Sunday, July 29, 2007

VOX POPULI & THE DOOM LINE: We review a poll
One year ago, the people spoke to LA Times pollsters on terror. They weren't remotely close to being right.

Your friendly neighborhhod GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow used the above snapshot here in "Fear & the Likelihood of Terror Attack," one year ago.

My original reaction to whether or not a terror attack was likely in the next twelve months was "I don't know."

The vast majority of those polled by the LA Times thought one was likely -- 73 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans. (The columns, left to right are -- All, Democrats, Independents, Republicans.)

Even more interesting were the results for the question, "Why do you think there have been no major attacks in the United States since 9/11...?"

Very few thought the war on Iraq had consumed terrorists attention. Even less, that they had chosen other places to attack.

It showed a lack of understanding or knowledge of major and even minor events reported from the war on terror. Keep in mind, the British had just disrupted the "airline liquid bomb" plot.

Both these hunches, or beliefs from the American heartland, were as wrong as could be. The war on terror in Iraq was attracting terrorists. And it has inspired -- and does inspire -- radicalized young men in other countries to launch terror attacks and concoct plots in those countries, Britain being the notable example.

The beliefs, sampled by polling, qualified as superstitions.

Our leaders and the mainstream media play big roles in this. It's not spontaneous generation, like flies coming from sealed jars of fish heads in the shires.

Much weekly reporting on terror is pointlessly scary and uninformative. Although it carries a patina of professionalism and delivery from the standpoint of authority, it is not illuminating. You can read it regularly and not really learn anything. You can divine only that you ought to be frightened and that the war will last, more or less, forever.

The US government must shoulder a great deal of blame, too. It is secretive, deceitful and simply doesn't care to inform citizens about events unless it's to announce a victory that turns out to not be one or to make a shallow argument that it is protecting citizens from something. Real hard news must be pried from it or received from other more reliable sources.

The lack of honest information from the US government, coupled with the weekly doses of fear from the newsmedia, certainly contributed to the high numbers of those who thought a terrorist attack was very or somewhat likely.

Has anything changed?

If you read today's New York Times Book Review and actually believe what is written, you might think so. If you read this blog, you'd think not.

It's feature piece was "Our War on Terror" by Samantha Power, a Harvard professor, who proceeds to read the tea leaves on the future of counterterrorism as it can be determined from a grab bag of books.

Special attention is given to the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, deemed important because it was downloaded millions of times after being made available for nothing.

It's offered as a Philosopher's Stone for the war on terror, something which if taken very seriously and if followed by all of us, will transmute lead into gold. It won't be easy, the reviewer tells us. And the military can't do it all alone.

The Philosopher's Stone was the alchemist's most desired tool. Alchemist is another word for quack. In the case of the insurgency manual, think of David Petraeus as the head alchemist, the Doctor of Philosophy in the Army's alchemical academy of counter-terror.

As for deeming something worthy by its number of downloads, this being true, then the war in Iraq, the efforts to combat violent jihad, should simply be turned over to the wisdom of YouTube, no?

What the Sunday Times book review does show, rather than answers for the "War On Terror," is that while there isn't a shortage of books on what must be done, there aren't any that you need to read.

Only an idiot would think that this sentence, quoted from the Army manual, constitutes an extraoridinary bit of wisdom: "An operation that kills five insurgents is counter-productive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of 50 more insurgents."

Yet the Times book review seems to think it's really something.

Samantha Power, whoever she is, also considers the following sentence from the counterinsurgency manual to be "breathtaking:" "Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is."

She also appears to be one of the only people who can stand to spend more then twenty seconds on anything written by national security consultant Stephen "I've Found a Disturbing Lack of Attention Paid to America's Security Vulnerabilities" Flynn, aka Mr. Danger. (In pop music journalism, this is known as giving a good review to something you'd never pay a dime for because it came for free and, so, "What the hey?")

The Times book review turns over three full pages to this insipid pursuit of a global unification theory on unsere kampf. It brings to mind the old proverb, "A surfeit of words indicates a famine of intelligence."


Mr. Danger.

Winning hearts and minds.

David Petraeus -- from the archive. Caution: Supercilious.

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