Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Best Defense is... a Good Defense

The British Home Defense authorities are reporting Thursday the foiling of a sophisticated coordinated attempt to bomb multiple commercial airliners in flight using liquid explosives. It appears that the harmless separate ingredients of the explosives would have been carried on the flight in hand luggage, combined to create the explosive mixture and then detonated, possibly by use of a simple electrical device.

Police are searching premises after 21 people were arrested. Home Secretary John Reid said they believed the "main players" were accounted for. High security is causing delays at all UK airports. The threat level to the UK has been raised by MI5 to critical after the arrests in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham. Critical threat level - the highest - means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK"..."We are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and to commit, quite frankly, mass murder," Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said. (BBC News, 8/10/06)

The investigation brilliantly seems to have prevented a terror attack that could've have resulted in many thousands of deaths. Furthermore, the plot has all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda operation: targeting airliners, a multiple coordinated attack and a sophistication to the plan.

What this plot also points out is the utter ridiculousness of the Bush administration's anti-terror strategy. Bush and others like to continually repeat over and over their belief that we have to 'fight the terrorists abroad, so that we don't have to at home'. While this may be valid if he's referring to beefing up our 'on the ground' intelligence gathering and infiltration operations overseas, preemptively launching military operations, such as the Iraq debacle, to 'fight terrorism' has been proven completely ineffective. Indeed, this approach is more likely counterproductive by creating a fertile environment for the recruitment of more terrorists and giving them a foreign 'coalition of the willing' to practice on.

The Moscow Metro bombing of February, 2004, the Madrid train bombings in March of 2004, the Russian airliner bombings of August, 2004 and the London Underground and bus bombings of July, 2005 are but a few examples of attacks that have happened since we 'took the fight to the terrorists' in Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, there are many other large and small terror plots that have been stopped, including today's announcement.

Clearly, advances in security technology, better human intelligence and infiltration operations and wider coordination of law enforcement organizations nationally and internationally are much more effective than the current failed military strategy. In this struggle, the best defense is not a good offense, at least as Bush defines it.

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