Friday, January 05, 2007

Despite Advance Warnings, There Was No Major Terrorism Over The Holidays

When I was in London in November, the British authorities were quite outspoken about what they saw as a danger of Islamic terrorism over the Holidays, and there were similar warnings elsewhere in Europe.

But we've now gotten through the Holidays without any terrorism to speak of. There was a bombing at the Madrid Airport, but that apparently came from Basque, not Islamic, terrorists.

This is not the first holiday or significant anniversary of 9-11 and other events in which there's been an alert for terrorism, but nothing has happened. In fact, having cried wolf several times, U.S. authorities have pretty much dropped their terrorist alerts.

More than five years after 9-11, with major U.S. and NATO initiatives proceeding in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to curtail Al-Qaeda, and seize or kill off its operatives, we have to ask ourselves why.

Is it the case that our protective intelligence is so good that terrorist attacks have been nipped in the bud? Some have, such as the apparent plot last summer to bomb airplanes crossing the Atlantic.

But, all told, my own feeling is that the main reason is that the terrorists have decided not to attack.

It may be that Osama bin Laden, like Ho Chi Minh, in the Vietnam war, has wisely perceived that an attack in Europe or the United States would only rile people up and spur the West on to bigger efforts in the Middle East, that, in short, Arab interests would pay the price. One of the salient features of Ho's success was that he never angered the U.S. to the extent that we would invade North Vietnam or take some other decisive action in that war. The result was that ultimately the U.S. got tired and went home. Antiwar critics here at home were encouraged by the lack of North Vietnamese action outside the actual Indochinese war theatre.

If, indeed, al-Qaeda is making the same kind of calculations, it seems to be working for them too. Criticism of the U.S. war effort is growing, particularly as concerns Iraq, where the war truly rages.

It has been remarked upon that Bin Laden and his friends take the long view, and that their main objective is to push the West out of the Middle East. Regardless of all their bombastic talk about attacking the West, there actually have been comparatively few such attacks since 9-11. There were the bombings on the train systems in Madrid and London, but for the most part, not too much more has happened.

This is not the case of "Hitler missing the bus," as Neville Chamberlain suggested he had done just before the launched his successful 1940 blitzkrieg in the low countries and France. This is in accord with a sensible strategy.

Of course, I could be jumping the gun. Maybe, the terrorists have been distracted by all the internecine fighting in their own ranks, such as in Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon. Maybe, there will be a big terrorist attack outside the Middle East today or tomorrow. But, at this point, if I were betting, I'd bet there won't be.

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