Jihad: More Than an Eight Second Ride

Viewpoints on the Global War on Terror from a Home on the Range.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Large Scale Attacks and the "Need" for Martial Law

Just reading a post on Bruce Schneier's excellent blog Schneier on Security, about an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan which said that the current round of base closures only hurts the nation because if we ever needed martial law, we couldnt do it without those bases.
The editorial.

Schneier's blog entry.

I went to add a short comment on Schneier's entry, and it ran a little long so I thought I'd copy it over to here as well:

If Al Qaeda had the resources in place to make that kind of a large-scale attack, they'd have done it by now. They don’t.

Might they some day? Sure, its a possibility - but its far more likely they wont over-extend themselves living up to Hollywood, and will continue smaller scale attacks targeted at systems disruption. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, a lot of explosive or a lot of people to effectively target the systems we all depend on. The right natural gas-line (just one), the right piece of the electrical grid, and they could shut down essential services for an entire region of the United States. Particularly in the West, with lots of wide-open space containing vital systems (natural gas, power, etc.) and very few people around to be witnesses. A small group could target a key point, make their attack and disappear back into the sagebrush.

Does anyone remember a few years back, in New Mexico when a group of "militia" types killed a few cops, did some robbing and looting, and then took off into the desert up around the Four Corners? Took a multi-jurisdictional police/sheriff's force in conjunction with the FBI and ATF days to even get a scent of them, and if my memory serves one was never apprehended. With terrorists, that’s all it takes, one to get away, regroup with the network, and start disseminating his newly created method of attack and the lessons learned from that.

They don’t have to nuke us - it’s a waste of their resources to even try. Same for massive cyber-terror. Assassinations are not as effective as systems disruption, people worth assassinating almost always have replacements and it almost always makes things worse on the group that pushed the assassination - it lacks the necessary leverage to be pragmatically attractive.

Sure, they might do any of it given the opportunity, I mean if something golden falls into their lap, why not? But the idea that they can, right now, all at once, but are just waiting for the right time is absurd.

And even if they could, no amount of military could stop them or catch them. The military would only get in the way of first responders, police, and state agencies as they tried to pick up the pieces and provide for displaced people. The military isn’t good at those things, and rightfully so because its not their job. First responders, care providers, disaster response teams, local and state police, and state agencies would be the first on scene, and the ones who would make the most difference in the event of a major catastrophic terror attack. Yes, National Guard too, but how many NG are Medics, Firefighters, Cops, Search and Rescue specialists, and similar in their "every-day" jobs? Tons. That’s the role of the National Guard; they become part of the first response effort, in what is (ideally) not a military operation, and definitely not a hunter/killer roustabout for terrorists.

In the event of communications disruption, those services might be the only ones there for a very long time.

They are the essential tools for response to both small and large-scale terror attacks, and are the areas of our "homeland security" that needs bolstering the most. If any impact is to be had from base closures (and thus removal of some handy tech. Around military bases, such as advanced fire and rescue equipment, earth movers, highly trained and experienced EOD professionals, search dogs, etc.) it will probably, and this is a good thing, lead to increased feeling of need for those technologies and tools at the local level making it easier to loosen up funding for them.

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