Democrats & Liberals Archives

An Asymmetrical Attack

If you want a good idea of how dangerous Al Qaeda is, it helps to compare what they invested with what we lost. They spent nineteen lives, we lost nearly two thousand, a ratio of about a hundred-to-one. In terms of money invested the 9/11 commission has a surprising conclusion.

In the first report on financing, the general conclusions are the same: the September 11, 2001 attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 — not including the cost of terrorist camp training — of which approximately $300,000 was spent in the United States. -CNN

The damage to us? About 40 billion, a ratio from that ranges from a hundred thousand to eighty thousand-to-one.

We neglect a threat that can do so much harm at so little cost to them. People make a big deal about the number of hijackers and the number of planes, but with those they managed to do what no country has done in modern times- successfully attack the mainland.

Al Qaeda is a transnational organization, surviving eviction from the Sudan and subsequently Afghanistan. It worked mainly from corrupt charities, and as far as I know, continues to do so.

The bright spot is, as this is done by individuals, they can be stopped by individuals. In a military attack, the capture of 19 soldiers would have been inconsequential. In this attack, it would have been the whole game. I am not opposed to a military response to the terrorists out there, when such responses are well-founded. You will never hear me say that we should have stayed out of Afghanistan. Hell, I wanted more of an attack, with more American boots on the ground. But I would venture that such opportunities are rare, and that most of our battles will be waged by special forces, law enforcement, and the diplomatic corps.

Some might consider that a wimpy response, but it's better than a pathetic flailing of our military strength at targets that melt away into the population in a war which had little to do with terrorism. If we can use diplomacy, law enforcement and special forces to impede, harass and interdict the terrorists, then we should, because the costs are infinitely lower, and such lower costs mean we can endure more of this war without wearing down our resolve or our economic resources. The longer we last, the more damage we do to them, the greater the chances that the United States will survive Al Qaeda, and not the other way around, perhaps becoming a greater country for it.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 22, 2004 9:55 AM