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Adversary / Threat One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Talk about (or with?) them.

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Old 08-13-2007   #1
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Default The Coming Urban Terror

The Coming Urban Terror - John Robb, City Journal.

For the first time in history, announced researchers this May, a majority of the world’s population is living in urban environments. Cities—efficient hubs connecting international flows of people, energy, communications, and capital—are thriving in our global economy as never before. However, the same factors that make cities hubs of globalization also make them vulnerable to small-group terror and violence.

Over the last few years, small groups’ ability to conduct terrorism has shown radical improvements in productivity—their capacity to inflict economic, physical, and moral damage. These groups, motivated by everything from gang membership to religious extremism, have taken advantage of easy access to our global superinfrastructure, revenues from growing illicit commercial flows, and ubiquitously available new technologies to cross the threshold necessary to become terrible threats. September 11, 2001, marked their arrival at that threshold...
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Old 08-13-2007   #2
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Default Old wine in new bottles

John Robb writes well, citing examples of the 'new urban terror' in Latin America, notably Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

If you look at 'Old' Europe wayback in the C19th, especially after the French Revolution, the danger posed by urban mobs and revolutionares was well known. The streets of Paris weere laid out so artillery could sweep them; Austria-Hungary built forts around its cities to dominate them and in the UK we invented a civilian police force.

Cities can be anonymous, but local culture can be very invasive - many Europeans accept far greater regulation than elsewhere, e.g. Belguim.

Modern legend is that the state has a monopoly on force, well the state would want to claim that, but I have my doubts. Even before drugs organised crime had an extensive reach, e.g. the Mafia in Italy.

Groups, whatever their motivation, that prey on the public and challenge the state need to be confronted, not always by force. Retaining public support and confidence is the key. High visibility operations, so favoured in counter-terrorism alerts, must be far outweighed by a "ground cover" of contacts able to report. Building on the "cover" are informants who can penetrate the groups.

All too easy to slip into the "police state", careful now Napoleon is back!

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Old 08-19-2007   #3
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We're certainly seeing a projection of power by non-state actors never really seem before in history. In looking at the number of open terrorism cases by the FBI, Scotland Yard, etc. (as were noted after the UK Doctor Bombers episode), there is no doubt about the certainty of activity by cells at work.

In another thread here on SWJ, the question was brought up about "what if they (the terrorists) were more compentent?" And that goes right along with much of the analyses we see from various think tanks around the world. If they were more competent, imagine the destruction we might see?

My question--which I'm sure I'm not alone--why haven't we seen more competent attacks? The recipe has been supplied many times over by the Washington Post, New York Times, RAND, Brookings Institute, etc. What is the limiting factor that keeps these cells from wreaking the kind of havoc that journalists, pundits, and experts keep telling us about?
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Old 08-19-2007   #4
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Old 08-19-2007   #5
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Originally Posted by Hellbilly Soldier View Post
My question--which I'm sure I'm not alone--why haven't we seen more competent attacks? The recipe has been supplied many times over by the Washington Post, New York Times, RAND, Brookings Institute, etc. What is the limiting factor that keeps these cells from wreaking the kind of havoc that journalists, pundits, and experts keep telling us about?

It's rare to see the synchronization necessary to pull off a spectacular event.

If you'll notice the cells that have been broken up in the past few years, they're ultra-spread out with a lot of moving parts. Consequently, there's a greater chance for error.

You'll notice, as well, that when they are brought down they're still a few steps away from an operational plan. They may have an end and motive, but rarely the means.

The lack of synchronization, a viable and feasible plan, and the quest for the "biggest, largest, or most impressive" attack makes it easier to defeat before culmination, especially since 2001 (whether others want to admit the Patriot Act works or not).
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Old 08-20-2007   #6
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William Langewiesche's City of Fear

May ask for an email, nearby library, and a zip code in order to access the article. Other than that, the article is freely available.
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Old 08-21-2007   #7
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I honestly think Occam's Razor can be applied here.

The 9/11 attacks took a lot of time and resources, and a good bit of luck, to pull off successfully. It led to the US attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, which seems to have been OBL's strategy.

It's a heck of a lot easier to fight the US in the Middle East/Central Asia if one looks at the situation from a AQ perspective. You've successfully drawn the US into two wars, both of which are nowhere near ending, and have bloodied the nose of the US at the same time. While AQ has been mangled quite badly, they are still around, and have grown new offshoot organizations simply by not being eradicated. You can draw more manpower, more weaponry, and more resources from the Middle East to fight in the Middle East - it's simply easier to sustain and maintain.

They really don't need to hit the US again - we're pretty much engaged full throttle with our military, and our spending is going through the roof. The wars have costs $758B since 01 according to the GAO, and that would equal the GDP of the 16th largest country in the world as of 2006. The AQ strategy has always been to weaken the US economy, and while there haven't been any major economic disasters since 9/11, the economy certainly isn't as good as it could be. Plus we still have a massive national debt that is going to have to be serviced at some point in the future...
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