April 17, 2013

"Terrorists want large, splashy attacks on specific sorts of targets that have high emotional resonance..."

"... for both the victims and the people on your side who you hope to recruit, or tap for money.  This helps explain why Al Qaeda was so obsessed with the Twin Towers, a place that — until they fell — most New Yorkers regarded as a rather ugly landmark containing some so-so office space.  To a terrorist group looking for publicity, on the other hand, it had immense symbolic value: the tallest building in America's biggest city, with the hubristic name of 'World Trade Center.' That's why we don't get high-frequency, low-intensity attacks on crowded spaces near some Texas town that no one in Abottabad [sic] has ever heard of.  When attacks on those places happen, they tend to be the provenance of local lunatics for whom the nearby mall, or primary school, has some immense symbolic emotional importance."

Says Megan McArdle. This reasoning suggests that if only we'd avoid prideful spectacles we could deflect the Qaeda crowd. But there will always be local lunatics, and it's impossible to avoid all the tiny targets like schools and shops that every town has....
Adam Lanza was bullied while he attended Sandy Hook Elementary and his mother Nancy considered suing the school for turning a blind eye to the abuse, an unnamed Lanza family member told the New York Daily News.

“Adam would come home with bruises all over his body,” the relative told the Daily News. “His mom would ask him what was wrong, and he wouldn’t say anything. He would just sit there.”
Know your local lunatics. And for God's sake don't torment them. Don't create them out of whatever raw material you find around. Here's a pressure cooker. What can we put in it?

Now, these local lunatics tend to show their faces. It's a showdown. They die or get captured quickly. We know who did it.

On 9/11, every building I saw seemed shockingly vulnerable. I wondered if all buildings would come down. How deceptively solid these things seem, but there are people in the world who would destroy everything anybody builds. And yet so many buildings have remained standing all these years. I didn't think it would work out this well. Terrorists in my town bombed a minor spectacle of a building 40 years ago, but since 9/11, the building have held up.

After 9/11, I obsessed about what the terrorists would do next and, naturally, I thought of the things that would hit me and the people I knew. I pictured a day when 100 suicide bombers, one by one, in 100 different college towns stepped into a crowded café or movie theater or sports event and blew up. But that never happened. McArdle's theory suggests why. That's local-lunatic level. Too lowly for the Qaeda-type brand.

But is a crowd waiting at the finish line of the Boston Marathon such a spectacle? Are crappy pressure-cooker bombs the mark of a prideful organization that once commandeered 4 jet planes and piloted 3 of them into major landmarks?

We don't yet know who the Boston bomber is or even whether it's bomber or bombers. Using McArdle's reasoning, one wonders who fixates on the Boston Marathon. Do the people in Abbottabad care about our lengthy footraces? And why target the spectators? Or was the first bomb, planted in the spectators, supposed to make the runners run toward the second bomb? That's an evil trick, but hardly anything that seen from the other side of the globe could look like glory.

41 comments:

Rusty said...

My money is on some nut job from MIT.It's happened before.

Mark said...

I love when people try to parse an irrational act like they can make big sweeping conclusions about people or terror from the puny hate of a diseased mind.

But hey, let's let this asshole win, just like we did with the shoe bomber.

David Hampton said...

Maybe it is sport to roil the political waters by giving the players on both sides to destroy each other. The usual water carriers for Obama have the gall and dishonesty to blame Republicans for Boston Bombing because of sequester cuts in effect for a month. We are expected to believe that in a month's time the sequester, in their delirium of power maintenance, set the stage for a quick and brutal terrorist attack. These politicians and media carnival barker media types have no shame.

Henry said...

Why target the four hour mark?

TML said...

I've said for years that I fear the terrorists actually getting smart and starting an unstoppable campaign of micro-terrorism strikes. That would really suck. Forget the Big Spectacle and its "emotional power". Bullshit. Imagine 500 strikes a year just about anywhere that each kill 2-50 people. That's terror.

pm317 said...

local versus international lunatics, heh. God forbid, if the Boston culprits turn out to be somebody like Gosnell. Can you imagine the Left's dilemma? But it didn't prevent them from crying 'tea party' when all the recent shooting incidents were from people of lefty persuasion.

Oso Negro said...

The new Boston Massacre has the smell of jihadi wannabe. We will see.

AprilApple said...

I have friends who live in CT. They hate it there. She wants to move her family to another state. She says it's unbearably superficial- esp the females with their obsession over materialism and one-upping each other in that department. She doesn't want to raise her daughters in that environment.


Note how the media have not mentioned Adam Lanza and the fact that he was bullied. Doesn't fit the narrative.

AllenS said...

This reasoning suggests that if only we'd avoid prideful spectacles we could deflect the Qaeda crowd.

McArdle's reasoning doesn't mean that at all. You're projecting.

Synova said...

There are cases of "local" attacks in the US that weren't "local" crazies or "local" politics but were people motivated by thinking they were helping out AlQaeda. They don't stick in our minds as long is all. The general thing for picking targets seems only to be finding a crowd of people.

And the Boston Marathon is pretty famous in the world, isn't it? Doesn't it draw a fair number of international runners?

For the people who said "tax day" as if that made any sense... the day might make sense to a person or a group that is anti-government or anti-tax, but the target doesn't make any sense at all.

If you're an Islamist in India or somewhere and you blow up a nightclub... the target is "sin", right? Or you throw acid on school girls in Afghanistan... the target isn't random, it's focused on the fact that you don't think girls should go to school.

Who hates a marathon? It's got nothing to do with taxes. Nothing to do with government. Was someone bullied by runners or scarred by being handicapped so that they want to destroy able people?

Because *that* makes just as much or more sense than speculating about "tax day."

AllenS said...

Let me do a little projecting. These bombs were set by someone who comes from a society that hates homosexuality, so therefore they killed these people because of gay marriage.

Dante said...

This reasoning suggests that if only we'd avoid prideful spectacles we could deflect the Qaeda crowd.

Actually, she specifically mentioned the Twin Towers weren't viewed with pride by New Yorkers. Outside the US, though, they were viewed that way.

Terrorism merely indicates the need to decentralize. It's great if you can do it. Decentralization is hard to do, but if you can, the resultant structures tend to be much stronger than they otherwise would have been.

EMD said...

I pictured a day when 100 suicide bombers, one by one, in 100 different college towns stepped into a crowded café or movie theater or sports event and blew up. But that never happened. McArdle's theory suggests why. That's local-lunatic level. Too lowly for the Qaeda-type brand.

Now that would create terror.

Al Qaeda is foolish to focus on once-a-decade spectacles.

EMD said...

Actually, she specifically mentioned the Twin Towers weren't viewed with pride by New Yorkers.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Marshal said...

Henry said...
Why target the four hour mark?


A question I've asked myself. One possible answer: someone not motivated to kill as many people as possible, but one specific person using terrorism as a cover.

Or someone who wanted to target the competitive finish but was too incompetent to be ready on time.

Lem said...

I didn't write about it yesterday because I didn't know what to say.

And she (McArdle) still doesn't.

We know too little to speculate intelligently.

We could always do it unintelligently... but anybody can do that, you don't need to write for the Atlantic... you just walk into a bar... and make yourself the but of a joke.

This one is not going to be in her top 10... Megan McArdle's.

AprilApple said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AprilApple said...

I ponder all the small attacks that have been thwarted. Since 9/11, there have been a few. For instance, some of the New York City bomb plots - small Lone wolf sleeper cell operations. They were caught before anything went off. Perhaps we need to consider some of these smaller attacks still slip through? Nah...

...it was the tea party!

Mitchell the Bat said...

The real danger comes from weaponized toasters.

Peter said...

If things get bombed because they're "prideful," what about the 2004 backpack-bombing of that commuter train in Madrid, Spain?

Is there something "prideful" about commuter trains?

And then think of the impossibility of securing something like the NYC subway system. The fact is, we are vulnerable.

Yet life goes on, even in the face of pngoing atrocities. For example, people continued to ride buses in Israel even though suicide bombers sometimes detonated themselves in them.

Forbes said...

McArdle is an a$$. She lived in NYC for a few years and presumes to speak for New Yorkers. She speculates about what is local and what isn't without any special or particular observation. Adam Lanza has nothing to do with the bombing in Boston--and further speculating that a 20-year old having been bullied as a school boy has relevance is further proof that McArdle has nothing to say about Boston--as another reader has observed here. Why read such writers that have nothing to say...

rhhardin said...

On 9/11, every building I saw seemed shockingly vulnerable.

I didn't give it a thought.

Statistical innumeracy?

The terrorists want news coverage, not symbolic value.

There's some indication that they don't want to annoy America in that way, however.

Shanna said...

Know your local lunatics. And for God's sake don't torment them.

Or maybe we should teach kids and adults to have some common human decency and manners. And we should teach the kids that assholes exist and how to deal with them.

AllenS said...

Forbes,

Megan McArdle was born and raised in NYC. She was also living in NYC when 9/11 happened IIRC. Hers was the first blog that I read.

mrs. e said...

Henry said...
Why target the four hour mark?


Perhaps an assumption of a higher density of runners crossing the finish line, plus, a higher density of spectators mingling and hanging out after the race in this vicinity. Also, the finish line guarantees a lot of media coverage.

My guess it's someone who knows the town and the race well enough to get maximum effect. I find it interesting that no one's claimed it either - how does this fit into motivations?

Shanna said...

And the Boston Marathon is pretty famous in the world, isn't it? Doesn't it draw a fair number of international runners?

Absolutely. Doesn't the targeting of the marathon make the whole 'tax day' thing nonsensical? If this were a tax related protest they would have picked a different target.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"Karl also attempted to plant explosives at the Prairie du Sac electric substation which supplied power to the ammunition plant, but was frightened off by the night watchman."

Holy fucking shit.

Holy fucking shit.

Holy fucking shit.

This is remarkable. I know 30-year employees with this company who retired years ago, hence they were targets of these liberal fucks.

I used to think "Thank God the rough men stand ready to inflict violence and death on my behalf so I am spared that experience" but now I think I was missing out. The greatest joy very well, besides vajayjay, may be revenge on those who would, or have, terrorized or attempted to murder you or those close to you.

edutcher said...

As I say, all the Lefties want us out of A-stan the way they wanted us out of 'Nam, Mog, and Iraq.

When do we pull out and leave the Lefties in Baaston?

EMD said...

I pictured a day when 100 suicide bombers, one by one, in 100 different college towns stepped into a crowded café or movie theater or sports event and blew up. But that never happened. McArdle's theory suggests why. That's local-lunatic level. Too lowly for the Qaeda-type brand.

Now that would create terror.

Al Qaeda is foolish to focus on once-a-decade spectacles.


The foolishness may be at an end.

There was some speculation about this even before this last attack.

Darrell said...

The Boston Marathon is remarkably well known all over the world, according to market surveys that were quoted in the last few days. And press from all over the world attend, to cover their runners and provide a reason for them being here. It is also out on the street and easy to attack, impossible to defend. Attacking the finsih line was ballsy--that would be my safest location--checked constantly and access restricted. But I don't run the world.

David said...

The Boston Marathon is an international event with interest everywhere, particularly in Africa. To that extent it fits the traditional AQ pattern.

Darrell said...

Al Qaeda is foolish to focus on once-a-decade spectacles.

If the Boston Marathon were run only once a decade, you might have been right. But it's not. So you're wrong. Times ten.

Mary Beth said...

the tallest building in America's biggest city, with the hubristic name of 'World Trade Center.'

Tall? Yes. Hubristic name? There are world trade centers (or world trade centres) all over the world.

Marshal said...

mrs. e said...
Henry said...
Why target the four hour mark?

Perhaps an assumption of a higher density of runners crossing the finish line, plus, a higher density of spectators mingling and hanging out after the race in this vicinity. Also, the finish line guarantees a lot of media coverage.

My guess it's someone who knows the town and the race well enough to get maximum effect.


This is backwards. The crowd is the thickest when the leaders cross the line, and anyone familiar with the race would know that.

Shana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shana said...

Know you local lunatics, and for God's sake don't prosecute them:

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/04/17/video-wife-of-convict-arrested-in-murders-of-texas-das/

Shana said...

youR

Darrell said...

Why target the four hour mark?

Does security slack off after the "names" depart? Shift change? It might have been the first real opportunity to plant the bags.

gregq said...

Read Lee Harris' article on Al Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology. He said it all a decade ago, and better than Megan. :-)

creeley23 said...

The Boston bombing looks like a low-budget operation.

The attack is most similar to the 2010 Times Square attempt by a Pakistani trained by the Pakistani Taliban, which included a pressure cooker bomb.

Liberals complain about the senselessness of the War on Terror, but we did seriously degrade Al-Qaeda and other radical Muslim organizations.

Just because the Boston attack isn't as spectacular an event as 9-11 doesn't mean that radical Muslims are above such attacks these days.

The Boston Marathon is a world famous race attended by thousands of people. It's a plenty tempting target for any sort of terrorists.

Kirk Parker said...

TML,

"I've said for years that I fear the terrorists actually getting smart and starting an unstoppable campaign of micro-terrorism strikes."

Welcome to Sderot.

Alex said...

Imagine if it was some leftist loons who did this - the right wing-o-sphere will celebrate like it's 1999.