The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Underpants Bomber Incident: Overblown?

Posted by demkid on January 11, 2010

Nice little article in next week’s Time about al-Qaeda’s decreased effectiveness in carrying out large-scale terrorist attacks.  The author cites increased pressure from both the West and fellow Muslims as the main reason why attacks have become less frequent and less potent.  He concludes:

[E]ven in places like Pakistan and Yemen where al-Qaeda or its affiliates retain some organizational presence, it is much harder to train lots of would-be terrorists for complex, mass-casualty attacks. In response, al-Qaeda seems to be relying more on solo operators, people like Abdulmutallab, Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Malik Hasan and Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan American arrested last year for allegedly plotting to blow up buildings in New York. These lone wolves are harder to catch, but they’re also less likely to do massive damage. Al-Qaeda’s new motto, according to New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly, seems to be “If you can’t do the big attacks, do the small attacks.” Not exactly cause for celebration, but certainly not cause for the hysteria that has gripped Washington since Christmas Day.

I don’t think this article would have worked too well had the terrorist succeeded and a plane full of people was blown all over the Detroit metro area, but I think the main point is a valid one.  We’re in a much better position security-wise than we were in 10 years ago, and it definitely tells you something when you consider that the best al-Qaeda can do is to get one guy on a plane with hard-to-ignite explosives in his pants.  Will we ever be 100% safe?  Probably not, but I trust that our security will effectively stay well ahead of a disorganized group of extremists.

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