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9/11: An anomaly?

Discussion in 'Tilted Philosophy, Politics, and Economics' started by Street Pattern, Sep 12, 2014.

  1. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    A very interesting perspective on the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I don't fully endorse this (and neither does Josh Marshall, who shared it on his web site), but this writer definitely has a point:

  2. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    I don't agree with his basic logic.

    Because something hasn't happened = no one wants to do it? No. In fact absolutely not.

    Do people want to cure cancer? End discrimination? Solve any number of social problems like poverty, homelessness, insufficient medical care, etc?

    Yes, a huge number of people want to do all of those things. The reason they haven't been achieved yet are because they are all very difficult goals, expensive goals, and in most cases different powerful groups have different ideas/strategies to combat those problems, so they often either don't work together, or sometimes even work at odds to each other while claiming the same goal.

    So to say no one wants to commit a terror act like that, and the fact it hasn't happened yet proves it, is naive at best, and pure idiocy and very irresponsible at worst IMO.

    It hasn't happened because people are working very hard to stop it, it is a difficult accomplishment to start with, and those aiming to do it are often at odds with each other.
  3. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    Curing cancer is a difficult goal. Carrying out a terror attack is not. It's not exactly difficult to toss a homemade explosive into a backpack and drop it in a crowded area. Don't know how to make a bomb? No problem, that's what the internet is for.

    It's impossible to maintain freedom of movement and association while simultaneously defending against all possible forms of attack. The two are mutually exclusive. Put as many scanners as you want in front of the plane, they'll just blow up the bus instead. Or, y'know, not. As it turns out. Because nobody really wants to blow up anything.
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  4. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    9/11 may be an anomaly in terms of its scope and impact. That many deaths is an anomaly for terrorism itself. A death toll into the hundreds is difficult to pull off. 9/11 was in the thousands.

    As for foreigners pulling off terror attacks in the U.S., perhaps 9/11 is an anomaly, but there is no sense in downplaying the risk, right?

    I mean, nearly 3,000 dead is rare, but bear in mind that more than 10,000 people die from terrorist attacks annually, and last year it jumped to more than 17,000.

    I'm not sure what the value is in asking whether 9/11 is an anomaly. I hope it's an anomaly. Terrorism itself doesn't seem to be, especially for several countries who have it worse than the U.S.
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  5. rogue49

    rogue49 Tech Kung Fu Artist Staff Member

    Well, there's much that was attempted or planned, but doesn't mean it didn't get stopped or was not accidentally unsuccessful.

    There's much the govt doesn't release. (no conspiracy, just policy and mgmt calls, or just lost in the noise...think about what gets passed on in a normal business)
    There's also what the media has not paid attention to...or it was released, just not paid attention to by the masses.
    There's that which was foiled by intent by the authorities.
    There's that which was foiled by intent by unofficial people. (that clerk that noticed something funny, that busy-body that called up to alert someone...)
    There's that which foiled it by intent by the criminals' themselves (politics, priorities, agenda, etc...)
    There's that which foils it by accident by the criminals' themselves. (they typically aren't the most consistent or ethical of people...or perhaps incompetent)
    There's that which foils it by accident, period (a bomb doesn't go off, sometime trips going in...etc)

    Many are deceived by what they learned by Hollywood films, that a conspiracy just goes off without a hitch, well planned and executed.
    But this is rare...especially considering the scope of what's involved...and that it has to be hidden.

    Think about what it takes to get something big done in your chaotic company...how long, how many things need to go right.
    Now add if they want to cover it up completely...and not get caught, at least beforehand. (if not after)

    Plus, to be honest...it helps the US is framed by 2 oceans...and a strong ally to the north and not so organized ally to the south.
    It's more difficult to get over here.
    Notice how most terrorist actions happen more towards the Middle East...it's pure physics and logistics.

    Typically, the conspiracy is done after the fact, as people do CYA.
    It's hard to do the manipulation and execution before the action.

    Fortunately, we have the authorities, which are now more diligent after 9/11...more tools, more bodies, more eyes, better policy, etc.
    and the criminals are typically a bit "off-beat" which brings notice to them.
    Everything counts.

    I wouldn't call 9/11 an anomaly, we were just more complacent before that.
    And it shows you even then...how long it took them to do it.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  6. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    I presume you mean worldwide. And there's perhaps some definitional issues if you're talking about the entire world.

    After a dozen years of being screamed at that "this is the new normal," I think there's great value in stepping back a moment and saying, well, maybe not so much.
    --- merged: Sep 12, 2014 at 5:12 PM ---
    Josh Marshall points this out, just underneath the letter.

    But remember the notion that there were hundreds of attack-ready "sleeper cells" of terrorists already in the U.S.? I think that idea has been pretty well discredited.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2014
  7. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member


    I haven't the wherewithal to confirm those numbers so I'm going to assume they're true. It lacks conxtext though; according to the WHO, when it comes to causes of death heart disease is number one with a bullet. It kills about 7.5 million people annually. Strokes kill around 6.7 million. Diarrhea, diabetes and HIV/AIDS all kill about 1.5 million each.

    I certainly don't condone terrorism, but 10 000 or even 17 000 deaths per year in global terms isn't even a drop in the bucket. If you're living in northern Afghanistan I could understand that it might be a concern. But here in North America? It's not realistic fear.
  8. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Heart disease, diarrhea, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc., aren't people who kill other people with or without diseases. I don't find the comparison interesting. In the U.S., 10 billion land animals are killed against their will each year (10 billion!) to sate the appetites of Americans. That comparison isn't interesting either.

    As for context, consider this: There have been several terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. More than couple dozen, depending on your definition. You may have heard about a few of them, but I'm going to guess you don't know much about most of them. The main reason is because they weren't spectacular attacks by foreign "Islamofascists." (This doesn't include failed plots and alleged/suspected plots.)

    Also consider this: The numbers I listed were deaths, not injuries. Many more people are maimed and live in fear of terrorism as a result.

    One more thing: Part of my reason for my post was to demonstrate the stark difference between the U.S. and other countries in terms of risk of terrorism. The other thing, too, is that Islamic extremism is only one of the worries in the U.S. regarding terrorism. Well, that is if you consider white folks armed with manifestos and rifles as terrorists.

    (Honestly, though: The U.S.? Um, the entire murder rate anyone?)

    I hate how numbers become arbitrary because they're numbers. These are people we're talking about. Let's not drop them in buckets, 'kay? :D It's not like we should stop all security/anti-terrorist activities and reallocate the freed-up resources to fight heart disease. I don't think fighting heart disease is necessarily harmed by fighting terrorism. (This is a big part of why I find the comparison uninteresting.)

    As for a number like 10,000, that's close to the number of people who are killed by drunk drivers every year in the U.S. It's also close to the number of American kids who are killed or injured by guns each year. Let's keep worrying about drunk driving and gun safety despite the fact that the ebola toll could reach more than that combined.

    Anyway, I'm not sure what my ultimate point is. I guess: 9/11 is likely an anomaly, but we gotta keep trying to figure out this terrorism business.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  9. redux

    redux Very Tilted Donor

    Foggy Bottom
    It is impossible to prevent all terrorist acts by a lone wolf (or even a few) with the intent of a public display of killing innocent civilians.

    The larger issue that should be of concern is that 9/11 resulted in the "war on terror" in which the president, both Bush and Obama (to a marginally lesser extent), has expanded presidential powers to unprecedented levels putting himself above both US and international laws and, at the same time and with the consent of Congress, has also restricted basic Constitutional rights at unprecedented levels.
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  10. martian

    martian Server Monkey Staff Member

    I'm going to be honest, Baraka_Guru, I feel like you're lacking your usually clarity here. I'm not entirely sure I get the point you're trying to make. But, y'know, the things that Hamas are doing, the things that ISIS are doing, those are awful things. Callously throwing away civilian lives is awful. But taking your shoes off before boarding a plane? It doesn't really help. And if we're going to worry about what's happening in the developing world, I would suggest that combating diseases is far more pressing than dropping bombs on people who may or may not be insurgents.

    Nobody is pro-terrorism. That's not really a thing. But for me, personally, I'm a fan of proportional response, which is why keeping in mind how big of a problem terrorism actually is matters. If 10 000 people die due to terrorist attacks, every single one of those deaths is a tragedy. It's true. Every one of those people has a life and a family and goals and dreams and all the other things. Those are complete lives that have been taken away and it's awful. But, y'know, the question is, given limited time and resources, are the things we're doing to prevent those deaths the most effective use of the resources we're putting into it? Are those deaths more meaningful than a million and a half HIV patients? And, dollar for dollar, is the money we're putting into preventing those deaths really being used in the most effective way there? Could it prevent more deaths somewhere else? The fact that those deaths are terrible does not nullify the fact that our response to them needs to be deliberate and purposeful. Taking people's toothpaste and boxcutters is not helping. Reading peoples' emails and detaining them without cause is not only not helping but is actively harmful to the freedoms and rights that most citizens in the developed world take for granted. And I will be the first and, if necessary, last one to say that shit is jacked up.

    If the attacks of September 11, as awful as they were, if they're just a one-time event, then the entire response to them is unjustified. This "new world" that we've crafted, this whole anti-terrorism apparatus of questionable efficacy, is meaningless. And if that's the case, then I think it's something we need to address.

    I'm all for combatting terrorism. But efficacy is important. Screaming hysteria really doesn't help anyone.
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  11. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    I'm still not buying the comparison. Scientists are going to science, and law enforcers are going to enforce.

    Big Pharma is fucked up too, you know, but it doesn't really have any relevance to the topic of terrorism.
  12. Borla

    Borla Moderator Staff Member

    Tossing a homemade explosive is not anywhere near comparable to 9/11.

    It's about the equivalent of taking an Advil and not having a headache versus curing cancer.

    A terrorist attack to the level of 9/11, which was the topic at hand, is a tad more difficult than throwing a Molotov cocktail.
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  13. kramus

    kramus what I might see Donor

    It is the avowed goal of many fundamentalist terrorist organizations to destroy the economies of those countries they consider problematic. Asymmetrical warfare has been shown to be a successful way to deal with stronger forces since forever. It worked for the Americans in the 1700's, the French Resistance in the 1940's, the VC in the 60's and 70's, and in the 80's it was the mujahadeen - trained by the US/CIA - blunting the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
    9/11 was an incredible success that doesn't need to be equalled now that the Western world has spent trillions of dollars in the War on Terror while disrupting the power balance in the Middle East. The fundamentalist Islamists have accomplished much. The West has poured out it's treasure and blood and only created a greater mess than before. And of course, huge numbers of folks have been radicalized/polarized in the process. You'll notice that America is not very well thought of in that neck of the woods these days (neither is any Western nation, come to think of it).
    And the fundamentalist Islamist terrorists are still at it. America was really pulling back out of the sand trap, getting it's shit together, considering rebuilding things at home. Suddenly wham! 2 guys get their heads chopped off in a desert. Surprise surprise it looks to me likely there will be a ramped up war in the Middle East all over again. One big change - this time the strong nations of the Middle East like the Saudis are also going to be directly involved. Which will seriously degrade their economies and social fabric. In turn this will create more opportunity for fundamentalist dipshits like ISIS to spread their horrific agenda. ISIS and such ilk are going to keep killing, enslaving and generally acting like total dickheads because they get the results they want. The West will see the ongoing awfulness, decide it Has To Do Something yet again, and yet again we will drain our wealth and manpower by pouring it on to the sand. All the while we get weaker, poorer, less effective and more universally despised.
    Eventually the West will get tired of this no-win scenario. We will have to decide when to stop reacting in large ways. Sooner or later we will ease up, and pull back before our economies collapse completely. Limit ourselves to smaller scale interventions designed to keep absolute freaky fundamentalist horror from reigning over the entire area. The Middle East has been a complete mess, and will continue to be a complete mess for a looong time to come.
  14. rogue49

    rogue49 Tech Kung Fu Artist Staff Member

    The response is not directly proportional...it's a matter of the passions inflamed.

    The ISIL issue in case...they have not directly attacked the US nor are about to, at least what's admitted.
    Yet, we're about to embark into a large non-infantry attack on them...including potentially assisting a leader we previously opposed, Assad.

    But, if you cut the heads off people in front of everyone...you stir up a hornets nest.
    While they may be doing it to intimidate Turkey...what they have done is brought the rest of the world and especially the US against them. (to the point of even ignoring Assad, Iran and Putin)

    Same goes for 9/11...the long-run response did not match the tragedy.
    Basically, you kicked the giant in the nads...kind of pissed him off...and want to kill you.

    If you were truly going to go after the nationals involved, the US would have attacked Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
    Instead, they invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Response to a wound is not always rational or proportional.
    Sometimes you lash out at what ever is convenient...rightly so or not.
  15. Lindy

    Lindy Moderator Staff Member Donor

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were anomalous events, After all, nothing like that has happened again in the last seventy years, even though lots of folks have that capability, and more.
    Has it not been worth the efforts to mitigate the possibilities of a recurrence?
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