Sunday, April 04, 2004

Appeasement still doesn't work

To no one's surprise, except perhaps that of Spanish voters, giving terrorists what they want doesn't seem to deter terrorism:
The suicide apartment house blast that killed the alleged ringleader of last month's Madrid train bombings and four other terror suspects left the core of the terror group either dead or in jail, Spain's interior minister said on Sunday.

Explosives discovered in the building where the five killed themselves to avoid capture Saturday night indicated they were plotting more violence and were linked to the failed bombing of a high-speed rail line Friday.
The 22 pounds of dynamite and 200 detonators found in the apartment are the same as that used in the March 11 attacks and in the bomb that was discovered Friday before it could explode along the high-speed rail line between Madrid and Seville, Acebes said.

"They were going to keep on attacking because some of the explosives were prepared, packed and connected to detonators," he said.
The investigation into the Madrid attacks has focused on the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, which has links to Al Qaeda and is related to a group suspected in last year's Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers.

As the US found out after decades of half-hearted responses, with each reprisal-free success the terrorists grow bolder, with each concession they demand more. As their ultimate goal is a world-spanning Islamic caliphate (although they'll settle for the Mideast and most of Europe for now), total surrender is not an option as long as we secular, decadent Westerners aren't willing to convert to Islam. While to most of us (including myself) 9/11 seemed out of the blue, looking back over the past decade we could see the steady progression of deadly terrorist acts, by which measure 9/11 was merely one more step. That is when the US popular will woke up and said "No more." No more concessions, no more reprieves. The US has decided to do something about the terrorists, removing the organizations root and branch, ending those regimes which have supported it, and changing the culture of the Middle East in order to address the root cause.

Given this terrorist group's apparent success in altering the political will of a nation by setting off bombs just before the election, might terrorists try the same thing in the US? We might debate whether it would have the same effect, and they must be wondering the same thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if they tried. We Westerners are convinced that terrorism cannot destroy a civil society, and I agree, but I'm not so sure that the terrorists understand this. If you recall the "smoking gun" video that showed Osama bin Laden's involvement in 9/11 (transcript here), the man he was talking to, Shaykh, said of the US thoughts at the time of the attack, "They [the Americans] were terrified thinking there was a coup." Now, I don't know of any American who thought the planes were part of a coup attempt; most of us can't imagine the possibility of a coup in the United States. Who would do something like that? How could he find anyone who would go along with it? The point is not that there could be a coup in the US, but that there are many terrorists and terrorist supporters who believe there could be. While we're certain they can't destroy the US with their attempts, they believe they can. Thus while we may think that a terrorist attack just before the election would only strengthen our resolve, how can we know what they're thinking? Perhaps they think that with just the right attack, they can bring our political system crashing down.

What sort of attack would they attempt? It's hard to say. As I've already noted, they don't understand us, and I can't claim to understand them. However, I wouldn't bet on a big, showy attack. It's possible that what they have in mind is an assassination attempt. During the campaign, both presidential candidates, and their running mates, are more exposed than under normal circumstances. I think they'd certainly be happy to get rid of Bush, and if they think getting rid of both candidates can throw the electoral process into chaos, they'd want to try it. I'm not predicting that's what they'll do, I'm only saying that it wouldn't surprise me, and I hope that the Secret Service is taking every possible precaution.

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