Everything we know is wrong?
Posted by Ron Coleman on November 29, 2008
JOHN THOMPSON: The Mumbai attacks represent a scenario that few Western police and security forces have dared envision. Fewer still have prepared for it.
The basic strategy: use a large number of attackers to overwhelm a target city’s ability to respond, and then suddenly switch focus to high value targets and seize hostages.
I guess Glenn Reynolds would call that An Army of Davids. Why are we surprised that such a strategy can be a force for evil as well as for good?
A partial response, actually, is the big and rather eye-opening discussion Glenn’s having on the topic of ubiquitous gun ownership / carrying at that first link, especially as juxtaposed with the depressing story he links to later: Indian police refused to shoot back, evidently being poorly trained for situations requiring … what you’d want police with guns, in a democracy, to do.
But the bigger response to Thompson’s point is this: We will always have a problem of terrorists’ originality. Their 9/11 strategy worked all right: Once. It will never work again, now that I can’t take a nail clipper onto an airplane. Granted, this sounds like a hairier one to combat, but it’s not surprising that Western police and security forces haven’t thought of every possible tactical approach that these Davids — and, really, terrorism is all about being a David; all about using focused and conceptually distinct force to knock out a Goliath who could never be overcome by brute force — will cook up. Frankly they’re more motivated toward originality, and they’re, well, more wicked.
They’ll always have one up on us if we, Goliath-like, think we have to guess everything they might do in advance. The only way to turn this formula on its head (not to say that more and better security, training and planning isn’t called for) is to better manage the way we allow terrorism to affect policy — to make these “stunning victories,” if not less stunning, less victorious. The pre-9/11 message to terrorists such as the PLO (and the one Israel is still sending, unfortunately) was bloody our nose enough times and, okay, we’ll honor you at the UN, give you a Nobel prize, provide you with your own provisional government to loot and we’ll arm you, too. It’s going to be a long time until that is unlearned.