Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Strategies of Attack: Terrorists and First World Nations

As we continue to clean up from Hurricane Katrina, the largest discussion about terrorist attacks in the US are centered around the response of the federal and local government to the disaster and what this would portend for a future mass terrorist attack. What we aren't discussing is the probability of a terrorist attack in the wake of the disaster. Neither do we hear any comments regarding raising the terror alert level.

Just looking over the brief history of the last four years with direct massive attacks on first world nations, their are certain patterns and areas that intersect in order to form Al-Qaida's perfect target.

The intersecting areas have so far involved:

1) Politically weak or weakened leadership
2) Financial weakness or instability
3) Political atmosphere that leans towards withdrawal or isolation
4) Probability of a change in political leadership or changing the leadership's goals based on inability to sustain current policies or activities.

The targets in first world nations have centered around:
1) Transportation
2) Direct impact of financial capabilities
3) Mass casualties


  • President Bush's campaign centered around decreasing military presence around the globe in what some have called his "pre 9/11 isolationist tendencies".
  • 2000 election was contested all the way to the Supreme Court and was still a point of contention in 2001. Political discourse was so shrill that some analysts expected the complete breakdown of American political structures and governance.
  • The US was experiencing year two of an economic recession; stocks were seriously declinging and unemployment was starting to climb

  • The hijackers used planes
  • The planes and targets had large civilian populations "captive" for mass casualties
  • Using planes had a direct financial impact as planes were grounded and long term business outlook was damaged by decreased travel in both the business and private sectors
  • Strikes against the financial district designed to destabilize the American economy further, possibly send it into a depression
  • Strikes against the military command and control of the Pentagon intended to blind or cripple American military, possibly force withdrawal of certain forces to the homeland to protect
  • Strikes against political leadership either Capitol Hill or the White House (most likely Capitol Hill) would have killed a substantial number of political leaders, brought the workings of congress to a halt and added to the political unrest after the 2000 elections

  • Jose Aznar is under political attack, severely weakened by his anti-war critics for assisting the US in Iraq.
  • Spain is suffering from significant unemployment and depressed economy
  • Elections were within a few months

  • Strikes against major transportation system of Spain: train systems
  • Trains move workers and materials which have significant impact on financial viability
  • Significant mass casualties of civilians

    7/7 - 7/14:
  • Tony Blair under political attack, even within his own party for continuing to assist the US in Iraq.
  • Closely contested election has the Labour party losing seats in Parliament
  • Political analysts discuss the possibility of the Labour party choosing another as Prime Minister; secondary selection has supported Blair's policies but gave indications he would be open to discussing withdrawal or reduction of forces.
  • Political leadership from Europe, largely anti-war, and from the United States are meeting that week.
  • Large numbers of tourists are in country for multiple events including protesting the G8 and a "Live Aid" concert, providing huge potential for mass casualties and sharpening arguments against the war.
  • While England is more economically stable than it's European neighbors, it still has significant unemployment, particularly among the immigrant population and stagnated economic growth

  • Strikes against train system significantly impact England's main transportation system; most workers live outside of London and travel to jobs via the train system
  • Strikes against the train system surround the financial district of London in attempt to shut down or severely decrease trading activity, possible long term effects on investment and financial stability
  • Train system provides large number of "captive" civilian population for mass casualties.
  • Second attack designed to achieve more casualties, further shut down the financial district, impact revenues from decreased tourism and less number of suburban shoppers coming to the city.
  • Second attack largely designed to instill fear that the British government could not protect citizens from terrorist attacks, possibly destabilizing Blair's government and forcing the formation of a new one

    Post Katrina, the President continues to be attacked for lack of preparation on the home front and with calls from many, even previous supporters, to re-focus resources and time on the home front to make it more secure. While this cannot lead to a change in leadership, the declining polls and support could force a significant change in focus. Katrina has also certainly put a huge krimp in the continuing climb of the economy and immediately put unemployment up by .3% with a probably outcome of a decrease of .5%.

    An attack today may bolster the election possibilities for the opposition in 2006, eroding Republican control and possibly leading to attempts by the opposition to block continuing finance of military operations or significantly erode them. Take over of the Senate or House by the opposition could also allow even more gridlock of Presidential policies, eroding his support and the support of the leading party by providing the illusion that the administration is ineffectual and their policies have failed.

    This could lead to the eventual political victory of a candidate in 2008 who promises to make a significant change in policies, protect the homeland "at home" and return the troops to home, allowing a return to the policies that allowed Islamists to spread largely unopposed and claim a victory over the US.

    Right now, if all agencies are not looking for the possibility of a terrorist attacks in the next 30-90 days, before economic recovery gets in full swing, it would be a terrible failure in creative thinking or recognizing patterns of significant terrorist attacks on first world nations.

    Considering the impact of Katrina on the oil infrastructure and ports which caused gasoline prices to soar and general short termed panic for several days in the populace after the anouncement of possible gasoline shortages and a request from the President to conserve gasoline AND the impact from the East Coast to the Midwest, I would be looking for security at ports with significant oil infrastructure to be dramatically increased.


    Donal said...

    Kat the differnce is that all the events you mentioned had significant lead times of ten months to a year giving the terrorists time to plan. Your right that Katrina will give motive for an attack but I expect it to be in 6 months to a year from now.

    Kat said...

    I was thinking that some sort of plans have been in the works for several months now considering OBL directed Zawahiri to focus on Europe and the US instead of Iraq.

    the question has been what sort of attack are they planning?

    If I was the enemy and saw how this impacted the US I would be trying to figure out how to graft off of it.