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Thread: Why Have We Not Been Attacked Again? Competing and Complementary Hypotheses

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default Why Have We Not Been Attacked Again? Competing and Complementary Hypotheses

    Courtesy of the NEFA Foundation:
    "Why Have We Not Been Attacked Again? Competing and Complementary Hypotheses for Homeland Attack Frequency", June 2008.
    The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Science International Applications Corporation released a report titled, "Why Have We Not Been Attacked Again? Competing and Complementary Hypotheses for Homeland Attack Frequency." As the authors explain, "The hypotheses analyzed in this report can be divided roughly into two broad categories. The first category – Capabilities – suggests that terrorists have been unable to succeed in conducting another large-scale attack on the homeland due to the effectiveness of U.S. defenses or because of the terrorists’ limited capabilities. The second category – Motivations – assumes that a number of terrorist groups possess the ability to attack the United States but have chosen not to do so for a variety of reasons." There are more than two dozen competing explanations and "this study suggests that identifying a complete and consistent explanation for the non-occurrence of a subsequent attack on the U.S. homeland may not be possible."
    208 page PDF

    Anybody have a favored hypotheses or combination of?

    I have a combination that may seem contradictory:
    Hypothesis F) Terrorist threat has been massively exaggerated
    Hypothesis H) Al-Qaeda is waiting to acquire a CBRN capability
    Hypothesis L) Al-Qaeda’s next attack must surpass 9/11
    Hypothesis Z) Al-Qaeda’s goal is to “bleed” the United States dry economically

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Of course, another question is; Are there Angels?

    Yet another is; How many tried to dance there but couldn't get past the bouncer on the door?

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    Anybody have a favored hypotheses or combination of?
    Hmm, AQ and others being declared to be "terrorists" killed more U.S.Americans since 9/11 than during 9/11 and did multiple times as much economic damage.
    I'd rate that as "attacked". OK, counter-"attacked".

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Of course, another question is; Are there Angels?

    Yet another is; How many tried to dance there but couldn't get past the bouncer on the door?
    1. Probably.
    2. Likely not many.


    Seriously; as far as I understood it, AQ has changed itself and its methods a lot since 9/11.
    It's now much more interested in changing the Arab/Muslim world than in attacking Westerners(?).
    Even the complete annihilation of Manhattan would not really serve a purpose for AQ.


    They have been remarkably uninterested in attacking Westerners who did not meddle in Arab countries anyway.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You may not believe it but

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    They have been remarkably uninterested in attacking Westerners who did not meddle in Arab countries anyway.
    we have always been remarkably uninterested in attacking anyone who hasn't annoyed us unnecessarily. We're not really warlike at all -- but we sure do react to provocation...

    As for this:
    Hmm, AQ and others being declared to be "terrorists" killed more U.S.Americans since 9/11 than during 9/11 and did multiple times as much economic damage. I'd rate that as "attacked". OK, counter-"attacked".
    We have killed far more of them than they us -- but that's an extremely silly and meaningless metric (other than to those dead and wounded and their families). Seriously.

    It was and is a matter of principle. The issue was not subject to a cost benefit study, it was to deter attacks on the US and US interests and to decrease the ability and interest of anyone to pursue such attacks. There was, is and will be a cost to do that. We're paying it. So are they. We can pay more than they can. So they're dumb -- being dumb doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. Not being warlike doesn't mean we aren't dangerous; more dangerous at that...

    As for the economic damage, again disagree -- it's not damage, it's simply a cost. Again we're paying it.

    The neat thing is that since we and a few others are paying those costs, you don't have to. Before you say had we and those others not gone blundering into the ME no one would have to pay anything, I suggest you give that aspect some very serious -- and long range -- thought. Most of our immigrants assimilate pretty well...

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A few thoughts

    The title "Why Have We Not Been Attacked Again? Competing and Complementary Hypotheses for Homeland Attack Frequency" is rather odd IMO.

    I assume the paper refers to successful attacks on the USA homeland, so where is the assessment of thwarted plots? Plots that have resulted in successful crininal prosecutions, not media hyped stories after official leaks.

    I am not immersed in 9/11, but could it be seen as a carefully planned attack, that had a perceived - by AQ - as having a high risk of pre-attack disruption / failure? We now know that the plotters preparations were "dots not joined up" by intelligence and law enforcement (I do not fully share that "dots" explanation).

    Post-9/11 AQ attacks display a mixture of independent action ranging to centrally directed action. That suggests that an attack on the USA could originate from a variety of directions, possibly without a full risk assessment.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Fruitless arguments

    There are multiple terrorist groups affliliated with AQ, and while they share some common beliefs they still have their individual interests (motivations) and capabilities. It is fruitless to attempt to explain why another attack has not succeeded since 9/11 against the homeland, since there are countless variables involved, but I agree with David's post that various groups have attempted attacks since 9/11 that have been have been successfully pre-empted. Unfortunately good news apparently isn't news. Furthermore, if I recall my recent history correctly the purpose of the 9/11 attack was to draw us into a conflict in Afghanistan where AQ thought they could teach us a lesson. Osama was reportedly quoted as stating that he was surprised at the extent of the U.S.'s response and when he thought he was going to get killed apologized to his men. Who knows, it was media reporting, so take it for what is worth, but if the purpose of 9/11 was to drag us into the Middle East and South Asia they suceeded, but I don't think it is turning out the way that they anticipated. Another major attack on the homeland would not only provoke a firmer reponse (regardless of who gets elected), but further alienate the moderate Muslim world, which they were attempting to mobilize to support their bankrupt radical cause. AQ and the other extremists are clearly losing, it will take time, there will be set backs, but it is impossible (in my opinion) for them to win. We have seen the radicals surface in the past and they always end up defeating themselves.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Some more late thoughts

    Many, maybe all here, know that AQ and it's allies seek to drive the "mainstream" (a far better term than moderate IMO) Muslim communities towards their view, or neutrality.

    As a Muslim friend told me early this year, the extremists do not hate you, you are the kufr etc. The people they really hate are those Muslims who vocally oppose them (I'd add those who do not get paid by the state).

    Here in the UK terror attacks have several objectives in very simple terms: cause loss of life, create fear and divide the community.

    After the London and Glasgow "Doctors Plot" there was an upsurge in attacks on Muslims and those thought to be Muslims.

    In Birmingham, with the plot to kidnap and behead a Muslim British soldier, pre-empted by police action, there was cause for concern at the impact of such a plot on community relations. In 1974 after the once infamous Birmingham pub bombings there was an upsurge in attacks on the Irish community; anecdote suggests my use of upsurge is being polite.

    Could the reaction of the "mainstream" Muslim communities, let alone the vast majority of non-Muslims, have impacted AQ etc in their attack planning? Would another 9/11 exact too high a price? I suspect AQ has not heeded this, the communities can and have done (other threads have touched upon this).

    COIN which pre-occupies most here I suspect is not the same as counter-terrorism or preventing violent extremism. We can still learn from each other and take in lessons from outside our normal vision.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Good point

    David, I concur COIN isn't the end all be all for the global violent extremists, but COIN obviously applies applies where insurgencies exist. Since this is the Small Wars journal, mostly visited by military types (fortunately we have other participants who make significant contributions), and the discussion is largely focused on the wealth of historical data on insurgencies and counterinsurgencies.

    As for pure terrorist movements (versus insurgents who use terrorism as a tactic) the information is much more limited, and on the homefront it is primarily an intelligence and law enforcement problem set.

    The direct threat to to countries such as England, France, Italy, Neatherlands, and the U.S. to a lesser extent is pure terrorism (for this discussion I'll limit it to Muslim violent extremists). Law Enforcement/Special Operations/Intelligence operations, etc. currently provides a mechanism for pre-empting and disrupting most attacks, but they are not decisive in defeating the extremist movement. If they are skilled and lucky enough they may be able to destroy entire cells and organizations, but the movement can still exist and eventually sprout new extremists willing to blow up a bus or worse. I think the Brits and the French have more historical experience than most in dealing with this problem, though I question their effectiveness, which is telling since both have extremely capable intelligence and law enforcement organizations.

    I think it is a topic we need to discuss in this council in much greater depth.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Where to start?

    Drawing on Bill's last note and excluding France - which I know little about - where do we start on the "Home Front"?

    In the UK, particularly drawing upon the Northern Ireland experience, counter-terrorism has focussed on pursuing the plotters, or violent extremists; other strands in the national CT strategy called Op Contest: Prepare, Prevent and Protect have had less immediate impact.

    Containing violence by law enforcement and intelligence gathering - which eventually we got right in Northern Ireland - enabled political compromise via lengthy negoitations. Successful AQ / extremist attacks if kept to the minimum have been likened to being short and painful, not war.

    Oddly the Prevent strand - which effectively seeks mobilisation against violent extremists - has yet to get far beyond rhetoric and funding the "usual suspects".

    Incidentally a fifth 'P' is added by some; not to Provoke. I am sure the Muslim communities are the normal, primary consideration; let us not overlook the majority non-Muslim population.

    A small start.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Along with that

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Drawing on Bill's last note and excluding France - which I know little about - where do we start on the "Home Front"?

    In the UK, particularly drawing upon the Northern Ireland experience, counter-terrorism has focussed on pursuing the plotters, or violent extremists; other strands in the national CT strategy called Op Contest: Prepare, Prevent and Protect have had less immediate impact.

    Containing violence by law enforcement and intelligence gathering - which eventually we got right in Northern Ireland - enabled political compromise via lengthy negoitations. Successful AQ / extremist attacks if kept to the minimum have been likened to being short and painful, not war.

    Oddly the Prevent strand - which effectively seeks mobilisation against violent extremists - has yet to get far beyond rhetoric and funding the "usual suspects".

    Incidentally a fifth 'P' is added by some; not to Provoke. I am sure the Muslim communities are the normal, primary consideration; let us not overlook the majority non-Muslim population.

    A small start.

    davidbfpo
    I would suggest that we consider that any given subset of society has ways within which it deals with its own(per se) to directly approach Terrorism's roots with a solution in search of a problem might be a big tendency we must over come before really getting into the meat of the prevention.

    In relation to the P I would posit in order to believe that one is proactively seeking to avoid provocation then one must have already decided that that provacation does indeed exist. This would in some ways seem like giving up the war before the battle is even begun.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default History reminder

    For some data and so history check: http://counterterrorismblog.org/ which today has a long article No Attack in the US Since 9-11? By Madeleine Gruen & Frank Hyland. Which ends with a suggestion mre analysis to come.

    davidbfpo

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default

    As a "victim" the touchstone of 9/11 is hugely important. As the aggressor 9/11 is a complete operation and the next "big" operation is being planned and 9/11 is ignored. As such in the plans of Al Queda 9/11 has little to no relevance other than a "lessons learned".

    Even then 9/11 for Al Queda was only about 75 percent successful. One of the four planes did not hit it's intended target. As such the relevance is how to be more successful in the future. So far as a domestic entity Al Queda has succeeded with a truck bomb and a jet liner.

    I would propose that the time delay to the next big successful attack is partially caused by looking for a new vector to to create fear and terror. That is why we haven't been attacked yet.
    Sam Liles
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