More on terrorism nitwittery…

Ok, I promise I’ll find something else to write about soon. Really I will. For now I just really cannot stop thinking about the [tag]foiled airplane bomb plot in the UK[/tag] and the assinine response that the authorities have had to it so far.

Here’s a gem of a quote from a reader at Boing Boing that nails it:

Ultimately, all solutions to terrorism issues are political, not technological, as the origins are political. It took years for the British to figure this out; finally, they sat down with the IRA and said, “What the hell do you want?” The IRA had slowly progressed from blowing up people to blowing up cars to finally calling in bombs that were going to go off at 2 AM when the streets were deserted. “If you don’t mind, please keep this bomb from going off. We found out killing people makes us unpopular. Thanks!”

A combination of arrests, killings, and negotiations brought the problem to a halt- not better bomb-detectors, or silliness about removing shoes before getting on planes.

The same writer contributes the altogether sensible thought that no matter what sophisticated detecto-ma-bob you put into an airport security line all you’ll ever accomplish is protecting yourself from the last threat. Semtex blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland and ever since we’ve had lots of neato machinery in our airports that detects Semtex. Of course, since anyone who might want to blow up a plane knows they can’t get Semtex onto a commercial airliner they don’t even try. Total number of Semtex bombs these multi-million dollar detectors have found in luggage since they were put in service = 0.

It is technologically possible to create equipment that will successfully screen for the types of chemical agents the foiled UK plotters were planning to use, but by the time you install that equipment the wingnuts who want to blow up planes will have already moved on to the next nasty compound or non-explosives-oriented threat.

If you want to stop this you have to stop being so damned stubborn. Are the methods used by al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc. appalling? You betcha. Are some of their demands likely to be as crazy and illogical as their methods of getting our attention? Yup. But it doesn’t matter. Ultimately you have to figure out a way to sit down and talk, find out what grievances are legitimate and address them constructively. Your only other option is to kill them all, and while that might sound like a fine solution (heck, it’s occured to me more than once a month, but that’s probably because I watched too many James Bond movies as a kid), but it’s impossible.

Much as Dick Cheney and his pals might like the idea of a never ending state of war it’s unsupportable. Ultimately, in any war, each side is going to suffer losses. With al Qaeda, Hamas, etc. they’ve already accepted that and built their ideology and recruiting strategies around the notion of martyrdom. With the western world that’s not going to cut it. Even a noble war, such as WWII, would have worn down the populations of the Allied Powers if Hitler and Tojo had been able to retrench, retreat, rebuild their forces and wait for opportunities to strike back.

To put it another way, eventually these asshats will succeed in taking down 10 or 20 planes with hundreds of passengers and single-handedly demolish the commercial airline industry and cause economic repercussions throughout the economies of the developed world.

The writer quoted above mentions the IRA. The difference between the IRA and al Qaeda is that the members of the IRA shared the same set of moral values as their foes. Ultimately they didn’t see killing non-combatants in their war as advantageous to acheiving their ultimate goal of reuniting Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and living and trading peacefully with the British. The Islamic terrorists we’re currently locked in a tussle with consider us all combatants. The UK government was able to play pretty much the same waiting game with the IRA that the IRA was playing with them. We won’t have that luxury. One really horrific event may be enough to turn the population of the US against its own government and beg it to sue for peace.

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