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08 August 2007

Mr. Levitt's Terror Idea

In his brand new Freakonomics blog, Steven Levitt tells us his father's idea for a nifty terror tactic:

[T]he best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be. The chaos would be unbelievable, especially considering how few resources it would require of the terrorists. It would also be extremely hard to catch these guys. The damage wouldn’t be as extreme as detonating a nuclear bomb in New York City, of course; but it sure would be a lot easier to obtain a handful of guns than a nuclear weapon.

Well, it's a good thing Mr. Levitt is an economist's father and not a terror master mind. But terrorists really don't go in for this kind of thing. Pretty consistently, they opt for blowing things up - killing lots of people at once. In Iraq, with automatic weapons everywhere, Levitt's approach is not used - they opt for bombings. In the U.S., I'm guessing profiling of firearms purchasers is pretty routine. I doubt there are very many Mideastern men buying guns without the authorities finding out about it. It's just not a good plan for a terror attack.

But here's the problem with the way Levitt and his old man think: they think the terrorists are some non-descript set of individuals. Of course they're anything but non-descript - they are almost exclusively Muslims from the Mideast (at least those threatening the U.S.). Loners - solo or in pairs - commit acts of terror all the time, from highway snipers to school shootings. They're tragedies, but the numbers of victims are small compared to highway fatalities or drownings, and we learn to live with them. An effective act of terror must rise dramatically above the background mortality by killing huge numbers at once and inflicting monumental physical damage.

Just two weeks ago, a couple of losers armed with little more than BB-guns and gasoline broke into a home in a well-to-do Connecticut neighborhood, raped a woman and her two daughters over several hours, then murdered them while the alerted police were setting up road blocks down the street (story here). With everyday competition like that, terrorists clearly have their work cut out for them. A couple dozen guys riding around with hunting rifles ain't gonna do it.

7 Comments:

Blogger Black Sea said...

You're right about Levitt's plan.

People shooting from cars at random passersby is simply known as life in these United States. It might be weeks before law enforcement officials or the general public even realized that we were (supposedly) being terrorized.

The best, or most amusing, anti-terrorist plan I've come across was presented on the British website, Nanny Knows Best, immedaitely after the London subway bombings.

According to this plan, all patrons of the transit system would be encouraged to wear little vials of pig's blood in amulets around their necks.

Any suidice bomber on a bus or train would thus be confronted with the near certainty of being sprayed with pig's blood immediately after detonation of his bomb, and immediately prior to his appearance at the Gates of Paradise. Such last-moment contamination was bound to give potential martyrs cause for reflection.

August 09, 2007 3:37 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Aka the Angelina Jolie anti-terror plan? The best plan of course is to keep them out of the fucking country!

August 09, 2007 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ziel wrote:
"The best plan of course is to keep them out of the fucking country!"


Yes, but if we are not terrified of the terroritsts here, we might not give up our civil rights so eagerly like our betters have planned for us.



You give me 1000 would-be suicide bombers and I could bring this nation to its knees. Packed shopping malls, packed theaters, school lunch rooms, a few office buildings, a few churches, a few nightclubs, a few crowded resturaunts, a few crowded Wal-Marts, a couple of busy post offices. Think about it if all of it hit at once. People would be afraid to go out and spend money.

Just imagine if you had say 2000 people, ready to die for Islam here, prepared with suicide kits as to avoid being able to be taken into custody (or just a pistol). They could set forrest fires, fires on farms, could randomly toss molotv cocktails into residential homes stealthily for a few weeks. A few random road-side bombs set at night along highways...............................................there is so much they could do to bog-down our free society and make our populace beg to either get out of the middle east or to nuke the middle east. Our economy would falter badly (have you ever thought about how EASY it would be to set fire to homes under construction? Who in the hell could prove it? The insurance companies would be paying a fortune).


Getting people over here willing to do this shouldn't be that hard, but doing this would probably make the public stand up and demand that we stop any immigration from the middle east, and the terrorists dont want that-----so tahts probably why they haven't done something like this..........yet. They have the lunatics willing to do it though. Plenty of them.

August 10, 2007 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Oliphant said...

NYT employs liberal Jew. Hmmmm.

August 10, 2007 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

Wow! Incredibly strange reaction to this initial post.
Pig's blood necklaces? Why don't we just fu*k all of their virgins so there is no potential reward in Heaven. Might be tough to get anglo volunteers for that mission.
Actually, the initial scenario is possible, just as big crime guys do it, but they left out the "kicker".
I think that the worst case scenario is an organized plan of "mini" crimes such as randon shootings or small explosions that draw massive law enforcement to a specific area. You then either blow them up (abortion clinic bombings plan (Eric Rudolph)in the not too distant past was an initial bomb followed by another 1 hour later when they knew rescue people would be on scene)or divert attention, and security, from a larger target and then hit that.
If there is an organized, dedicated group willing to die for their cause, they cannot be stopped. Our major problem in terrorist attack prevention is that we cannot think as they do. We are certainly not, as a general population, willing to die for our cause (take a survey of soldiers in Iraq or Afganistan) and we can't understand the thought process.
Beyond that, even if we do understand it, it is virtually impossible to defend against. Any Secret Service agent (and I know none) will tell you that as much as they try to protect the President (even Bush), that they'd be hard pressed to stop an guy willing to die for the cause of killing the President. Don't think Bush is in trouble as he is, for all intents & purposes, already dead.
Wanna stop terrorist threats? Follow the old Pat Buchanan rule. We have the following international, personal interests: Saudi Arabi (oil); Isreal (lots of voting Jews); Britain (heritage/good music) and a few others. Beyond that, knock yourselves out. Attack us or our few designated "buddies" and we'll nuke you off the face of the earth. Otherwise, kill each other off as you'll eventually come to us as the most intellient, stable and economically sound alternative.
HARLEM FOR PRESIDENT 'NO
Harlem

August 10, 2007 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Levitt could have just stolen that idea from the War Nerd. He wrote about that idea during the DC sniper incidents in the article The War-Se, the Better.

August 21, 2007 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the numbers on terrorists ethnic and national background?

I'll leave it to you to honestly report which are the, say, ten, largest terrorist outrages in the last fifteen years on US soil.

Don't appeal to our prejudices - cretaed by the neocons - look into it... and post some stats.

August 29, 2007 11:44 PM  

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