Polaris SLBMThe comment that "we need intelligence about a coming attack and then we will be able to stop it" shows everything that is wrong in current strategic thinking and why "Homeland Security" as envisioned by the government won't work… sure there is a policing function to counter-terrorism but you will never be able to "police" the terrorists completely away.

Enemies are always at the gates and they are planning "devastating" attacks on us 24/7. Our enemies are constantly sharpening their pencils. We lived under the threat of devastating attack from the Soviets for decades.

Historically what has prevented these attacks more than anything else is not analysis and timely intervention or "policing"… rather it has been simple game theory, the concept of deterrence, that is… a credible threat of retaliation in kind or the threat of overwhelming retaliatory force. You are unlikely to punch someone if you think that they will get up and punch you even harder.

To the extent that we allow that to slip, we will only make the world more dangerous for ourselves.

We see this "credible threat effect" in the back and forth in the financial markets everyday, what stops moves in the market is the credible "threat" of uncommitted capital to step in and take an opposite position. How many times have we sat watching the green and red ticks thinking "how extended is this". We always know that if we do something stupid, such as attack in the wrong way, the market mistress can really kick us hard in a sensitive spot.

Steve Leslie writes:

Tom's either/or scenario on deterrence to terrorism is flawed thinking.

The war on terrorism is an extremely complex endeavor and cannot be distilled into one simplified strategy as a solution. 

There is no one strategy that works with terrorism. It is true that some terrorists' view is that they will not attack if retaliation will involve broad onslaughts as were seen in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps this is the view that Iran is taking right now. 

Then again there are zealots and maniacs who think nothing of strapping a bomb to their bodies or filling a vehicle with explosives and driving into a crowded marketplace.  No direct or implied threat will stop them from doing this. Look at Northern Ireland and the English.  They fought their war of terrorism for over 20 years.

It is impossible for Western culture to understand a philosophy of suicide/terrorism.  This is an extremely bizzare worldview.

Think back on Timothy McVeigh. He blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City and killed hundreds of people.  For what?  No amount of implied deterrence stopped him. 

How about the Unabomber, Ted Kazinski.  He sent out mailbombs to people to kill and dismember them.  The FBI hunted him for years before finally catching him. This never stopped him from his insane mission. 

Now, it would be nice to say that all you have to do is this, but this is not the world that we live in and the sand is ever shifting.

Terrorism is a risk of doing commerce in the world.  It is now a fact of life and will never leave.


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