called threat from terrorists really isn’t much of a threat.

    If they truly wanted to hit us, there would be car bombs going off in shopping mall parking lots around the U.S. the way they currently do all over Iraq.

    As poster #143 aptly notes–the jihadist followers of Bin Laden don’t need another attack-with the able assistance of the incompetents currently running this country, the terror their attack created in 2001 still terrifies a significant portion of the population.

    The truth of the matter is that John Edwards is right when he says the “Global War on Terror” is a bumpersticker–and is really less about fighting what is really a pretty small threat–and more about marketing a set of products and services–while helping the Republicans stay in control of the country.

    It is equally true that the Republican-staffed and funded Project for the New American Century–several years before the attack of 9/11–set forth the military/strategic agenda that this administration has followed–and noted that in order to get the American public to support the agenda–what would be needed is an event “like Pearl Harbor.”

    Just as some people suspect that FDR used the outrage over Pearl Harbor to move the American public forward against the fascists–I suspect the Bush Administration decided to use 9/11 to move their agenda forward.

    The work of the PNAC isn’t secret–anyone who wants to can Google and find it.

    Real leadership on 9/12 would have told the American people that as sad and as tragic as the attack was the day before–and that we as a people would track down and bring the people responsible for it to justice–the truth of the matter was that the attack demonstrated the real impotence of the terrorists.

    3,000 dead–in a nation of over 300,000,000–is saddening–heartbreaking even.

    But it is no threat to our nation.

    No threat whatsoever.

    And the fact that it took that group nearly decade to mount their second attempt on the World Trade Center, makes two things crystal clear.

    First–that the lack of another attack in country to date should be a of little comfort to those worried about another attack–and really should give pause to those on the right who rush to claim that it validates the terror “fighting” effectiveness of this administration’s trampling of the nation’s Constitution and abandonment of our guiding principals.

    Second–and perhaps more importantly–it suggests that the author of this article has it right–it isn’t really that big a threat.

    Truth of the matter is, there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that more Americans are dying on a daily basis because private, for-profit health insurers are refusing to pay claims, approve procedures or continue offering health insurance to people who need it.

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  298. Doug Johnston says:

    You neither a moron or a traitor.

    You’re right.

    The so-called threat from terrorists really isn’t much of a threat.

    If they truly wanted to hit us, there would be car bombs going off in shopping mall parking lots around the U.S. the way they currently do all over Iraq.

    As poster #143 aptly notes–the jihadist followers of Bin Laden don’t need another attack-with the able assistance of the incompetents currently running this country, the terror their attack created in 2001 still terrifies a significant portion of the population.

    The truth of the matter is that John Edwards is right when he says the “Global War on Terror” is a bumpersticker–and is really less about fighting what is really a pretty small threat–and more about marketing a set of products and services–while helping the Republicans stay in control of the country.

    It is equally true that the Republican-staffed and funded Project for the New American Century–several years before the attack of 9/11–set forth the military/strategic agenda that this administration has followed–and noted that in order to get the American public to support the agenda–what would be needed is an event “like Pearl Harbor.”

    Just as some people suspect that FDR used the outrage over Pearl Harbor to move the American public forward against the fascists–I suspect the Bush Administration decided to use 9/11 to move their agenda forward.

    The work of the PNAC isn’t secret–anyone who wants to can Google and find it.

    Real leadership on 9/12 would have told the American people that as sad and as tragic as the attack was the day before–and that we as a people would track down and bring the people responsible for it to justice–the truth of the matter was that the attack demonstrated the real impotence of the terrorists.

    3,000 dead–in a nation of over 300,000,000–is saddening–heartbreaking even.

    But it is no threat to our nation.

    No threat whatsoever.

    And the fact that it took that group nearly decade to mount their second attempt on the World Trade Center, makes two things crystal clear.

    First–that the lack of another attack in country to date should be a of little comfort to those worried about another attack–and really should give pause to those on the right who rush to claim that it validates the terror “fighting” effectiveness of this administration’s trampling of the nation’s Constitution and abandonment of our guiding principals.

    Second–and perhaps more importantly–it suggests that the author of this article has it right–it isn’t really that big a threat.

    Truth of the matter is, there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that more Americans are dying on a daily basis because private, for-profit health insurers are refusing to pay claims, approve procedures or continue offering health insurance to people who need it.

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  299. Hardy Barddal says:

    Great Post, and an answer too why you haven’t experienced another terrorist attack for 6 years, have you considered that you’re not as important as you think you are? (you as in americans in general, not you personally steven)

    no offence intended for those of you who actually realise what predicament you are in, but to those of you who still think that America is the greatest country in the world, where everything is free, and safe and lovely, and a beacon of light and hope to the rest of the western world.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, your economy is falling apart, corrupt politicians are controlling everything you do, you’re waging war on multiple poor countries in the middle east, supporting israel, another morally bankrupt country which wages war on poor countries because they think it’s alright to kill palestinians so that they can have what “God promised them”, oppresses it’s own population (have you seen the poverty many african americans suffer today, and the lack of healthcare).

    I’m sorry, but we (the europeans) don’t consider you a beacon of light and hope, we despise you and pitty you. We despise the crazy christian people who think that abortion is sinful and that arabs should be locked up and tortured, and pitty the rest of you for having to live in a country run by such sadistic individuals.

    Just my take on your situation.
    Keep up the good work Steven.

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  300. Hardy Barddal says:

    Great Post, and an answer too why you haven’t experienced another terrorist attack for 6 years, have you considered that you’re not as important as you think you are? (you as in americans in general, not you personally steven)

    no offence intended for those of you who actually realise what predicament you are in, but to those of you who still think that America is the greatest country in the world, where everything is free, and safe and lovely, and a beacon of light and hope to the rest of the western world.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, your economy is falling apart, corrupt politicians are controlling everything you do, you’re waging war on multiple poor countries in the middle east, supporting israel, another morally bankrupt country which wages war on poor countries because they think it’s alright to kill palestinians so that they can have what “God promised them”, oppresses it’s own population (have you seen the poverty many african americans suffer today, and the lack of healthcare).

    I’m sorry, but we (the europeans) don’t consider you a beacon of light and hope, we despise you and pitty you. We despise the crazy christian people who think that abortion is sinful and that arabs should be locked up and tortured, and pitty the rest of you for having to live in a country run by such sadistic individuals.

    Just my take on your situation.
    Keep up the good work Steven.

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  301. v9has says:

    Another point I’ve not seen raised is that their association with the US has put other countries on the terrorist hitlist since 9/11 eg UK, Spain, Pakistan, Iraq (since the “end” of the war). Terrorist are still around, just focusing on someone else. So whatever measures have been taken since 9/11 have not worked, only diverted the attacks elsewhere and increased the frequency.

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  302. v9has says:

    Another point I’ve not seen raised is that their association with the US has put other countries on the terrorist hitlist since 9/11 eg UK, Spain, Pakistan, Iraq (since the “end” of the war). Terrorist are still around, just focusing on someone else. So whatever measures have been taken since 9/11 have not worked, only diverted the attacks elsewhere and increased the frequency.

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  303. Mike Nist says:

    I think the Republicans have helped prevent another attack. Not by being tough but, perversely, by cynically whipping up terror alerts anytime they needed a momentary political advantage. They are doing Al Queda’s work for them – why waste your resources to terrorize a country when its own government is doing it for you?

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  304. Mike Nist says:

    I think the Republicans have helped prevent another attack. Not by being tough but, perversely, by cynically whipping up terror alerts anytime they needed a momentary political advantage. They are doing Al Queda’s work for them – why waste your resources to terrorize a country when its own government is doing it for you?

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  305. Nathaniel says:

    Hmmm… interesting post. Another possibility is that, in addition to generating fear, terrorists want to generate immediate physical damage–property damage and lives lost (or think they can generate more long-term fear with high damage events). They could be spending significant time planning to maximize real damage caused per terrorist life spent. a september eleventh type event does better than 200 to 1, while a sniper or bus event is lucky to do more than 20-1.

    If this is, in fact, the case, the governmental spending on anti-terrorism could be extremely effective, if it makes the larger scale attacks prohibitively difficult, thus forcing the terrorists to either use small-scale attacks, or spend time and energy getting around the protections to set up a large-scale attack.

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  306. Nathaniel says:

    Hmmm… interesting post. Another possibility is that, in addition to generating fear, terrorists want to generate immediate physical damage–property damage and lives lost (or think they can generate more long-term fear with high damage events). They could be spending significant time planning to maximize real damage caused per terrorist life spent. a september eleventh type event does better than 200 to 1, while a sniper or bus event is lucky to do more than 20-1.

    If this is, in fact, the case, the governmental spending on anti-terrorism could be extremely effective, if it makes the larger scale attacks prohibitively difficult, thus forcing the terrorists to either use small-scale attacks, or spend time and energy getting around the protections to set up a large-scale attack.

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  307. John says:

    Think of the horror. Think of the horror at the NY TIMES if Islamic extremist decided to taint issues of the TIMES with anthrax or other poisonous chemicals. They would only have to taint several issues. When illness or death is tied to the NY TIMES (renamed the TAINTED TIMES) circulation would grind to a halt. Think of the horror at the LA TIMES….

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  308. John says:

    Think of the horror. Think of the horror at the NY TIMES if Islamic extremist decided to taint issues of the TIMES with anthrax or other poisonous chemicals. They would only have to taint several issues. When illness or death is tied to the NY TIMES (renamed the TAINTED TIMES) circulation would grind to a halt. Think of the horror at the LA TIMES….

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  309. clambam says:

    The reason we haven’t seen a major terrorist attack since 9/11 is because the terrorists expect (perhaps correctly) that such an attack will be followed by a wholesale detention and/or expulsion of Middle Easterners from the US. Even if this is not the case, it will become a whole lot harder to move about freely if you look Middle Eastern. In the expectation that the next big attack will also be the last big attack, it behooves them to make it as spectacular as possible.

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  310. clambam says:

    The reason we haven’t seen a major terrorist attack since 9/11 is because the terrorists expect (perhaps correctly) that such an attack will be followed by a wholesale detention and/or expulsion of Middle Easterners from the US. Even if this is not the case, it will become a whole lot harder to move about freely if you look Middle Eastern. In the expectation that the next big attack will also be the last big attack, it behooves them to make it as spectacular as possible.

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  311. Herbert Gintis says:

    I think the goal of terrorists in many cases is to recruit people into political organizations. Maximally scaring innocent victims is probably not important at all, at least in some cases. Probably Hamas fits your model, but al-Quaeda fits my alternative. Since the US faces the latter rather than the former, we probably can look forward to more ostentatious displays like 9-11, rather than a bunch of random snipers.

    By the way, 9-11 is absolutely perfect for recruiting, precisely because it causes very few casualties compared with the stunningly dramatic effect of seeing planes fly into skyscrapers. Killing lots of people by poisoning their water supply would not, to my mind, be an effective political recruiting device.

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  312. Herbert Gintis says:

    I think the goal of terrorists in many cases is to recruit people into political organizations. Maximally scaring innocent victims is probably not important at all, at least in some cases. Probably Hamas fits your model, but al-Quaeda fits my alternative. Since the US faces the latter rather than the former, we probably can look forward to more ostentatious displays like 9-11, rather than a bunch of random snipers.

    By the way, 9-11 is absolutely perfect for recruiting, precisely because it causes very few casualties compared with the stunningly dramatic effect of seeing planes fly into skyscrapers. Killing lots of people by poisoning their water supply would not, to my mind, be an effective political recruiting device.

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  313. w marbourg says:

    Hardy:

    While America is arguably “guilty” (albeit to a lesser degree than your statements portray) I don’t see significant numbers trying to escape from the USA to go live elsewhere. The same cannot be said for European or Asian or African or middle eastern nations. Seems odd that such a horrible country (a fair characterization of your comments) attracts so many millions who wish to spend the rest of their lives here, doesn’t it?

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  314. w marbourg says:

    Hardy:

    While America is arguably “guilty” (albeit to a lesser degree than your statements portray) I don’t see significant numbers trying to escape from the USA to go live elsewhere. The same cannot be said for European or Asian or African or middle eastern nations. Seems odd that such a horrible country (a fair characterization of your comments) attracts so many millions who wish to spend the rest of their lives here, doesn’t it?

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  315. William says:

    Ah, the refreshing splash of reason – thank you. Truth is, security of any kind is largely an individual thing; governments can not and, as you point out often (unintentionally) will not, keep us secure. Eyes and ears wide open and the inclination to act on what one sees and hears provides a web of integrated security to protect all of us.

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  316. William says:

    Ah, the refreshing splash of reason – thank you. Truth is, security of any kind is largely an individual thing; governments can not and, as you point out often (unintentionally) will not, keep us secure. Eyes and ears wide open and the inclination to act on what one sees and hears provides a web of integrated security to protect all of us.

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  317. Laszlo says:

    One would think Levitt is flexible in “thinking out-of-the-box.”

    Maybe the reasons we haven’t had another 911 has little to do with his, and are, in actuality, more subtle. Maybe the “terrorists” are not the dummies we pretend they must be (by virtue of their not having staged another 911- yet).

    Maybe the “Flying Imams” case has nothing to do with an “Islamic threat,” or the threat by CAIR (Committee on American Islamic Relations) to sue the “John Does” who reported the Imams’ behavior to airline personnel.

    Maybe the 8 year space between the two WTC bombings was only due to superior law enforcement, not to a strategy.

    Maybe the fact, disclosed this week at the Holy Land Foundation trial that Omar Ahmad, a founder of CAIR, and chairman emeritus, at a 1993 meeting of Islamists to determine ways to scuttle the Oslo Accords, and who was taped as saying:
    [as of a basketball player's fake] “He makes a player believe he is doing this while he is doing something else,” Ahmad said. “I agree with you … like they say, politics is a completion of war,” has nothing to do with this alleged “Islamic threat.”(You won’t find this detail of the trial, or much at all about it in the NYT.)

    Maybe it has something to do with what a close Muslim friend told me:
    “Americans think in terms of weeks, sometimes months, occasionally years. We Muslims think in terms of years. And we are very patient people.

    Maybe.

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  318. Laszlo says:

    One would think Levitt is flexible in “thinking out-of-the-box.”

    Maybe the reasons we haven’t had another 911 has little to do with his, and are, in actuality, more subtle. Maybe the “terrorists” are not the dummies we pretend they must be (by virtue of their not having staged another 911- yet).

    Maybe the “Flying Imams” case has nothing to do with an “Islamic threat,” or the threat by CAIR (Committee on American Islamic Relations) to sue the “John Does” who reported the Imams’ behavior to airline personnel.

    Maybe the 8 year space between the two WTC bombings was only due to superior law enforcement, not to a strategy.

    Maybe the fact, disclosed this week at the Holy Land Foundation trial that Omar Ahmad, a founder of CAIR, and chairman emeritus, at a 1993 meeting of Islamists to determine ways to scuttle the Oslo Accords, and who was taped as saying:
    [as of a basketball player's fake] “He makes a player believe he is doing this while he is doing something else,” Ahmad said. “I agree with you … like they say, politics is a completion of war,” has nothing to do with this alleged “Islamic threat.”(You won’t find this detail of the trial, or much at all about it in the NYT.)

    Maybe it has something to do with what a close Muslim friend told me:
    “Americans think in terms of weeks, sometimes months, occasionally years. We Muslims think in terms of years. And we are very patient people.

    Maybe.

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  319. Hillary Brizell-DeLise says:

    The terrorists don’t ever have to attack again. Look at the mileage they’ve gotten. Bush was elected twice, simply through fearmongering, swiftboating, partisanship, corruption of elections, and he and his administration have made the US a mockery to the entire world.

    Americans run scared all the time and live in fear of the next attack. That’s what terrorists create and they have won…so far. I look forward tot he next administration bringing back pride among Americans and forcing us to all take responsibility for our reputations.

    We are at war and no sacrifices are made. We are spoled and soft and expect world pity because of 9/11.

    Other countries live with terrorism all the time. There have been attacks since 9/11: in Europe, in Asia, in Africa. Those count people!

    American egotism and hubris have brought us to a crossroads. We need the wisdom of a future leader to bring us back to our better selves.

    Hillary

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  320. Hillary Brizell-DeLise says:

    The terrorists don’t ever have to attack again. Look at the mileage they’ve gotten. Bush was elected twice, simply through fearmongering, swiftboating, partisanship, corruption of elections, and he and his administration have made the US a mockery to the entire world.

    Americans run scared all the time and live in fear of the next attack. That’s what terrorists create and they have won…so far. I look forward tot he next administration bringing back pride among Americans and forcing us to all take responsibility for our reputations.

    We are at war and no sacrifices are made. We are spoled and soft and expect world pity because of 9/11.

    Other countries live with terrorism all the time. There have been attacks since 9/11: in Europe, in Asia, in Africa. Those count people!

    American egotism and hubris have brought us to a crossroads. We need the wisdom of a future leader to bring us back to our better selves.

    Hillary

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  321. Ardy says:

    One other, and I would assume, obvious explanation, for the reason we have not seen more terror attacks is that the foreign terrorists are primarily interested in “spectacular” attacks that not only result in terror, but in financial devastation and disruption.

    I don’t know how good our government has been in addressing these kinds of attacks, but one would expect such attacks to require a long time to plan and execute– and probably also require significant resources.

    These attacks, by their very nature, are likely to be sporadic, but horrific in impact. So, the fact that we don’t see them “every day” doesn’t mean that they are not being contemplated, planned- or disrupted.

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  322. Ardy says:

    One other, and I would assume, obvious explanation, for the reason we have not seen more terror attacks is that the foreign terrorists are primarily interested in “spectacular” attacks that not only result in terror, but in financial devastation and disruption.

    I don’t know how good our government has been in addressing these kinds of attacks, but one would expect such attacks to require a long time to plan and execute– and probably also require significant resources.

    These attacks, by their very nature, are likely to be sporadic, but horrific in impact. So, the fact that we don’t see them “every day” doesn’t mean that they are not being contemplated, planned- or disrupted.

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  323. Steve says:

    How would you feel if a DC-sniper event occurred in the next two weeks? Like an idiot, I presume.

    If, as you say, it’s impossible to prevent such things, why would you or anyone else want to plant the idea. I don’t get it.

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  324. Steve says:

    How would you feel if a DC-sniper event occurred in the next two weeks? Like an idiot, I presume.

    If, as you say, it’s impossible to prevent such things, why would you or anyone else want to plant the idea. I don’t get it.

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  325. Sabrina Gledhill says:

    I’m not sure the lack of terrorist incidents is a sign that they’re not a threat. Bin Laden and co. are still getting plenty of “bang from their buck” from 9/11. I agree that brainstorming as hard as the terrorists do is a good way to see them coming and “head them off at the pass”. However, as a Brit who lived through the IRA bombings in London, I believe that the best ways to fight terror (in the absence of Big-Brother style CCTV) are public vigilance and the refusal to be scared. Re the negative reaction to your original entry, it’s possible that many people didn’t read the final conclusion – hence the journalistic tendency of “inverted pyramid” writing (i.e. if you’d put your sound conclusion at the beginning, more people might have read it). I left this observation till last, in case my comment is edited for length ;-)

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  326. Sabrina Gledhill says:

    I’m not sure the lack of terrorist incidents is a sign that they’re not a threat. Bin Laden and co. are still getting plenty of “bang from their buck” from 9/11. I agree that brainstorming as hard as the terrorists do is a good way to see them coming and “head them off at the pass”. However, as a Brit who lived through the IRA bombings in London, I believe that the best ways to fight terror (in the absence of Big-Brother style CCTV) are public vigilance and the refusal to be scared. Re the negative reaction to your original entry, it’s possible that many people didn’t read the final conclusion – hence the journalistic tendency of “inverted pyramid” writing (i.e. if you’d put your sound conclusion at the beginning, more people might have read it). I left this observation till last, in case my comment is edited for length ;-)

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  327. Ranjit says:

    If we assume the purpose of the 9/11 attacks was to provoke an overreaction that would help to radicalize Muslims then they accomplished their goal.

    And ever since 9/11 all they had to do to keep the U.S. on the course they selected was release the occasional video. In Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine it’s pointed out that the CIA believed the reason al Qaeda released a video very close to the election in 2004 was to help make sure Bush got re-elected.

    PR is even cheaper than terrorism.

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  328. Ranjit says:

    If we assume the purpose of the 9/11 attacks was to provoke an overreaction that would help to radicalize Muslims then they accomplished their goal.

    And ever since 9/11 all they had to do to keep the U.S. on the course they selected was release the occasional video. In Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine it’s pointed out that the CIA believed the reason al Qaeda released a video very close to the election in 2004 was to help make sure Bush got re-elected.

    PR is even cheaper than terrorism.

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  329. The Muso says:

    Of course the terrorists may just have calculated the most efficient ratio of action vs reaction that allows them to achieve their goals.

    If America is paralysed by fear as a result of an attack every 8-10 years, why bother attacking more frequently?

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  330. The Muso says:

    Of course the terrorists may just have calculated the most efficient ratio of action vs reaction that allows them to achieve their goals.

    If America is paralysed by fear as a result of an attack every 8-10 years, why bother attacking more frequently?

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  331. Marilyn Delson says:

    Todd got it right: FEAR (vague, swirling everywhere) is what the Bushies use to control the country (in “1984″ Orwell commented on the need of governments, Oceania in particular, to carry out perpetual warfare in order to control the populace). The true enemy we have so far not faced is the “enemy within.” While civil rights, economic equality, Constitutional freedoms, innovation, and forward-thinking fall by the wayside, the drumbeat for ever-more wars without end (Iran is in Cheney’s sights) continues. The real terrors: global warming, dead oceans, war and famine, poor health, species extinctions, continue unabated and unaddressed.

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  332. Marilyn Delson says:

    Todd got it right: FEAR (vague, swirling everywhere) is what the Bushies use to control the country (in “1984″ Orwell commented on the need of governments, Oceania in particular, to carry out perpetual warfare in order to control the populace). The true enemy we have so far not faced is the “enemy within.” While civil rights, economic equality, Constitutional freedoms, innovation, and forward-thinking fall by the wayside, the drumbeat for ever-more wars without end (Iran is in Cheney’s sights) continues. The real terrors: global warming, dead oceans, war and famine, poor health, species extinctions, continue unabated and unaddressed.

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  333. Conrad says:

    We wouldn’t be talking about terrorism this way if it weren’t for Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda’s goal is to remove America from Mideast politics (and oil exploitation), to end Israeli occupation of Palestine and establish Sharia through the rule of an Islamic caliphate in Muslim countries. September 11 was a huge publicity stunt whose victims were the 3000 Americans killed and the victims of subsequent terrirost bombings and the dead of the iraq war. Bush overreacted. With the Iraq war, OBL succeeded in triggering a chaotic disaster for the West, radicallizing Muslims and winning recruits to his cause. Car bombs in London and exploding buses in Israel are small patates for these guys. They’re planning a bigger and better comeback.

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  334. Conrad says:

    We wouldn’t be talking about terrorism this way if it weren’t for Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda’s goal is to remove America from Mideast politics (and oil exploitation), to end Israeli occupation of Palestine and establish Sharia through the rule of an Islamic caliphate in Muslim countries. September 11 was a huge publicity stunt whose victims were the 3000 Americans killed and the victims of subsequent terrirost bombings and the dead of the iraq war. Bush overreacted. With the Iraq war, OBL succeeded in triggering a chaotic disaster for the West, radicallizing Muslims and winning recruits to his cause. Car bombs in London and exploding buses in Israel are small patates for these guys. They’re planning a bigger and better comeback.

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  335. PE says:

    One of the biggest problems, of course, is that no politician could ever say, “Terrorism is not a big problem so we’re not going to spend much money on it” without ruining his/her career. In fact, this reminds me of the New York Times Magazine article from 2004 in which Kerry was quoted as saying that terrorists should be considered a nuisance, not the focus of our lives, and compared the attempt to get rid of terrorism to trying to get rid of prostitution or illegal gambling. Bush naturally used these remarks to attack Kerry as weak on terror, and it worked, but in reality I think he was absolutely right.

    Your article also reminds me of the attitude about the Vietnam War; no president wanted to be the one who “lost” Southeast Asia. One memo from 1965 reprinted in the Pentagon Papers claimed that America’s primary war goal should be to avoid a humiliating defeat. Likewise, no one wants to be the person who “loses” the war on terror. So we keep our toiletries limited to 3 ounces each and sealed in quart-sized zip lock bags.

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  336. PE says:

    One of the biggest problems, of course, is that no politician could ever say, “Terrorism is not a big problem so we’re not going to spend much money on it” without ruining his/her career. In fact, this reminds me of the New York Times Magazine article from 2004 in which Kerry was quoted as saying that terrorists should be considered a nuisance, not the focus of our lives, and compared the attempt to get rid of terrorism to trying to get rid of prostitution or illegal gambling. Bush naturally used these remarks to attack Kerry as weak on terror, and it worked, but in reality I think he was absolutely right.

    Your article also reminds me of the attitude about the Vietnam War; no president wanted to be the one who “lost” Southeast Asia. One memo from 1965 reprinted in the Pentagon Papers claimed that America’s primary war goal should be to avoid a humiliating defeat. Likewise, no one wants to be the person who “loses” the war on terror. So we keep our toiletries limited to 3 ounces each and sealed in quart-sized zip lock bags.

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  337. Lauren says:

    The INITIAL goal of Al Qaeda was not to destroy freedom in the world. Rather, it was to rid the middle-east of infidels. This started with the USSR, and now they have turned their eyes on the USA. However, now that we have helped strengthen Al Qaeda, it’s goal now is to survive at any cost (as any entity or living creature is compelled to do) and grow and compete with Western civilization wherever it can. Because the West has allowed poverty to flourish thruout the world (note I did not say the West created that poverty), and has instead chosen to pursue foreign policies whose goals are to maximize profits for oil companies and minimize oil prices for Western consumers, AL Qaeda is of course receiving a warm welcome in many corners of the world by people who are tired of the empty promises and false hopes offered by the West. The war on terror is best fought with a “hearts and minds” approach, but unfortunately, cowboy “locked and loaded” politics as practiced by both Democrats and Republicans will only cause us to dig our hole deeper. America and the West would be safer if we spent half our defense budget on helping people around the world out of poverty and squalor than by invading oil producing countries with false justifications. Those who think with emotion rather than reason will now incorrectly claim I am suggesting we should not have invaded Afghanistan or defeated Hitler or even ejected Saddam from Kuwaite.

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  338. Lauren says:

    The INITIAL goal of Al Qaeda was not to destroy freedom in the world. Rather, it was to rid the middle-east of infidels. This started with the USSR, and now they have turned their eyes on the USA. However, now that we have helped strengthen Al Qaeda, it’s goal now is to survive at any cost (as any entity or living creature is compelled to do) and grow and compete with Western civilization wherever it can. Because the West has allowed poverty to flourish thruout the world (note I did not say the West created that poverty), and has instead chosen to pursue foreign policies whose goals are to maximize profits for oil companies and minimize oil prices for Western consumers, AL Qaeda is of course receiving a warm welcome in many corners of the world by people who are tired of the empty promises and false hopes offered by the West. The war on terror is best fought with a “hearts and minds” approach, but unfortunately, cowboy “locked and loaded” politics as practiced by both Democrats and Republicans will only cause us to dig our hole deeper. America and the West would be safer if we spent half our defense budget on helping people around the world out of poverty and squalor than by invading oil producing countries with false justifications. Those who think with emotion rather than reason will now incorrectly claim I am suggesting we should not have invaded Afghanistan or defeated Hitler or even ejected Saddam from Kuwaite.

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  339. sai says:

    I suspect there are other reasons terrorists do what they do. In addition to spreading fear they need to sustain themselves and their ego. They need a lot of publicity from their undertakings so they can keep up their recruitment and their position in their society. Thus they may prefer to invest time , money and lives in executing spectacular events rather than the more effective low intensity events.

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  340. sai says:

    I suspect there are other reasons terrorists do what they do. In addition to spreading fear they need to sustain themselves and their ego. They need a lot of publicity from their undertakings so they can keep up their recruitment and their position in their society. Thus they may prefer to invest time , money and lives in executing spectacular events rather than the more effective low intensity events.

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  341. Chris S. says:

    Ahhhh… the fear smells so strong!

    Think of all the energy – just in this column – spent on the subject of “terrorists”, as though there are more than three people here who know anything about the diverse array of state- and non-state actors that we lump together as “terrorists”.

    Let’s try to keep in mind that “terrorism” has killed slightly more Americans in the last decade than driving does every month.

    For some time now, I have begun to assess risk to myself and my family based on probability of harm relative to driving. *braces for ad hominem attack* Nearly 40,000 people die in traffic accidents in the US each year (that’s 0.1% of the US population). And I don’t really alter any of my behaviors to minimize that risk (and neither do you). So when other hazards such as bird flu, sniper shootings, terrorist acts, etc. increase in frequency to the level of traffic deaths, then I might start to pay attention.

    Until then, worrying about such things is little more than gaining some sort of perverse entertainment value from self-imposed fear.

    This is exactly why Israelis are not too concerned about riding the bus. I understand completely.

    Chris S.

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  342. Chris S. says:

    Ahhhh… the fear smells so strong!

    Think of all the energy – just in this column – spent on the subject of “terrorists”, as though there are more than three people here who know anything about the diverse array of state- and non-state actors that we lump together as “terrorists”.

    Let’s try to keep in mind that “terrorism” has killed slightly more Americans in the last decade than driving does every month.

    For some time now, I have begun to assess risk to myself and my family based on probability of harm relative to driving. *braces for ad hominem attack* Nearly 40,000 people die in traffic accidents in the US each year (that’s 0.1% of the US population). And I don’t really alter any of my behaviors to minimize that risk (and neither do you). So when other hazards such as bird flu, sniper shootings, terrorist acts, etc. increase in frequency to the level of traffic deaths, then I might start to pay attention.

    Until then, worrying about such things is little more than gaining some sort of perverse entertainment value from self-imposed fear.

    This is exactly why Israelis are not too concerned about riding the bus. I understand completely.

    Chris S.

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  343. Luke says:

    Washington D.C., New York City, and especially Chicago all have extensive CCTV monitoring of public areas. Many of these cameras are watched continuously, every day, already.

    But neither of these quite compare to London’s 200,000 installed cameras. But still, general surveillance is already a reality in the United States.

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  344. Luke says:

    Washington D.C., New York City, and especially Chicago all have extensive CCTV monitoring of public areas. Many of these cameras are watched continuously, every day, already.

    But neither of these quite compare to London’s 200,000 installed cameras. But still, general surveillance is already a reality in the United States.

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  345. Brad Blosat says:

    Steven,

    Your bold statements are a sign that intelligence is among us. We need to talk about this in the open. This “outside the box” thinking is what

    Remember – the terrorists don’t care. They believe that life is hell for them and they have bliss waiting on the other side. They don’t care. And they will stop at nothing.
    Us and our media is what generates fear. The terrorists execute it.

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  346. Brad Blosat says:

    Steven,

    Your bold statements are a sign that intelligence is among us. We need to talk about this in the open. This “outside the box” thinking is what

    Remember – the terrorists don’t care. They believe that life is hell for them and they have bliss waiting on the other side. They don’t care. And they will stop at nothing.
    Us and our media is what generates fear. The terrorists execute it.

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  347. grey gamble says:

    I believe we haven’t had another terrorist attack because the terrorist are satisfied that the results of 9/11 are still valid. We are spending huge sums of money,absorbing an enormous level if inconvience, and bleeding civil rights at a lethal rate. In addition as long as we stay in Iraq with the current mission we are creating the enmity that only an occupier can elicit.Why would the terrorist play another tune when we are still dancing to the last one?

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  348. grey gamble says:

    I believe we haven’t had another terrorist attack because the terrorist are satisfied that the results of 9/11 are still valid. We are spending huge sums of money,absorbing an enormous level if inconvience, and bleeding civil rights at a lethal rate. In addition as long as we stay in Iraq with the current mission we are creating the enmity that only an occupier can elicit.Why would the terrorist play another tune when we are still dancing to the last one?

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  349. Phil says:

    I’ve read both your posts today and I don’t understand why so many people are upset by the first one. You make sense. I read a book once called I think “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper” and through logic and explaining statistics it seemed that such things as plane crashes and terrorism affect a lot less people than imagined, especially in this country. Heart attacks, car crashes, strokes even home accidents out pace terrorism.

    One of the things that New Yorkers in particular have forgotten is that through the 60′s and 70′s the FALN bombed buildings many times, in fact over 120 times and there was no immense panic. The Son of Sam terrorized NYC for over a year. Again no mass panic. Remember the mad bomber George Metesky? He set off about 40 bombs.

    We need leadership to stop fueling the fears and closing off every unnecessary avenue and street. Why is it that around police stations entire streets are closed off? Why are public buildings walled in? Why can’t I go into even the Woolworth Building and look around at the beautiful interior? This building is a monument to architecture?

    It isn’t that terrorism in this age is overblown, so to speak. It’s the reactions that occur where the officials in charge act like gestapo and government is funneling away billions of dollars of our taxes to support this idiocy.

    And this too shall pass–I hope . . .

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  350. Phil says:

    I’ve read both your posts today and I don’t understand why so many people are upset by the first one. You make sense. I read a book once called I think “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper” and through logic and explaining statistics it seemed that such things as plane crashes and terrorism affect a lot less people than imagined, especially in this country. Heart attacks, car crashes, strokes even home accidents out pace terrorism.

    One of the things that New Yorkers in particular have forgotten is that through the 60′s and 70′s the FALN bombed buildings many times, in fact over 120 times and there was no immense panic. The Son of Sam terrorized NYC for over a year. Again no mass panic. Remember the mad bomber George Metesky? He set off about 40 bombs.

    We need leadership to stop fueling the fears and closing off every unnecessary avenue and street. Why is it that around police stations entire streets are closed off? Why are public buildings walled in? Why can’t I go into even the Woolworth Building and look around at the beautiful interior? This building is a monument to architecture?

    It isn’t that terrorism in this age is overblown, so to speak. It’s the reactions that occur where the officials in charge act like gestapo and government is funneling away billions of dollars of our taxes to support this idiocy.

    And this too shall pass–I hope . . .

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  351. David Rudey says:

    Thanks Steven for the follow up. After Part I, I’m glad you continued to expand this. After Part I, I also wondered what you were thinking! It was in such poor taste, that as a fellow Chicagoian, I wondered why you would want to ally yourself with this activity of ” (sitting around) all day… and brainstorming ideas for terrorist plots.”

    You are good at what you write and how you think. But again, this is an idea that is so hot, and so wound up, you have to speak to it clearly and in more depth.

    Dave

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  352. David Rudey says:

    Thanks Steven for the follow up. After Part I, I’m glad you continued to expand this. After Part I, I also wondered what you were thinking! It was in such poor taste, that as a fellow Chicagoian, I wondered why you would want to ally yourself with this activity of ” (sitting around) all day… and brainstorming ideas for terrorist plots.”

    You are good at what you write and how you think. But again, this is an idea that is so hot, and so wound up, you have to speak to it clearly and in more depth.

    Dave

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  353. Stewart says:

    Good Work!

    You mentioned that military occupation of a person country is a key predictor of terroism.

    You should also consider, at least in the case of the USA, that economic and cultural ‘occupation’ is also a predictor. For the culturally conservative xenophobe, seeing KFCs and McDonalds, seeing American movies, hearing American music, seeing American refineries and oil tankers, the question becomes how do they choose to fight back. Even if we were no in Iraq, we would still be a target, just less so.

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  354. Stewart says:

    Good Work!

    You mentioned that military occupation of a person country is a key predictor of terroism.

    You should also consider, at least in the case of the USA, that economic and cultural ‘occupation’ is also a predictor. For the culturally conservative xenophobe, seeing KFCs and McDonalds, seeing American movies, hearing American music, seeing American refineries and oil tankers, the question becomes how do they choose to fight back. Even if we were no in Iraq, we would still be a target, just less so.

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  355. A cynic says:

    I think the US presence in Iraq significantly reduces the danger of terrorist attacks in the US. The terrorists don’t need to come to the US to find victims, the US is providing the victims to the terrorists!

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  356. A cynic says:

    I think the US presence in Iraq significantly reduces the danger of terrorist attacks in the US. The terrorists don’t need to come to the US to find victims, the US is providing the victims to the terrorists!

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  357. RMonihan says:

    Ummm…how about it’s “all of the above”?

    One of the problems of modern society is the linear thinking that REQUIRES a single answer to a complex problem.
    I agree that terror cannot be stopped without a confluence of situations and efforts that parallel the IRA scenario. But that is very unlikely with Islamic terror.
    On the other hand, isn’t it likely that not only is terror a low level threat (how many 9/11′s were there before 9/11?), but that all the other efforts being engaged are making it more difficult to pull off a terror attack? Snipers are a likely, low cost scenario…but if you review the situation as it occurred, it didn’t result in a major impact on society…it’s barely remembered now. Terrorists want a BIG attack, one that sticks in the memory of the victims. 9/11, Madrid, London, etc. These impacted society in ways that altered thoughts about what terror represented. The sniper attacks did not, and would not, in a society where school shootings occur monthly.

    As for Iraq, there’s no question that it represents a challenge for terrorists as well as the US. As the “tip of the spear”, it’s a chance for terrorists to prove their mettle against the vaunted “unbeatable” US military. It’s a losing proposition for all involved, but that means it’s a PR victory for the biggest losers of human capital – the terrorists. On the other hand,it also keeps them occupied abroad. Even the terrorists know that if the US leaves Iraq, the cost of fighting the US increases, and killing fellow Arabs is a losing proposition for them.

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  358. RMonihan says:

    Ummm…how about it’s “all of the above”?

    One of the problems of modern society is the linear thinking that REQUIRES a single answer to a complex problem.
    I agree that terror cannot be stopped without a confluence of situations and efforts that parallel the IRA scenario. But that is very unlikely with Islamic terror.
    On the other hand, isn’t it likely that not only is terror a low level threat (how many 9/11′s were there before 9/11?), but that all the other efforts being engaged are making it more difficult to pull off a terror attack? Snipers are a likely, low cost scenario…but if you review the situation as it occurred, it didn’t result in a major impact on society…it’s barely remembered now. Terrorists want a BIG attack, one that sticks in the memory of the victims. 9/11, Madrid, London, etc. These impacted society in ways that altered thoughts about what terror represented. The sniper attacks did not, and would not, in a society where school shootings occur monthly.

    As for Iraq, there’s no question that it represents a challenge for terrorists as well as the US. As the “tip of the spear”, it’s a chance for terrorists to prove their mettle against the vaunted “unbeatable” US military. It’s a losing proposition for all involved, but that means it’s a PR victory for the biggest losers of human capital – the terrorists. On the other hand,it also keeps them occupied abroad. Even the terrorists know that if the US leaves Iraq, the cost of fighting the US increases, and killing fellow Arabs is a losing proposition for them.

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  359. terry reilly says:

    this running an empire is just not as simple and easy as it should be. after all those previous empires now they never had to put up with these uprisings(another word for terrorist activity,right?). why dont the folks of this world just give up their resources freely to us they must know we need them (and we spend nearly 500 billion on arms). looks like fear does not faze them but we are terrified by the threat of a five cent bomb. does common sense not enter into this whole scenario?

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  360. terry reilly says:

    this running an empire is just not as simple and easy as it should be. after all those previous empires now they never had to put up with these uprisings(another word for terrorist activity,right?). why dont the folks of this world just give up their resources freely to us they must know we need them (and we spend nearly 500 billion on arms). looks like fear does not faze them but we are terrified by the threat of a five cent bomb. does common sense not enter into this whole scenario?

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  361. Paul says:

    I’m not sure you want us to publicly tell you how we might engage in terrorism in the US, but in the depths of my dark thoughts I have thought of two ways that have not been previously mentioned.

    The deeper issue, the lack of terrorists events in the US since 9/11 is, in my opinion, telling. 9/11 was a glorious, lucky “low-grade” attack to which the US badly over-reacted. During the 2004 election it was death by harsh language to suggest that terrorism was mostly “nuisance attacks.” We’re “soft” on terrorism.

    It’s also verbotten to suggest that US in-your-face presence in the Middle East is related to attempted attacks here, but, the good news is we’re an ocean apart from these guys, and, I think they really do have better things to obsess on than how to cross that ocean to inflict pain on us. We’re “blame America firsters”

    The right-wing is ingenious in waging debate by hysteria, in nearly all its policy arguments. This is just another example.

    Given all the facts, the “story” behind terrorism has developed to justify the over-reaction by over-stating the threat. First there were frightening WMD’s, something really to worry about, and when that illusion became apparent we were suddenly in the throws of a life and death struggle with “Radical Islam(tm)” and world-wide jihad.

    Meanwhile the porous, threatening border between the US and Mexico allows terrorist galore to sneak in, yet, I live in California, and can’t remember a single terrorist event here that could be traced to the porous border despite literally, millions of crossings.

    The “fight them there, so we dont have to fight em here” story is the latest version of the domino theory, and Mike Gravel was right when he noted that 40 years after the Vietnam war there is MacDonald’s and Coca Cola in North Vietnam. What was all that about if we don’t beat em in SouthEast Asia we’ll have to fight em on the beaches of California?

    There are real threats and real facts behind all this, and I hope that the next administration, reviews them thoroughly and changes US policy to quietly address the real nature of whatever terrorist threat exists.

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  362. Paul says:

    I’m not sure you want us to publicly tell you how we might engage in terrorism in the US, but in the depths of my dark thoughts I have thought of two ways that have not been previously mentioned.

    The deeper issue, the lack of terrorists events in the US since 9/11 is, in my opinion, telling. 9/11 was a glorious, lucky “low-grade” attack to which the US badly over-reacted. During the 2004 election it was death by harsh language to suggest that terrorism was mostly “nuisance attacks.” We’re “soft” on terrorism.

    It’s also verbotten to suggest that US in-your-face presence in the Middle East is related to attempted attacks here, but, the good news is we’re an ocean apart from these guys, and, I think they really do have better things to obsess on than how to cross that ocean to inflict pain on us. We’re “blame America firsters”

    The right-wing is ingenious in waging debate by hysteria, in nearly all its policy arguments. This is just another example.

    Given all the facts, the “story” behind terrorism has developed to justify the over-reaction by over-stating the threat. First there were frightening WMD’s, something really to worry about, and when that illusion became apparent we were suddenly in the throws of a life and death struggle with “Radical Islam(tm)” and world-wide jihad.

    Meanwhile the porous, threatening border between the US and Mexico allows terrorist galore to sneak in, yet, I live in California, and can’t remember a single terrorist event here that could be traced to the porous border despite literally, millions of crossings.

    The “fight them there, so we dont have to fight em here” story is the latest version of the domino theory, and Mike Gravel was right when he noted that 40 years after the Vietnam war there is MacDonald’s and Coca Cola in North Vietnam. What was all that about if we don’t beat em in SouthEast Asia we’ll have to fight em on the beaches of California?

    There are real threats and real facts behind all this, and I hope that the next administration, reviews them thoroughly and changes US policy to quietly address the real nature of whatever terrorist threat exists.

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  363. Jack Mynatt says:

    There is a simple test to find out how big a threat you REALLY think terrorism is, as opposed to how much you SAY you think it is. Would you wager $1000 that in any calendar year, deaths caused by international terrorists on US soil will exceed those from traffic accidents? And by the way, since 9/11 it’s been running at roughly 40,000 to 0 in favor traffic deaths. In the five years prior to 9/11 it averaged about 40,000 to 2. If you answered “No,” as any rational person would, then you don’t really believe that international terrorism is that big a risk, at least not as big a risk as something probably you, and certainly most other Americans, accept everyday with hardly a second thought. When was the last time you wrote a letter to the newspaper or to a blog about traffic safety? So stop fretting about terrorism.

    Most of us, rightly, accept the risk of dying in a car accident as the cost of being able to drive wherever we wish whenever we wish to do it. We need to quit catastrophyzing terrorism and think about it exactly the same way; as an unfortunate (and relatively small) cost of living in a free society, as a risk that we can try to minimize, but not eliminate. To do otherwise is to play directly into the hands of the terrorists. It is our fear that causes the greatest harm. WE control that, not them.

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  364. Jack Mynatt says:

    There is a simple test to find out how big a threat you REALLY think terrorism is, as opposed to how much you SAY you think it is. Would you wager $1000 that in any calendar year, deaths caused by international terrorists on US soil will exceed those from traffic accidents? And by the way, since 9/11 it’s been running at roughly 40,000 to 0 in favor traffic deaths. In the five years prior to 9/11 it averaged about 40,000 to 2. If you answered “No,” as any rational person would, then you don’t really believe that international terrorism is that big a risk, at least not as big a risk as something probably you, and certainly most other Americans, accept everyday with hardly a second thought. When was the last time you wrote a letter to the newspaper or to a blog about traffic safety? So stop fretting about terrorism.

    Most of us, rightly, accept the risk of dying in a car accident as the cost of being able to drive wherever we wish whenever we wish to do it. We need to quit catastrophyzing terrorism and think about it exactly the same way; as an unfortunate (and relatively small) cost of living in a free society, as a risk that we can try to minimize, but not eliminate. To do otherwise is to play directly into the hands of the terrorists. It is our fear that causes the greatest harm. WE control that, not them.

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  365. Chuck says:

    There’s no danger in having more information rather than less. Being proactive makes sense, ultimately, and instead of getting tied up over irrational fears, we should be focusing on real ways to mitigate the threats that we all know exist, and reduce our risk of seeing another attack made on the cheap. One small step toward this, for example, might be to follow the lead of the EU and begin to take highly toxic pesticides, for which effective substitutes exist, off the market: Strychnine, paraquat, chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates, etc. Given the vulnerabilities inherent in our food supply already, if we don’t have the will to take these simple steps, then who are we kidding?

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  366. Chuck says:

    There’s no danger in having more information rather than less. Being proactive makes sense, ultimately, and instead of getting tied up over irrational fears, we should be focusing on real ways to mitigate the threats that we all know exist, and reduce our risk of seeing another attack made on the cheap. One small step toward this, for example, might be to follow the lead of the EU and begin to take highly toxic pesticides, for which effective substitutes exist, off the market: Strychnine, paraquat, chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates, etc. Given the vulnerabilities inherent in our food supply already, if we don’t have the will to take these simple steps, then who are we kidding?

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  367. JBSmith says:

    I have been mulling this a lot recently and it is interesting to see someone (and someone more authoritative than me) put pen to paper on the issue. Committing an act of terror in the U.S. would not be particularly difficult for a reasonably industrious, moderately intelligent person given the availability of weapons globally and the openness of our society.

    I guess I fly too much and sit there and think about this standing in those long long lines all the time as rent-a-cops pull toothpaste and mouthwash out of people’s bags. 9/11, and i was in midtown Manhattan that day with my girlfriend downtown, was an event so startling, so disturbing and so gut-wrenching that I think it has actually managed to traumatize an entire nation. We are consumed by it in a way, and what makes me angry is the Bush administration has a vested interest in maintaining that consumption.

    There are fewer people out there wishing to do us harm than we think because if they wanted to do harm, they would.

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  368. JBSmith says:

    I have been mulling this a lot recently and it is interesting to see someone (and someone more authoritative than me) put pen to paper on the issue. Committing an act of terror in the U.S. would not be particularly difficult for a reasonably industrious, moderately intelligent person given the availability of weapons globally and the openness of our society.

    I guess I fly too much and sit there and think about this standing in those long long lines all the time as rent-a-cops pull toothpaste and mouthwash out of people’s bags. 9/11, and i was in midtown Manhattan that day with my girlfriend downtown, was an event so startling, so disturbing and so gut-wrenching that I think it has actually managed to traumatize an entire nation. We are consumed by it in a way, and what makes me angry is the Bush administration has a vested interest in maintaining that consumption.

    There are fewer people out there wishing to do us harm than we think because if they wanted to do harm, they would.

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  369. J Patel says:

    Who needs a terrorist attack when our president managed to have 3100 Americans killed (more than 9-11) and 25,000 wounded by Islamists. Of course, a soldier killed in Iraq is less valuable than a civilian in New York!

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  370. J Patel says:

    Who needs a terrorist attack when our president managed to have 3100 Americans killed (more than 9-11) and 25,000 wounded by Islamists. Of course, a soldier killed in Iraq is less valuable than a civilian in New York!

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  371. Walid says:

    Noone really knows why they haven’t struck. Number one is our two oceans. Number two is the act of terror, to be truly terrifying, would have to exceed the daily insanity of life in America with its gun crazies and bridge collapses.
    #3 is that getting caught would give us a sense of being in control and the terrorists are obsessed with achieving the opposite but how? “Dry runs” announced by the Dept of Transportation suggest that the terrorists continue to be interested in the one thing that scares them as well; falling from the sky in an airplane.

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  372. Walid says:

    Noone really knows why they haven’t struck. Number one is our two oceans. Number two is the act of terror, to be truly terrifying, would have to exceed the daily insanity of life in America with its gun crazies and bridge collapses.
    #3 is that getting caught would give us a sense of being in control and the terrorists are obsessed with achieving the opposite but how? “Dry runs” announced by the Dept of Transportation suggest that the terrorists continue to be interested in the one thing that scares them as well; falling from the sky in an airplane.

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  373. jay stokes says:

    Your analysis of the incentives for our government officials does help understand our anti-terrorism spending. It is very human but unfortunate. I have long feared the ticking time-bomb of Guantanamo. I am sure some of these guys in there are best behind bars, but also fear quite a few of them have no business being there. I think of the incentives for the people to free them: if they free them, and they go out and do something against the US, that person is screwed. So, the incentives strongly favor keeping them locked up, thus so few have been freed. And then, the longer they are locked up, the more angry they will be when they are free, so the higher the likelihood they will want to strike back, thus more incentive to keep them locked up. I have no idea how they are trying to manage this incentive imbalance, but I am guessing, judging by our efficacy against fighting terrorism, not too well.

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  374. jay stokes says:

    Your analysis of the incentives for our government officials does help understand our anti-terrorism spending. It is very human but unfortunate. I have long feared the ticking time-bomb of Guantanamo. I am sure some of these guys in there are best behind bars, but also fear quite a few of them have no business being there. I think of the incentives for the people to free them: if they free them, and they go out and do something against the US, that person is screwed. So, the incentives strongly favor keeping them locked up, thus so few have been freed. And then, the longer they are locked up, the more angry they will be when they are free, so the higher the likelihood they will want to strike back, thus more incentive to keep them locked up. I have no idea how they are trying to manage this incentive imbalance, but I am guessing, judging by our efficacy against fighting terrorism, not too well.

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  375. Rael64 says:

    There will most likely always be some sort of terroristic violence in the world regardless of its label. That fact is sad enough. Yet, the idea that to engage in some sort of dialogue, to expend at least a bit of time and money into finding an answer as to “why” some specific flavor of violence has/is occurring, is somehow an act of pandering to the violence is truly absurd (and sad too). If reasons can be found to kill Iraqis from a distance in the name of “war” (and all those supposed justifications that come under the heading), and reasons can be found to strap a pound of plastique (or whatever explosive is in vogue) to one’s back and detonate the human bomb in the name of freedom/outrage at US presence/Allah (as if violence has never before been purpetrated in the name of God? do they not teach history anymore? blot out the bits about the Crusades?), well, perspective obviously makes for debate, no? And to settle a debate, one must speak, must ask and answer. Shooting, slashing, blowing things and people up are but senseless, ignorant means of those who feel powerless (or are a bit insane, e.g., bin Laden, Bush, etc.) and who cannot think beyond their emotions.

    Dialogue.

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  376. Rael64 says:

    There will most likely always be some sort of terroristic violence in the world regardless of its label. That fact is sad enough. Yet, the idea that to engage in some sort of dialogue, to expend at least a bit of time and money into finding an answer as to “why” some specific flavor of violence has/is occurring, is somehow an act of pandering to the violence is truly absurd (and sad too). If reasons can be found to kill Iraqis from a distance in the name of “war” (and all those supposed justifications that come under the heading), and reasons can be found to strap a pound of plastique (or whatever explosive is in vogue) to one’s back and detonate the human bomb in the name of freedom/outrage at US presence/Allah (as if violence has never before been purpetrated in the name of God? do they not teach history anymore? blot out the bits about the Crusades?), well, perspective obviously makes for debate, no? And to settle a debate, one must speak, must ask and answer. Shooting, slashing, blowing things and people up are but senseless, ignorant means of those who feel powerless (or are a bit insane, e.g., bin Laden, Bush, etc.) and who cannot think beyond their emotions.

    Dialogue.

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  377. J Patel says:

    Who needs a terrorist attack when our president managed to have 3,100 Americans killed (more than 9-11) and 25,000 wounded over there. Of course, a soldier killed in Iraq is less valuable than a civilian in New York!

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  378. J Patel says:

    Who needs a terrorist attack when our president managed to have 3,100 Americans killed (more than 9-11) and 25,000 wounded over there. Of course, a soldier killed in Iraq is less valuable than a civilian in New York!

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  379. WBarber says:

    In thinking about how a terrorist group, like Al Qaeda (AQ), may strike the US, I believe you have to understand their goals coupled with their capabilities to reach those goals. If AQ believes that they need to strike at the economic heart of this nation, then one plausible plan (of many) would be to attack the “low hanging fruit.” Without providing the specific sector that I believe will be attacked (after writing it and then erasing it for fear of providing very obvious and valuable tips to would-be terrorists), we must continue to provide security in depth (rings of security–seen and unseen) for critical potential targets, coupled with a constant vigilance of our surroundings and an expansion of security for the remaining important facilities throughout the country. Situational awareness is key, as well as a constantly changing security posture (by not developing predictable security regimans) and, above all, an intelligence infrastructure that can provide awareness prior to an attack with the must-have requirement of preventing an attack. This country has gotten very good at performing the post-mortem on many events, but we need to progress to the point that we are just as good at prevention. Do I think this is possible? The bottom line is that the better we get, the less lives will be lost in the event of an attack–perhaps an inevitable attack. We are at war–make no mistake about it.

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  380. WBarber says:

    In thinking about how a terrorist group, like Al Qaeda (AQ), may strike the US, I believe you have to understand their goals coupled with their capabilities to reach those goals. If AQ believes that they need to strike at the economic heart of this nation, then one plausible plan (of many) would be to attack the “low hanging fruit.” Without providing the specific sector that I believe will be attacked (after writing it and then erasing it for fear of providing very obvious and valuable tips to would-be terrorists), we must continue to provide security in depth (rings of security–seen and unseen) for critical potential targets, coupled with a constant vigilance of our surroundings and an expansion of security for the remaining important facilities throughout the country. Situational awareness is key, as well as a constantly changing security posture (by not developing predictable security regimans) and, above all, an intelligence infrastructure that can provide awareness prior to an attack with the must-have requirement of preventing an attack. This country has gotten very good at performing the post-mortem on many events, but we need to progress to the point that we are just as good at prevention. Do I think this is possible? The bottom line is that the better we get, the less lives will be lost in the event of an attack–perhaps an inevitable attack. We are at war–make no mistake about it.

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  381. tim luby says:

    It’s incorrect to call any attack on innocent people “terrorist attacks.” Was dropping the A-bombs on Japan considered a terrorist attack (well, some would say yes)?

    In the definition of terrorism, it says that an act of terrorism is “intended to create fear or “terror.” But was that the main intent of our enemies on 9/11?

    In a twist of ironony, I believe it is the media that turns “acts of war,” such as 9/11, into “acts of terror” by sensationalizing everything. THE MEDIA ACTUALLY INSTILL FEAR!

    9/11 was not a terrorist attack. It was more of a “coming out party for al qaeda.” More than anything, Bin laden used it to galvanize his people. It was a publicity stunt.

    There is a clear difference between war and terror. “Terroism” is a sexier word for the media than is “war.” Unfortunately, by using the former word instead of the latter, the media are terrorists themselves.

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  382. tim luby says:

    It’s incorrect to call any attack on innocent people “terrorist attacks.” Was dropping the A-bombs on Japan considered a terrorist attack (well, some would say yes)?

    In the definition of terrorism, it says that an act of terrorism is “intended to create fear or “terror.” But was that the main intent of our enemies on 9/11?

    In a twist of ironony, I believe it is the media that turns “acts of war,” such as 9/11, into “acts of terror” by sensationalizing everything. THE MEDIA ACTUALLY INSTILL FEAR!

    9/11 was not a terrorist attack. It was more of a “coming out party for al qaeda.” More than anything, Bin laden used it to galvanize his people. It was a publicity stunt.

    There is a clear difference between war and terror. “Terroism” is a sexier word for the media than is “war.” Unfortunately, by using the former word instead of the latter, the media are terrorists themselves.

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  383. Brian says:

    Terrorists aren’t like us, don’t think like us, and don’t share the same values. The fact that we can all sit around and come up with great terrorism ideas means absolutely nothing. We desperately need a better public understanding of terrorism and better intelligence on terrorists as real people with specific goals and capabilities. And we need a much better public understanding of risk.

    It would also be nice to address the problem of blame avoidance which keeps our elected officials from exercising their constitutional duty of limiting executive power. And it’d be a big help if our President stopped acting as Al – Qaeda’s chief publicist and mentioning them dozens of times in every speech.

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  384. Brian says:

    Terrorists aren’t like us, don’t think like us, and don’t share the same values. The fact that we can all sit around and come up with great terrorism ideas means absolutely nothing. We desperately need a better public understanding of terrorism and better intelligence on terrorists as real people with specific goals and capabilities. And we need a much better public understanding of risk.

    It would also be nice to address the problem of blame avoidance which keeps our elected officials from exercising their constitutional duty of limiting executive power. And it’d be a big help if our President stopped acting as Al – Qaeda’s chief publicist and mentioning them dozens of times in every speech.

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  385. Alex says:

    The exercise of “How would you attack if you were a terrorist” is a silly one, but not for any of the mouth-breathing “you must hate Americuh to suggest this” idiocy.

    It’s silly because, well, here’s some ideas. I got them by reading the newspapers. Keep in mind, terrorists read newspapers. And hard as it is for the Wal-Mart crowd in True America to accept, some of those terrorists are actually very smart people. So closing all the newspapers won’t help, either.

    1. Make a box of flashing lights out of an old Lite-Brite set. Tape it to a bridge in Boston. Watch a bunch of people who have been Pavlovianly conditioned to treat every single brown paper bag left at a bus stop as a neutron bomb cordon off the city and paralyze it. One “terrorist” traveling around the country could sequentially shut down every metro region in the country for less than the price of one of George W. Bush’s trips to his luxury compound for a month-long summer vacation.

    2. You could mail an envelope filled with corn starch to a celebrity journalist. For less than $40 in postage (about a day’s wages for a minimum-wage slave in our bold new economy) you can severely vex the media, who will, of course, practically fall over themselves reporting on this “terrifying” incident.

    3. Continue to support Fox News and the similar screaming heads like Nancy Grace on CNN. Larry! King! Live! and his further murder of what used to be CNN’s reputation will help speed the demise of rational, in-depth, intelligent journalism and reporting to such a point that when the next event occurs we’ll be treated to a batch of 20-something blondes with great bodies and mediocre minds chasing after people on fire asking “And how did you feel when you realized you were on fire?”

    4. Bomb an abortion clinic or shoot a doctor who provides abortions. Oh, no, that’s not terrorism. I forgot. My bad. Sure, it satisfies all the conditions, but it isn’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe Mr. Bush’s god will tell him and then he can tell me.

    The real exercise here should be — and by the way, that’s the thing I’d call you a moron for — not a discussion of how to commit terrorism, but how to prevent it.

    1. What do the terrorists want? I don’t buy the pat answers the stenographers in the press provide. Yes or no, is the United States committing actions that are repugnant by a reasonable moral evaluation?

    2. Why are the terrorists supported in certain parts of the world? What exactly is so approvable about blowing yourself to Kingdom Come or killing hundreds of people who haven’t done anything to you? REPEAT: answering like an idiot “They hate our freedoms” isn’t an answer. Why do they “hate our freedoms”?

    3. What issues are not being discussed here in the U.S. as reasons for terrorism? Example: Are any of the terrorists out there angry at the U.S. for using third-world nations as slave-labor farms? If so, where’s the discussion in the U.S. about ending those practices? Is this not discussed because lobbyists are opposed to it?

    Once again, the right issue is raised, but the wrong question is put to it. It’s not about what would I do if I were a terrorist. It’s what would cause me to become a terrorist and is the U.S. causing those conditions to flourish.

    Part of patriotism is being able to look at your country and point out its faults, not just blindly shoot those who disagree in the face in the name of “freeduhm” and “Americuhn values.”

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  386. Alex says:

    The exercise of “How would you attack if you were a terrorist” is a silly one, but not for any of the mouth-breathing “you must hate Americuh to suggest this” idiocy.

    It’s silly because, well, here’s some ideas. I got them by reading the newspapers. Keep in mind, terrorists read newspapers. And hard as it is for the Wal-Mart crowd in True America to accept, some of those terrorists are actually very smart people. So closing all the newspapers won’t help, either.

    1. Make a box of flashing lights out of an old Lite-Brite set. Tape it to a bridge in Boston. Watch a bunch of people who have been Pavlovianly conditioned to treat every single brown paper bag left at a bus stop as a neutron bomb cordon off the city and paralyze it. One “terrorist” traveling around the country could sequentially shut down every metro region in the country for less than the price of one of George W. Bush’s trips to his luxury compound for a month-long summer vacation.

    2. You could mail an envelope filled with corn starch to a celebrity journalist. For less than $40 in postage (about a day’s wages for a minimum-wage slave in our bold new economy) you can severely vex the media, who will, of course, practically fall over themselves reporting on this “terrifying” incident.

    3. Continue to support Fox News and the similar screaming heads like Nancy Grace on CNN. Larry! King! Live! and his further murder of what used to be CNN’s reputation will help speed the demise of rational, in-depth, intelligent journalism and reporting to such a point that when the next event occurs we’ll be treated to a batch of 20-something blondes with great bodies and mediocre minds chasing after people on fire asking “And how did you feel when you realized you were on fire?”

    4. Bomb an abortion clinic or shoot a doctor who provides abortions. Oh, no, that’s not terrorism. I forgot. My bad. Sure, it satisfies all the conditions, but it isn’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe Mr. Bush’s god will tell him and then he can tell me.

    The real exercise here should be — and by the way, that’s the thing I’d call you a moron for — not a discussion of how to commit terrorism, but how to prevent it.

    1. What do the terrorists want? I don’t buy the pat answers the stenographers in the press provide. Yes or no, is the United States committing actions that are repugnant by a reasonable moral evaluation?

    2. Why are the terrorists supported in certain parts of the world? What exactly is so approvable about blowing yourself to Kingdom Come or killing hundreds of people who haven’t done anything to you? REPEAT: answering like an idiot “They hate our freedoms” isn’t an answer. Why do they “hate our freedoms”?

    3. What issues are not being discussed here in the U.S. as reasons for terrorism? Example: Are any of the terrorists out there angry at the U.S. for using third-world nations as slave-labor farms? If so, where’s the discussion in the U.S. about ending those practices? Is this not discussed because lobbyists are opposed to it?

    Once again, the right issue is raised, but the wrong question is put to it. It’s not about what would I do if I were a terrorist. It’s what would cause me to become a terrorist and is the U.S. causing those conditions to flourish.

    Part of patriotism is being able to look at your country and point out its faults, not just blindly shoot those who disagree in the face in the name of “freeduhm” and “Americuhn values.”

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  387. Johnny B says:

    Perhaps the real problem is that we only see them as terrorists. The real goal of said supposed terrorist is not to terrorize. The extremist Islamic factions that follow the path of bloodshed to “victory” are not looking to play cloak and dagger forever.

    Their greatest desire is the hardest one for them to achieve: Getting their hands on a nuclear device, taking a popular shipping route to New York or San Francisco, and setting it off without anyone knowing who did it. Generally, a terrorist wants you to know the crime they committed. That’s why their ultimate goal is not about playing the economics of terrorism. What would America’s response be to an unknown enemy who just wiped out one of their largest metropolitan areas? Fear of the unknown, massive consequences, ultimately ending in the destruction of this great nation of ours. That’s their purpose, not terrorism.

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  388. Johnny B says:

    Perhaps the real problem is that we only see them as terrorists. The real goal of said supposed terrorist is not to terrorize. The extremist Islamic factions that follow the path of bloodshed to “victory” are not looking to play cloak and dagger forever.

    Their greatest desire is the hardest one for them to achieve: Getting their hands on a nuclear device, taking a popular shipping route to New York or San Francisco, and setting it off without anyone knowing who did it. Generally, a terrorist wants you to know the crime they committed. That’s why their ultimate goal is not about playing the economics of terrorism. What would America’s response be to an unknown enemy who just wiped out one of their largest metropolitan areas? Fear of the unknown, massive consequences, ultimately ending in the destruction of this great nation of ours. That’s their purpose, not terrorism.

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  389. Marc-Andre Caron says:

    Sorry if this has already been posted, I haven’t read all 184 comments.

    You have to wonder about the price of being a terrorist. What is it? You either die, go to jail or live the rest of your life as a fugitive for an act that will make everybody (or almost everybody) hate you, on both sides of the issue. Basically, your life loses all value, especially if you still have an ounce of humanity in you, in which case, deep down you know you’re killing innocent people.

    This price is lower in Israel or in Iraq where your life may already have no value but the second an organisation sends you to the west, especially with official papers, renouncing terror can be a very interesting option since you could study and work and enjoy freedoms impossible in your native country.

    More than the CIA or the TSA, economics may unknowingly be the best weapon against terror.

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  390. Marc-Andre Caron says:

    Sorry if this has already been posted, I haven’t read all 184 comments.

    You have to wonder about the price of being a terrorist. What is it? You either die, go to jail or live the rest of your life as a fugitive for an act that will make everybody (or almost everybody) hate you, on both sides of the issue. Basically, your life loses all value, especially if you still have an ounce of humanity in you, in which case, deep down you know you’re killing innocent people.

    This price is lower in Israel or in Iraq where your life may already have no value but the second an organisation sends you to the west, especially with official papers, renouncing terror can be a very interesting option since you could study and work and enjoy freedoms impossible in your native country.

    More than the CIA or the TSA, economics may unknowingly be the best weapon against terror.

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  391. Marc-Andre Caron says:

    If I were in charge of Al Qaida, at this point I would stop trying to kill innocent american civilians. Instead, I would send people with explosives up their rectums to airports with the explicit mission to get caught. Cross-dressing terrorists with explosive prosthetics could also be sent on a similar mission.

    The cost for upstanding american travellers would be a very uncomfortable session of poking and groping before boarding planes.

    Luckily, the Taliban are against laughter.

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  392. Marc-Andre Caron says:

    If I were in charge of Al Qaida, at this point I would stop trying to kill innocent american civilians. Instead, I would send people with explosives up their rectums to airports with the explicit mission to get caught. Cross-dressing terrorists with explosive prosthetics could also be sent on a similar mission.

    The cost for upstanding american travellers would be a very uncomfortable session of poking and groping before boarding planes.

    Luckily, the Taliban are against laughter.

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  393. Peter Mueller says:

    I too applaud you for taking on this daunting question. However, I would like to also offer that the terrorist’s goal seems to be as much about economic harm as it is about physical-threat-of-harm…

    Look, it’s clear they had a hangup or two about the World Trade Center for some time before 9/11 — far more than is attributable solely to the “they-want-to-go-after-our-public-symbols” theory. Isn’t it possible that this group of non-MBAs might have concluded that bringing down the WTC would “bring down” our entire economic system?

    As they enroll in Economics 101 classes (either here or via home-schooling programs), they’ll eventually learn how much of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer-spending. So, any real attempt to take the economy down is best accomplished by the following:

    During the height of Christmas-shopping-season, go blow up a Wal Mart somewhere in the mid-West. (Or to combine it with your sniper theory, just peg off a few people in the parking lot…) Get a lot of people panicky about their lives, yes, but more importantly their shopping habits, and you have a recipe for economic hardship that would move “Subprime Mortgages” out of the headlines.

    And, if, as we’ve since found out, the terrorists benefited last time by short-selling aviation stocks, then I’d be on the lookout for sudden spikes in Amazon shares.

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  394. Peter Mueller says:

    I too applaud you for taking on this daunting question. However, I would like to also offer that the terrorist’s goal seems to be as much about economic harm as it is about physical-threat-of-harm…

    Look, it’s clear they had a hangup or two about the World Trade Center for some time before 9/11 — far more than is attributable solely to the “they-want-to-go-after-our-public-symbols” theory. Isn’t it possible that this group of non-MBAs might have concluded that bringing down the WTC would “bring down” our entire economic system?

    As they enroll in Economics 101 classes (either here or via home-schooling programs), they’ll eventually learn how much of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer-spending. So, any real attempt to take the economy down is best accomplished by the following:

    During the height of Christmas-shopping-season, go blow up a Wal Mart somewhere in the mid-West. (Or to combine it with your sniper theory, just peg off a few people in the parking lot…) Get a lot of people panicky about their lives, yes, but more importantly their shopping habits, and you have a recipe for economic hardship that would move “Subprime Mortgages” out of the headlines.

    And, if, as we’ve since found out, the terrorists benefited last time by short-selling aviation stocks, then I’d be on the lookout for sudden spikes in Amazon shares.

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  395. Karl Bridges says:

    If I wanted to bring the country to its knees I’d simply send 500 people to various strategic airports and at a prearranged times have them start by passing security and running into the concourses. You do this with the proper selection of time, day of the week, and locations and you could, effectively, snarl or completely shut down the air traffic system. They clear the concourse, check it out, start people back through security, and then the next wave hits and so on.
    And, arranged in a cell structure, even if you caught half these people they couldn’t tell you anything about how this works or who did it. They got a phone call from a disposable cell phone saying where to be and when to jump. These people buy their own tickets so there’s no money to trace anywhere.

    And, this is something that there’s no defense against — except massive reconstruction of every airport to prevent people jumping security. The point of this is: There’s no effective defense except doing something about the root causes of terrorism — which are essentially ignorance and poverty.

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  396. Karl Bridges says:

    If I wanted to bring the country to its knees I’d simply send 500 people to various strategic airports and at a prearranged times have them start by passing security and running into the concourses. You do this with the proper selection of time, day of the week, and locations and you could, effectively, snarl or completely shut down the air traffic system. They clear the concourse, check it out, start people back through security, and then the next wave hits and so on.
    And, arranged in a cell structure, even if you caught half these people they couldn’t tell you anything about how this works or who did it. They got a phone call from a disposable cell phone saying where to be and when to jump. These people buy their own tickets so there’s no money to trace anywhere.

    And, this is something that there’s no defense against — except massive reconstruction of every airport to prevent people jumping security. The point of this is: There’s no effective defense except doing something about the root causes of terrorism — which are essentially ignorance and poverty.

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  397. Wayne Lanier says:

    Would you please apply similar clear logic and predictive reasoning to how we might extract ourselves from Iraq…? Even conservative Republicans seem to realize our experiment there has gone off track.

    The rigid position of the Bush administration has stalled the dialog at “stay the course”, under various other names, and “get out now”. Without a plan, as the failures cascade we are likely to end up helicoptering off the Baghdad embassy roof, leaving behind chaos.

    How can we protect the Kurds, our loyal and quiet allies? Can we guide partition, obviously the wish of very many Iraqis? Can we forestall a violent civil war? Will we leave the mess to Turkey, Syria, and Iran? Can we protect our various investments? What will we do with Iraqis who flee with us?

    Needed are voices to present and analyze the consequences of various exit strategies, hopefully to prod the stalled dialog back onto a more productive path.

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  398. Wayne Lanier says:

    Would you please apply similar clear logic and predictive reasoning to how we might extract ourselves from Iraq…? Even conservative Republicans seem to realize our experiment there has gone off track.

    The rigid position of the Bush administration has stalled the dialog at “stay the course”, under various other names, and “get out now”. Without a plan, as the failures cascade we are likely to end up helicoptering off the Baghdad embassy roof, leaving behind chaos.

    How can we protect the Kurds, our loyal and quiet allies? Can we guide partition, obviously the wish of very many Iraqis? Can we forestall a violent civil war? Will we leave the mess to Turkey, Syria, and Iran? Can we protect our various investments? What will we do with Iraqis who flee with us?

    Needed are voices to present and analyze the consequences of various exit strategies, hopefully to prod the stalled dialog back onto a more productive path.

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  399. S. Riccobene says:

    I don’t think you are a a moron, a traitor, or both. I think you very thoughtfully analyzed the situation and I appreciate your analysis.

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  400. S. Riccobene says:

    I don’t think you are a a moron, a traitor, or both. I think you very thoughtfully analyzed the situation and I appreciate your analysis.

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  401. Robert Stein says:

    The point is not giving terrorists new ideas but stirring up the fears we all have to live with since 9/11 for no valid reason other than showing off. Somebody should explain this to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff as well, as I tried to do in this blog post today:

    http://ajliebling.blogspot.com/2007/08/freakonomics-tumult-over-terrorists.html

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  402. Robert Stein says:

    The point is not giving terrorists new ideas but stirring up the fears we all have to live with since 9/11 for no valid reason other than showing off. Somebody should explain this to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff as well, as I tried to do in this blog post today:

    http://ajliebling.blogspot.com/2007/08/freakonomics-tumult-over-terrorists.html

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  403. Matt says:

    I like the idea of a forum where normal people can post their ideas/fears for terrorism plots. Suppose I have an idea for a creepy scheme that could harm my nation, and I want to be sure that someone “in charge” has thought about it. How do I bring it up without buying myself a “potential wierdo” notation on the Homeland Security watchlist? I see this as a potential think-tank setup – everyone can post their worst fears and the government can sift through them for real potential dangers.

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  404. Matt says:

    I like the idea of a forum where normal people can post their ideas/fears for terrorism plots. Suppose I have an idea for a creepy scheme that could harm my nation, and I want to be sure that someone “in charge” has thought about it. How do I bring it up without buying myself a “potential wierdo” notation on the Homeland Security watchlist? I see this as a potential think-tank setup – everyone can post their worst fears and the government can sift through them for real potential dangers.

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  405. C.S. Wright says:

    While thinking outside the box is a good thing, and often a highly effective one at that, there is considerable danger in this type of speculation.

    I myself can think of several ways far more effective than anything yet successfully accomplished (or perhaps even attempted, depending on the past successes of our inteligence and law enforcement services).

    Our one main advantage is that these terrorists really do not understand us. This, needless to say, is a good thing! By offering speculation on how best to attack the United States via terror, we serve to educate current and potential terrorists on our national character and our mindset. This could potentially prove a tragically poor move, strategically speaking.

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  406. C.S. Wright says:

    While thinking outside the box is a good thing, and often a highly effective one at that, there is considerable danger in this type of speculation.

    I myself can think of several ways far more effective than anything yet successfully accomplished (or perhaps even attempted, depending on the past successes of our inteligence and law enforcement services).

    Our one main advantage is that these terrorists really do not understand us. This, needless to say, is a good thing! By offering speculation on how best to attack the United States via terror, we serve to educate current and potential terrorists on our national character and our mindset. This could potentially prove a tragically poor move, strategically speaking.

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  407. Henche Mann says:

    All I had to do was read the headline from CNN.com “OMG! OMG! OMG! NYT SOLICITS IDEAS FOR TERRORISM PLOTS”. Jesus.

    Why do we equate understanding the criminal mind with a desire to engage in criminal activity? That’s exactly why we do not have Americans thinking up these plots as openly as you would like. In Facist America, those kinds of thoughts could get you in trouble.

    Glenn Beck seems to come close on his program when he starts speaking of “things that keep me up at night”. (Viagra?)

    Nonetheless, it is something that Americans need to speak about openly. Once we do, we’ll FINALLY understand that our government has done EXACTLY NOTHING to make this country safer in the name of “The War on Terror” ™. I truly believe that will never happen.

    So, you wanna know what keeps me up at night? Like you, soft targets and unassuming, low tech operations.

    I live in San Diego, CA where the interstates are choked all the way up to Sacramento for at least 15 hours out of the day. I worry that a terrorist cell could pack 10 trucks worth of explosives, up and down the Interstate 5, and let them all rip at well coordinated times during a slow moving rush hour.

    When I go to see a movie. I think to myself, what’s going to keep a terrorist from walking in with a bag of explosives and set it off once the theater is full?

    Yes, we are sitting ducks. Sitting ducks.

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  408. Henche Mann says:

    All I had to do was read the headline from CNN.com “OMG! OMG! OMG! NYT SOLICITS IDEAS FOR TERRORISM PLOTS”. Jesus.

    Why do we equate understanding the criminal mind with a desire to engage in criminal activity? That’s exactly why we do not have Americans thinking up these plots as openly as you would like. In Facist America, those kinds of thoughts could get you in trouble.

    Glenn Beck seems to come close on his program when he starts speaking of “things that keep me up at night”. (Viagra?)

    Nonetheless, it is something that Americans need to speak about openly. Once we do, we’ll FINALLY understand that our government has done EXACTLY NOTHING to make this country safer in the name of “The War on Terror” ™. I truly believe that will never happen.

    So, you wanna know what keeps me up at night? Like you, soft targets and unassuming, low tech operations.

    I live in San Diego, CA where the interstates are choked all the way up to Sacramento for at least 15 hours out of the day. I worry that a terrorist cell could pack 10 trucks worth of explosives, up and down the Interstate 5, and let them all rip at well coordinated times during a slow moving rush hour.

    When I go to see a movie. I think to myself, what’s going to keep a terrorist from walking in with a bag of explosives and set it off once the theater is full?

    Yes, we are sitting ducks. Sitting ducks.

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  409. Dan says:

    I agree with post #32. Your response is more articulate.

    Thank you.

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  410. Dan says:

    I agree with post #32. Your response is more articulate.

    Thank you.

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  411. Shree C. says:

    Many of the comments both to this column and the previous “terrorism” column discuss the intelligence of the terrorists. They assume that they do not know America well enough.

    Newsflash. Many of the “terrorists” have been educated in America or other Western nations. These people are already here. They already know our vulnerabilities. They are not stupid.

    I think that not talking about possible scenarios because the terrorists might be watching is ludicrous. The terrorists want us to alter our way of life. They want us to live in fear. Curbing our own speech and allowing others to do it is essentially bowing down to terrorism.

    Having open discussion about possible scenarios is not the problem. Discussion will allow us to allocate our resources effectively beforehand instead of a panicked afterthought of legislation.

    The best way to win the “war on terror” is to stop being afraid and carry on. They can’t win if you’re not scared.

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  412. Shree C. says:

    Many of the comments both to this column and the previous “terrorism” column discuss the intelligence of the terrorists. They assume that they do not know America well enough.

    Newsflash. Many of the “terrorists” have been educated in America or other Western nations. These people are already here. They already know our vulnerabilities. They are not stupid.

    I think that not talking about possible scenarios because the terrorists might be watching is ludicrous. The terrorists want us to alter our way of life. They want us to live in fear. Curbing our own speech and allowing others to do it is essentially bowing down to terrorism.

    Having open discussion about possible scenarios is not the problem. Discussion will allow us to allocate our resources effectively beforehand instead of a panicked afterthought of legislation.

    The best way to win the “war on terror” is to stop being afraid and carry on. They can’t win if you’re not scared.

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  413. Michael says:

    I don’t remember which post it was but it was stated that every non-muslim should read the Koran, and we should, if we ever want to understand why there is Terrorism. The Koran explicitly states that all true Muslims should (1) Convert all Infidels (2) Barring the conversion then the infidels should be enslaved through labor or extortion and (3) Barring the #’s 1 and 2 then all infidels should be killed. How do you reason with someone like this. Most will say that not all muslims believe this. If this is the case then get a Mulsim to denounce it. You will find that he or she will not easily do this. During my tour in Iraq I was able to deal with the local populace, most wanted us there and were greatful for the ousting of Sadam, but that was it, we were still infidels. There is no word for hypocracy in the Arabic language, which makes them even harder to deal with. They expect certain things from the infidels but would never burden themselves with the same expectations. The only thing they respect is strength. By apologizing to them for perceived wrongs then we were exhibiting signs of weakness, which would then be a cause for little or no respect from them. In other words we should either destroy them and their will to fight or resign ourselves to the fact that one day they will strike again and will continue to strike.

    With this in mind if I were a “Western Terrorist” I would start by bombing all Mosques, and every day five times a day I would execute as many people as possible who were praying to Allah and as the individuals were dying I would pour the blood of pigs on their dying souls to ensure that they would not go to their Heaven. I would then start to unmask and make unwanted physical contact with as many Muslim females as possible as this is justification for muslim men to beat and kill their women. Keep in my mind I am not talking about raping the women, just shaking hands or making blatant eye contact. The overall goal would be to stop the breeding of future muslims. I understand this could take a while but it would have an immediate “Fear” effect on the female populace of muslim countries.

    I know this sounds cruel and sick, but as many have stated on this site, it is good to think like a terrorist. I just wonder why was it so easy for everyone to come up with ways for Muslim terrorists to kill non-muslims and not to the think of the way of Self Preservation. I truly wish there was another way but sometimes you must fight back. How do you negotiate with someone who’s overall goal is to kill you. Unfortunenately or fortunenately for some I don’t think that I have the Moral conviction to be the terrorist that I described, but it would be nice to instill some fear over there.

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  414. Michael says:

    I don’t remember which post it was but it was stated that every non-muslim should read the Koran, and we should, if we ever want to understand why there is Terrorism. The Koran explicitly states that all true Muslims should (1) Convert all Infidels (2) Barring the conversion then the infidels should be enslaved through labor or extortion and (3) Barring the #’s 1 and 2 then all infidels should be killed. How do you reason with someone like this. Most will say that not all muslims believe this. If this is the case then get a Mulsim to denounce it. You will find that he or she will not easily do this. During my tour in Iraq I was able to deal with the local populace, most wanted us there and were greatful for the ousting of Sadam, but that was it, we were still infidels. There is no word for hypocracy in the Arabic language, which makes them even harder to deal with. They expect certain things from the infidels but would never burden themselves with the same expectations. The only thing they respect is strength. By apologizing to them for perceived wrongs then we were exhibiting signs of weakness, which would then be a cause for little or no respect from them. In other words we should either destroy them and their will to fight or resign ourselves to the fact that one day they will strike again and will continue to strike.

    With this in mind if I were a “Western Terrorist” I would start by bombing all Mosques, and every day five times a day I would execute as many people as possible who were praying to Allah and as the individuals were dying I would pour the blood of pigs on their dying souls to ensure that they would not go to their Heaven. I would then start to unmask and make unwanted physical contact with as many Muslim females as possible as this is justification for muslim men to beat and kill their women. Keep in my mind I am not talking about raping the women, just shaking hands or making blatant eye contact. The overall goal would be to stop the breeding of future muslims. I understand this could take a while but it would have an immediate “Fear” effect on the female populace of muslim countries.

    I know this sounds cruel and sick, but as many have stated on this site, it is good to think like a terrorist. I just wonder why was it so easy for everyone to come up with ways for Muslim terrorists to kill non-muslims and not to the think of the way of Self Preservation. I truly wish there was another way but sometimes you must fight back. How do you negotiate with someone who’s overall goal is to kill you. Unfortunenately or fortunenately for some I don’t think that I have the Moral conviction to be the terrorist that I described, but it would be nice to instill some fear over there.

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  415. Robert says:

    In response to post #85 by Kimo.

    I never said there shouldn’t be a reaction, just that the government overreacted and without much real effect. I never said what happened to those in the air and on the ground wasn’t a terrible tragedy, it was. On the other hand, I actually believe the specific act that occurred on 9/11 was preventable. As far as I am concerned only two changes were necessary to prevent 9/11 from playing out as it did – locked, reinforced cockpit doors and an end of the ‘passengers take no action’ policy in the event of a hijacking.

    That does not mean that no act of terrorism would have occurred. It just means they would have found a different way of trying the same thing; for I believe that Osama bin Laden was fixated on the WTC as the primary target.

    Lastly, we did dream of using aircraft as WMDs. We have dreamed of it in fiction, in the movies and in real life. For example, in printed fiction, there was Tom Clancy’s ‘Debt of Honor’, published in 1994. In the movies, there was the was ‘Escape from New York, released in 1981. Lastly, in real life, one of the earliest was Samuel Byck’s attempt in 1974 with the White House as the target. There have been other attempts since then. We just didn’t react to them.

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  416. Robert says:

    In response to post #85 by Kimo.

    I never said there shouldn’t be a reaction, just that the government overreacted and without much real effect. I never said what happened to those in the air and on the ground wasn’t a terrible tragedy, it was. On the other hand, I actually believe the specific act that occurred on 9/11 was preventable. As far as I am concerned only two changes were necessary to prevent 9/11 from playing out as it did – locked, reinforced cockpit doors and an end of the ‘passengers take no action’ policy in the event of a hijacking.

    That does not mean that no act of terrorism would have occurred. It just means they would have found a different way of trying the same thing; for I believe that Osama bin Laden was fixated on the WTC as the primary target.

    Lastly, we did dream of using aircraft as WMDs. We have dreamed of it in fiction, in the movies and in real life. For example, in printed fiction, there was Tom Clancy’s ‘Debt of Honor’, published in 1994. In the movies, there was the was ‘Escape from New York, released in 1981. Lastly, in real life, one of the earliest was Samuel Byck’s attempt in 1974 with the White House as the target. There have been other attempts since then. We just didn’t react to them.

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  417. Jim says:

    a nit to pick.

    Levitt wrote:
    “Consequently, we put much more effort into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.”

    How can we know “we put much more effort” when the effort on the other is largely secret?

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  418. Jim says:

    a nit to pick.

    Levitt wrote:
    “Consequently, we put much more effort into the toothpaste even though it is probably a much less important threat.”

    How can we know “we put much more effort” when the effort on the other is largely secret?

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  419. Charlie says:

    I disagree whole-heartidly with your premise that nothing can be done to beat terrorists.

    SOLUTION, PART I:
    Google “Bill Gates” and “Inequality” — the solution is to bring equality to the world. If people see a possible positive outcome for their future, they won’t blow themselves up.
    Here you go –http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/06.14/99-gates.html

    SOLUTION, PART II:
    Give the Feds the opportunity to do their jobs. Yes, that means wire-taps, etc. Our agents deserve to have every tool at their disposal so that the they can stop terrorists before they strike. Get rid of the ACLU on this one, we need more freedom for cops, not less.

    So, stop breeding terrorist by providing opportunities to everyone, and make it impossible for those who are insane to accomplish their mission. That’s how you can stop terrorism in a nutshell.

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  420. Charlie says:

    I disagree whole-heartidly with your premise that nothing can be done to beat terrorists.

    SOLUTION, PART I:
    Google “Bill Gates” and “Inequality” — the solution is to bring equality to the world. If people see a possible positive outcome for their future, they won’t blow themselves up.
    Here you go –http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/06.14/99-gates.html

    SOLUTION, PART II:
    Give the Feds the opportunity to do their jobs. Yes, that means wire-taps, etc. Our agents deserve to have every tool at their disposal so that the they can stop terrorists before they strike. Get rid of the ACLU on this one, we need more freedom for cops, not less.

    So, stop breeding terrorist by providing opportunities to everyone, and make it impossible for those who are insane to accomplish their mission. That’s how you can stop terrorism in a nutshell.

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  421. Jeremy says:

    I’m glad you post these things. Its true that if a terrorist wants to do something, they will. Its dumb when people say, “Don’t give the terrorists ideas.” If they are actually reading these things to come up with their terror plots, then they are a lot less intelligent than we’re told they are.

    Does anyone really feel safer with all the stupid airport checks? I travel with work and I can tell you, I don’t feel any safer, but I also don’t worry about it. If a terrorist REALLY wants to get on a plane with explosives, they will be able to do it. I know that the chances of my plane being hijacked and me dying are infinitely smaller than my chances of dying in a car crash on the way to the airport. All the checks do is piss off normal people who are following the rules.

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  422. Jeremy says:

    I’m glad you post these things. Its true that if a terrorist wants to do something, they will. Its dumb when people say, “Don’t give the terrorists ideas.” If they are actually reading these things to come up with their terror plots, then they are a lot less intelligent than we’re told they are.

    Does anyone really feel safer with all the stupid airport checks? I travel with work and I can tell you, I don’t feel any safer, but I also don’t worry about it. If a terrorist REALLY wants to get on a plane with explosives, they will be able to do it. I know that the chances of my plane being hijacked and me dying are infinitely smaller than my chances of dying in a car crash on the way to the airport. All the checks do is piss off normal people who are following the rules.

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  423. Jonathan says:

    Thank you, Steve, for bringing this subject up.

    The US Government contracts with a number of institutions, including New Mexico State University, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M University, to provide preparedness training for weapons-of-mass-destruction attacks to first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs). These classes include a healthy amount of brainstorming about potential terrorist attacks and existing vulnerabilities. To my mind, this is an important use of taxpayer dollars because it helps those first responders plan for the consequences of WMD attacks.

    Censoring discussions (even self-censorship) on this topic seems to me like a bad idea. It’s our right as citizens to demand accountability and transparency from our government about their plans for responding to WMD, and how can we do this effectively when we are told to hush up because the free expression of our thoughts could inspire the terrorists?

    Keep the thoughts and ideas coming!

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  424. Jonathan says:

    Thank you, Steve, for bringing this subject up.

    The US Government contracts with a number of institutions, including New Mexico State University, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M University, to provide preparedness training for weapons-of-mass-destruction attacks to first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs). These classes include a healthy amount of brainstorming about potential terrorist attacks and existing vulnerabilities. To my mind, this is an important use of taxpayer dollars because it helps those first responders plan for the consequences of WMD attacks.

    Censoring discussions (even self-censorship) on this topic seems to me like a bad idea. It’s our right as citizens to demand accountability and transparency from our government about their plans for responding to WMD, and how can we do this effectively when we are told to hush up because the free expression of our thoughts could inspire the terrorists?

    Keep the thoughts and ideas coming!

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  425. David says:

    I was just thinking about the security breach at Charlotte airport today, and it occured to me that anyone could go to the airport with a rifle and shoot down the TSA screeners. this would create a huge panic and delay flights.

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  426. David says:

    I was just thinking about the security breach at Charlotte airport today, and it occured to me that anyone could go to the airport with a rifle and shoot down the TSA screeners. this would create a huge panic and delay flights.

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  427. John Moore says:

    A book on the very subject you raised has been written. It’s called “The Head of Khalid Salaam” and is a fictional, yet believable, account of how Islamic terrorists might strike again. For those who say we’re okay since we haven’t had attacks since 9/11 or believe that sticking our collective heads in the sand will stop this threat, I point out that the comspiracy to attck Fort Dix, the plot against JKK’s fuel storage, and the scheme to blow up airliners traveling from the UK to the US are only a few of the recently disclosed terrorist plans we have heard about. How many more are there that we don’t know about? How many do we have to uncover to shake us out of our complacency? The book uses fiction to illustrate the perils we face. Although it is fiction, the threats are real. To learn more about the book, go to Authorhouse.com, click on “Book Store” and search on the title.

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  428. John Moore says:

    A book on the very subject you raised has been written. It’s called “The Head of Khalid Salaam” and is a fictional, yet believable, account of how Islamic terrorists might strike again. For those who say we’re okay since we haven’t had attacks since 9/11 or believe that sticking our collective heads in the sand will stop this threat, I point out that the comspiracy to attck Fort Dix, the plot against JKK’s fuel storage, and the scheme to blow up airliners traveling from the UK to the US are only a few of the recently disclosed terrorist p