Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb failed to detonate properly on Christmas day, but the intended damage was done. Thankfully, Umar failed to kill the nearly 300 people on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. However, Umar did successfully instill fear in the American population. This fear should prompt change, but not the change terrorists intend.
Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman suggests in the Washington Post that al-Qaeda’s strategic shift from the “knock-out blow” in 2001 to the new “death by a thousand cuts approach” has given the terrorist organization new vitality. This new five-point strategy calls for smaller attacks over a longer period of time, meant to bleed America to death. It attempts to cripple our will as well as our infrastructure. This includes overloading already taxed intelligence organizations with false or irrelevant information. Our current reactionary measures, including heightened security and new high-tech screening solutions, all of which are very expensive, play into the arm of al-Qaeda’s new strategy that wants to slowly “bankrupt America.”
Hoffman’s outlook on the immediate future of American security does not look bright. “Over the past 18 months,” Hoffman declared, quoting American and British intelligence officials, “well over 100 individuals from such (unsuspecting non-Islamic) countries have graduated from terrorist training camps in Pakistan and have been sent West to undertake terrorist operations.”
The “systematic failure” of intelligence analysis and delayed responses stem from a combined misunderstanding of al-Qaeda’s new strategy and failure to embrace change, Hoffman claimed.
Hoffman’s argument points out the necessity of a new American counter-terrorism strategy.
Unfortunately, responses from individuals in the current administration, such as Secretary Napolitano’s highly publicized claim that the current Homeland Security strategy is working, indicate the administration’s resistance to acknowledging this problem and embracing change.
American security could learn a valuable lesson on recognizing and responding to changing terrorist strategies from the safest (and most targeted) airline on earth: El Al, Israel’s national airline.
MSNBC reports that, “Israeli officials — and a growing number of American security consultants — agree that aviation security has to be multipronged in its approach.”
They argue that even the most advanced technology, such as X-ray machines and metal detectors, are no replacement for current intelligence about passengers, tamper-proof cockpit doors, hand searches and some degree of “profiling,” carried out by properly trained security personnel. This would be a complete shift from the current U.S. model of random checks, run on one in every 10 passengers, according to Israeli Security Chief Rafi Ron. A shift to the Israeli security strategy could bring much improvement to the one-in-10 chance of catching a terrorist, odds that Ron calls “unacceptable.”
The Obama administration continues to cling to Bush-era policies, but the fact remains that more than 100 Pakistani-trained terrorists are positioning themselves to carry out terrorist acts in the near future. Until there are significant changes in American security policy, we are left with few options.
Living in fear of is simply not one of them, lest we let the terrorists win. Therefore, we must live our lives not in fear, but in vigilance. The last line of defense against terrorism is the American citizen.