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It was the first time I’ve actually watched an Obama speech all the way through. I think it was short on content, overwhelmingly a political speech in that he was responding to Republican pressure about the Democratic wimp factor. He surely has to know that terrorism is not any kind of serious threat against the US and must also realize that any security operation encompassing hundreds of airports at home and abroad will occasionally have breakdowns if someone tries hard enough to penetrate the system.

The security lapse was essentially about how information is evaluated and responded to, which can be fixed without initiating a war on air travel. As the whole US security system is bedeviled by its lack of clear lines of responsibility and authority probably the best thing to do would be to fire half of the staff and put somebody in charge who is not about to go off on a ski holiday the day after a major incident takes place. But in Obama’s speech I heard basically a call for even bigger government to manage even bigger data bases, which I think will only make everything worse but probably has defense contractors licking their chops because of all that expensive new hardware that will be needed.

I also heard Obama use the word accountability and buck stops here when we know no such thing is intended. No one has been fired for any reason since 9/11 and when you say there has been systemic failure you mean that no one is to blame. Until someone’s head actually rolls I will not believe that anyone is serious about fixing anything.

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  1. neil 说:

    Then who? Who screwed up? Who was the single point of failure (and was he or she even an employee of the Federal government)? Is there actually no such thing as a systemic failure? Does a sacrificial lamb make a systemic failure easier or harder to fix?

  2. Pete 说:

    No one will be punished, because American airline security is political theater designed to keep Americans afraid and also to demonstrate the power of the State.

    The hapless underwear bomber served the first of those purposes well; that he didn’t serve the second will be mostly lost on a public that’s more interested in watching “The View” than C-SPAN.

  3. Yesterday CSPAN broadcast a symposium of mainly ex-CIA security professionals on Afghanistan. The topic of terrorism inevitably came up and one of the participants, Marc Sageman, offered the following analysis of the security failure over Detroit. He attributed it to the tendency of bureaucracies to compartmentalize work into discrete functions rather than overall actions. So it is possible that everyone “did his job” with regard to the Nigerian bomber but no one was responsible to see that anything actually happened. I hope I do justice to his analysis.

    I’ve seen this many times in my career and I’m guessing that this is the flaw in our intel-security apparatus. All levels of government punish doer’s and reward functionaries.

    The other obvious problem with our security is the pigheaded monomania with which the elite embrace cosmopolitan multi-culturalism. No one questions the premise that we as a nation should be a destination for Third World travelers. Do we suffer from a critical shortage of Nigerians in the US? Why do we allow immigration from Muslim countries at all? An elite who fails to affiliate with the majority population of their own country can never be counted on to defend the interests of said majority population.

  4. GB 说:

    How does the Obama-ites saying go:

    “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

    Give’em credit, they don’t!

  5. Learning 说:

    I just know if they put those scanners in, I ‘ll stop flying.
    The underwear bomber story stinks to high heaven as far as I’m concerned. A convenient excuse for Chernoff to rake in dough on his scanner machines.

  6. Sometimes you just trip over a little nugget, and it turns out to be gold.

    Thomas O. Meehan said, “An elite who fails to affiliate with the majority population of their own country can never be counted on to defend the interests of said majority population.”

    Well said! After proper obeisance to avoiding tyranny by the majority, still, the above is worth writing down; it’s a keeper.

  7. Thomas – Much appreciate your comment. Sageman is an ex-student of mine at “the Farm” and is one of the best and brightest of commentators on the terrorism issue. His analysis is spot on. While in CIA, I frequently noted that there was continuous action but it seemed that nothing ever actually got accomplished. That would seem to fit with his compartmentalization theory. I would argue that “homeland security” doesn’t work because there are too many players and too little actual leadership and direction.

    Re your other comment, America’s elites have long since abandoned the majority population if one judges by the immigration policy that has been in effect since the 1960s.

  8. Phillip – Sageman had a lot to say about Afghanistan as well. He was on board with the aid to the Afghan Freedom Fighters in the 80’s. In fact all four participants made really illuminating points on terrorism and our position in the Middle East, points never heard on the so called TV analysis. Your readers might like to play the segment on CSPAN.com. It’s under the Middle East Policy Council and Afghanistan. They can play the whole thing back on their computers.

    Barney, I’m flattered. Thanks for the kind mention.

  9. The War on Terror (TM) is being won by the federal gummint, just like the Cold War (TM)

    Thanks, Dr Giraldi. Your insights on this subject are always good reading.

    Neil, You make a good point, but I don’t know if your point contradicts Giraldi’s. If a human system is to produce desired results– as opposed to just producing predictable outputs– then the system must hold individuals accountable for results beyond proof of compliance with their job’s SOP’s.

  10. TomB 说:

    汤姆·米汉写道:

    “Sageman had a lot to say about Afghanistan as well….”

    As regards same Thom, you (and Phil, and others here as well) might want to take a look at a paper that’s just come out under the auspices of the Center For A New American Security by a military Intell guy Maj. Flynn and a number of others:

    http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/AfghanIntel_Flynn_Jan2010_code507_voices.pdf

    To quote from its Executive Summary: “The paper argues that because the United States has focused the overwhelming majority of collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, our intelligence apparatus still finds itself unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to protect and persuade.”

    In other words, kind of an elaborated-upon echo of some similar comments made not long ago by McChrystal and Mullen themselves criticizing our Intell in Afghanistan.

    To be honest I have a hard time knowing how to respond to guys like Flynn and Sageman, and McChrystal and Mullen too for that matter, (they’re so damned obviously *earnest*), when it seems to me that in large part they are just whistling past the graveyard.

    While smart dudes no doubt, I can’t help but think they see themselves as some sort of potential uber-psycho-sociologists who believe that (A) if just given enough info, they could qualm every would-be terrorist … (B) *而不管* of what our national policy is.

    While I guess the idea that … “qualming” ’em somehow instead of killing ’em is an interesting take, and certainly is worth thinking about and trying, I’m just dubious as hell about both legs of their assumptions.

    I also think that some of this applies in terms of trying to prevent terrorism against us here at home too: Phil notes of course in his comment about the call for more defensive resources and to me this is just going to be never-ending. Next we’ll see the Homeland Security analog to Flynn talking about how, to prevent airline terrorists, we’ll have to undertake to understand the sociology and psychology of every little hamlet in every little muslim arab sand-dune in every muslim arab country and find out how to qualm all of them too.

    In any event readers here might find that Flynn piece interesting.

  11. TomB, Initially, I was dubious of Sageman. What changed my mind was his involvement with the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters and his deep understanding of what worked, and didn’t work for the Soviets. He’s literally been there before. I was chilled to hear him say that the last Soviet strategy was to secure population centers, and build bridges, roads schools etc. given that it’s our policy now.

    Thanks for the Flynn info. I’ll read it this afternoon.

    Gathering intel on all real or potential threats in the Muslim world is a bootless enterprise. Better to recognize the incompatibility of Islam with Western society and gently but firmly discourage Muslims from traveling much less settling in Europe, the US, Australia, etc.

    As I write, the news that yet another Bosnian Muslim refugee has been hauled in for attempted domestic terrorism. These are people we defended, and allowed to settle among us! I know, or at least I’ve been told, that the vast majority of such people hold no grudge against the rest of us. But it’s cold comfort knowing that of my thousand Muslim neighbors, 5 dream themselves to sleep each night with visions of slitting my throat. The cost is too high and the benefits are a mirage.

  12. TomB 说:

    汤姆·米汉写道:

    “But it’s cold comfort knowing that of my thousand Muslim neighbors, 5 dream themselves to sleep each night with visions of slitting my throat.”

    You know Thom, it just makes me kind of sick to hear this from you, and not because of any huge invalidity on its part. Before all the ME stuff exploded I encountered and worked with any number of ME arabs who had come to this country seeking citizenship and a life and etc., and you just couldn’t find people who better embodied the ideal of folks coming to this country to build a better life, find more freedom, have the opportunity to explore and exercise their natural gifts and willingness to work hard and etc. and so forth.

    And now, as you say….

    Sure we’ve still got lots of folks wanting to come here, but who can want to now for reasons other than wanting to cut our throats or for economic reasons alone? Who can admire our boorish new ideology of American superiority and the right to impose ourselves on whomever we wish?

    I think that via a deep corruption and manipulation of our policies we have delivered ourselves of a result (9/11) that has caused a momentous change in the very nature of this country. From a fundamentally pacific country that people wanted to emulate and if that wasn’t possible to come to for lots of virtuous reasons in addition to the purely economic, to a fundamentally aggressive one with boundless designs outside its own borders masquerading behind the flimsiest slogans.

    Damn bin Laden, but damn the folks who manipulated us too and those of our “leaders” who supported it or even just allowed it.

    We were told it was to reform others, but already it’s ended up changing us far more. And how natural it is given just how momentous this change is that the results of it in terms of the deep deep troubles this country is in on so many fronts, not least the economic, have made themselves known so quickly and so profoundly.

    Just makes me sick. No going back either I doubt; we’ve picked a fight and are unable to unpick it, and things have been changed forever now I think. We are living in a new America and it will be interesting to see how it will do having renounced such a fundamental part of its identity and soul. So far at least the results haven’t been pretty, and our prospects are looking even more grim. To paraphrase Nixon, a pitiful, helpless, and bankrupt giantdom.

  13. The remarks about the incompatibility of Islam and Western Society are vile. Try taking your phone book, opening to the yellow pages and look at physicians and dentists. You’ll notice more than a few Muslim names in that group and plenty more in other professions. People in this country are trusting their lives to Muslims all the time. Having worked many years in academic environments, I have known many Muslims and I never felt any wanted to cut my throat. Given the history of right wing terror in this country (McVeigh, abortion shooters/bombers) it would be as reasonable to lie awake wondering which Beck or Limbaugh inspired neighbour is getting ready to have a nutty as worry about Muslims.

    Were the Muslims of America so doctrinally wired for mayhem that even a tiny fraction were willing to lose their lives to kill others this country would shut down. The truth is that where people live with a reasonable hope for their future, only those sorry individuals whose politics are symptomatic of their troubled mental states are willing to commit suicide for a cause. If some part of the world seems to produce such individuals with regularity, it’s fair to ask if it’s not the conditions of their lives, and not their minds, that are so troubled as to make them throw their lives away.

  14. Mrmetrowest – Indeed there are a lot of Muslim Doctors and Dentists in my phone book. They also figure prominently in Medicare fraud, malpractice and medical embezzlement cases. The fact that you get along nicely with the Muslims in your faculty lounge is beside the point. The European experience has been that it is the second generation Muslims who fail to assimilate and plant bombs. It would be best to forestall this phenomenon here. Islam has been at the throat of the West from it’s inception. Islam has never lived in peace with any other group for long. From Nigeria to France to Thailand to the Philippines, it is the Muslims who riot and kill their neighbors. Stating the obvious is only vile to a fantasist.

  15. I suppose you have some figures regarding the incidence of malpractice, fraud and embezzlement regarding Muslims as opposed to other population groups? Or is this just something you know instinctively? As to the (modern) European experience with Muslims – how does the incidence of Muslim terror compare to terror authored by the IRA and ETA (all presumably good Christians)? I’d say the inability to get along with others is not the property of any one group.

    Given the West’s historical record of aggression towards others, dating back at least to the Crusades, it’s difficult to to take your remarks regarding Islam’s aggressions seriously. Nastiness towards others comes in every shade of the Rainbow. White does not make right.

  16. Metropest, as a nameless leftist troll infecting this site you really don’t rate a reply. So I’ll just say that the majority of conservatives and I wish to continue living in a western, essentially Christian country. We do not require your approval or understanding. We feel a deep loyalty to our traditions and kith and kin. Your peeping up from time to time holding the flag of political correctness is a pathetic reminder of how decadent many of our fellow citizens have become. Of course this assumes that you are a citizen. Hiding behind your moniker as you do, it’s hard to tell.

  17. We’re all hiding behind monikers online Tommy, even you. Of course names are far more important to some than others, since there are people, dinosaurs really, who seem to be able to infer everything they need to know about a person just from a name.

    I’m not an adherent of any of the major superstitions, but I’m as much as citizen of this country as you, and an inheritor of Western traditions – the ones worth inheriting, that is. And I don’t require your approval or understanding either. You don’t want to live in a conservative Christian country – you want to live in the past, and not even a past that ever existed.

    There’s some iconoclastic writing on this site that must be vary painful for some – but surely, there are plenty of other forums for the converted to preach to the converted.

  18. Don’t seek to confuse me with cowards like yourself. Thomas O. Meehan is my real name. I don’t feel the need to hide as you do, out there in Western Massachusetts, sniping at your betters at UMASS.

    Sadly, you may be a legal citizen of this country. But like all liberals, you wish to pick and chose your loyalties, and in security matters this comes at the expense of the rest of us. You are an academic drone posing as an iconoclast. There Isn’t a statement about the West and Islam that doesn’t conform to a liberal secondary school social studies text.

    Injecting your oh so conformist views into a discussion of Muslim terrorism is simply narcissistic posturing. You’re not discussing the problem, you are the problem.

  19. Tommy, your name may be Meehan or it may not be – there is no courage involved in posting as you do, because no one cares enough about what you write to see whether you are who you say you are. You’re as anonymous as anyone with a pseudonym.

    As for picking loyalties – I’m persuaded by argument from facts and logic, not labels. Most of the posts at AmCon regarding our relations with the Muslim world, and the dangers of induced hysteria creating perpetual war, are very close to Glenn Greenwald’s (for instance). He’s left – they’re (I guess) right. Being against a demonstrably ruinous policy just requires something called ‘an open mind.’ Loyalty to a bad idea is the worst sort of betrayal.

    Ta Ta. Hope no Islamic Bed Bugs bite.

  20. Pest – I gather that you are too lazy or dishonest to do a Google check of my name. Pretending that I am as furtive and obscure as you seem to be is a poor defense. Phil’s identity is no mystery and neither is mine. Some of us have the nerve to speak in the open. But I do like you retreat behind an appeal to authority. It’s classic educational drone. I may be a nonentity hiding behind a pseudonym but the man I work for wouldn’t like you very much, so there!

    As to your open mind, apparently it can’t cope with the simple measure of keeping our announced enemies at arms length. You clearly have no understanding of Muslim history or culture. I enjoy debating with honest persons who raise interesting points on this blog. But leftist trolls who insist on interjecting their doctrinaire nonsense into discussions among patriots just don’t merit detailed response. Your empathy for the enemies of the West is more in the nature of a character flaw than an argument.

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