[FoRK] Death by terrorism

Ian Andrew Bell FoRK fork
Fri Aug 12 14:09:22 PDT 2005

Heh.  I guess if I were a terrorist I would have to ask myself why  
I'd need to use a SCUD vs. just stuffing a ship full of explosives  
and sailing up the Hudson River... what's the incremental benefit?   
In fact, you can't pack much explosive power into a SCUD at all, but  
you may be able to chuck some crude NBC weapons in there.  You also  
can't really be too deterministic about where it goes.  It's just as  
likely to hit a pasture in New Jersey as it is to hit anywhere in  
Manhattan from a reasonable distance.

And just because I did a standoff attack doesn't mean I'm going to  
get away with it.  Obviously someone will figure out where it came  
from before I can steam away, and there will be launch rails, fueling  
tools, and all kinds of other evidence.

And besides, the types of terrorists we deal with today generally  
don't even intend to "get away with it".  They die with their bombs  
-- in fact, they are quite unprepared for what to do when the  
explosion fails, as the London bombings illustrate.

The knowing acceptance, by the perpetrators, of a 100% chance of  
dying in the successful achievement of their goals is the only real  
innovation we've seen in North American and European terrorism in the  
past 50 or so years.  All previous anti-terrorism strategies have  
relied upon the belief that a terrorist ultimately wants to both A)  
achieve his/her goals and B) survive to tell the tale.  Prior to 9/11  
the entire civil aviation defense posture was designed to stop a DB  
Cooper, not a  Ziad Jarrah.  This farcical proposal is an example of  
pre-911 thinking on a billion-dollar scale and does nothing to stop  
the guy who's willing to accept certain death for his cause (which is  
generally cheaper, more accurate, and more politically effective).

And Patriots might be good at knocking down missiles, but not so good  
at destroying them.  The rain of SCUD debris on Tel Aviv after a  
successful Patriot intercept was exactly as dangerous as the  
successful impact and detonation of a SCUD itself.  And the Patriot  
had a pretty awful success rate in the Gulf War (I) to boot.


This will hopefully die on the vine, just as the whole National  
Missile Defense pipe dream appears to be withering slowly.


On 12-Aug-05, at 12:52 PM, Damien Morton wrote:

> http://www.strategypage.com/fyeo/howtomakewar/default.asp? 
> target=HTADA.HTM
> August 10, 2005: Defense contractor Lockheed Martin, taking  
> advantage of the widespread fear of terrorist attack in the United  
> States, has proposed a billion dollar anti-missile defense system  
> for the northeast coast of the United States. Lockheed Martin  
> believes  it is likely that terrorists would use cargo ships as  
> launching platforms for SCUD missiles. Existing Patriot anti- 
> aircraft missile technology would be used to shoot down the SCUDs  
> before they could hit any of the urban areas from Boston to  
> Washington. The latest version of Patriot has a proven track record  
> in knocking down SCUD type missiles. What?s interesting about this  
> proposal is that no terrorists have been known to have obtained  
> SCUD missiles, or seagoing cargo ships. Lockheed Martin said it  
> spent a year analyzing this problem.
> It?s long been feared that terrorists, especially well financed  
> ones, could easily by older merchant ships (the ?tramp steamer?  
> often featured in fiction for over a century), and use them to set  
> off a cargo of explosives in a major American port. So far, no one  
> has been able to find terrorist owned cargo ships. Terrorist owned  
> SCUD missiles are a relatively new threat, and none of those has  
> been uncovered either. But you can?t be too careful, especially if  
> there?s a chance you can get another billion bucks out of Congress.

More information about the FoRK mailing list