Sunday, August 06, 2006

FEAR & THE LIKELIHOOD OF TERROR ATTACK: Possibly defined by poll

Take a look at this poll on beliefs about terrorism. It was conducted last week by the Los Angeles Times and my mounting of it is awkward. But the percentage numbers, in columns left to right, are respectively: All, Democrats, Independents and Republicans.

The top line question -- how likely is a terrorist attack within the U.S. in the next 12 months -- is an interesting one. It coincidentally coordinates with the materials published last week on Dick Destiny blog, items facetiously referred to as news from the Doom Line. An overwhelming majority of the polled Americans (78 percent), think an attack is very or somewhat likely.

Dick Destiny blog considers itself well educated in matters of security and terrorism and if it had been asked, it would have answered, "I don't know." It's possible there will be an attack, maybe within twelve months, maybe longer. And maybe there won't be. I'm not privvy to red hot secret intelligence.

But I do see a lot of the reporting in the daily newspapers on the war on terrorism. Much of this reporting, as has been said before, is pointlessly scarey. Although it carries a patina of professionalism and reporting from the standpoint of authority, it is not illuminating. You can read it regularly and not really learn anything about the state of the war on terror. You can divine from it only that you ought to be scared. See here. Or here. Or even here! Yee-hah!

Dick Destiny blog also knows that the US government is a lot more secretive than it has to be in informing citizens about events in the war on terror. It simply doesn't tell anyone anything. It does not share information with citizens. Everything must be pried from it. Information on the improvised cyanide bomb had to be tickled from sources. Documents on alleged al Qaeda work into furthering their capabilities in bioterrorism or chemical attack had to paid for from private information/intelligence brokers, contributed by reporters, or received from a foreign government (like that of the United Kingdom).

In any case, DD blog thinks the lack of honest information from the government, coupled with the weekly doses of fear from the newsmedia, certainly contributes to the high numbers of those who think a terrorist attack is very or somewhat likely.

The second question doesn't interest DD blog so much because it splits along partisan lines.

But the third question purports to deliver attitudes on why there have been no major terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11. One category of answer indicates there is a small core of Republicans who believe the US government's secret efforts have had something to do with it.

I can find no reason to assign belief that US government and intelligence actions have made a difference. And no reason to believe they haven't. There's simply no way to know and it goes back to the reason above.

The US government has been abysmal at substantively informing its citizens on progress or significant events in the war on terror. When it has taken on the appearance of being informative, it has resorted to inflation of threats.

And books like Ron Suskind's One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 don't fill the gap, either. One can get the illusion of learning something substantial about the waging of the war on terror from Suskind's book, but there are too many mistakes and exaggerations, made for the sake of storytelling, for it to be taken seriously as an informative work.

But -- anyway -- the only interesting number for question three falls under the belief: The terrorists are patient and waiting for the right time. Almost fifty percent of the polled chose it as an answer. I don't know if the terrorists are patient. Some aren't, as a number in foreign countries have demonstrated.

But since the standard weekly media wisdom has been that terrorists are capable of anything, that they're relentlessly crafty and plotting, it is not unreasonable to think that the communication of this idea has been effective and central to the forming of the opinion.

Another item of interest concerning beliefs and hunches, perhaps stupid ones, comes by way of Kevin Drum's blog a little bit ago.

ISRAEL AND LEBANON....The conventional wisdom
about Israel's campaign in Lebanon is that it's been a strategic failure. They went in assuming they could substantially destroy Hezbollah's military capability with an air campaign, and when that failed they were forced into a costly ground campaign followed by a belated realization . . .
I read the Los Angeles Times daily and haven't gotten the impression of "strategic failure." Or that the ground campaign has been, so far, particularly costly.

When Dick Destiny blog thinks costly, the Marines storming Tarawa in World War II comes to mind. A US cruiser force going to the bottom off Savo Island in one night was costly. Or Wehrmacht/Russian slugfests on the eastern front. They tended toward costly.

But this is what one gets, I suppose, when people formulating the opinions on military operations would not think of turning to a bookshelf stocked with some materials on the same. If they did, they might look to historical instances of mixed army/infantry assaults along a very narrow frontier into an area defended by an organized fanatical enemy that has had a long time to dig in, familiarize itself with the landscape and stockpile arms. Were they to do so, they would find that IDF vs. Hezbollah south of the Litani is, as yet, on the tepid side of the list.


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