Monday, August 02, 2010

A Pound of Cure for an Ounce of Problem

A story in yesterday’s Washington Post got me thinking (yet again) about the scale of the “terrorist threat” to America. The story, about an American-born alQaeda wannabe jihadist arrested in northern Virginia, hypes the threat of al Qaeda reaching out and influencing young Muslims in this country. Government officials speak of al Qaeda success in establishing culturally sensitive beach heads in America. For all the hype, though, the story identifies a total of four Americans affiliated with al-Qaeda.

That’s right. Four, all of whom are known and fairly vocal about their views. Not exactly fellows who just blend into the woodwork to threaten America. One, the subject of the story, is in custody. The others are well known. The number sounds especially insignificant since I had just read Robert Higgs’ essay on the US intelligence apparatus. Looking even well beyond American jihadists,Higgs puts the entire “terrorist threat” into a realistic scale.
the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade—after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways. The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)

Higgs' analysis undermines much of the rationale for the “war on terror”. Looked at realistically, “terrorism” is small potatoes in the gamut of dangers faced by most Americans.
The true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small—not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent. …Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it....

In my professional career, I have often dealt with the concept of internal control, the means by which an organization ensures (or tries to) that it accomplishes its important objectives. Internal controls can also prevent bad things, such as fraud or organizational failure, from happening. One of the primary definitions of an effective internal control is that it not cost the organization more than the cost of the problem it addresses. From a business point of view, this is impeccable logic.

Apparently impeccable logic is not an important concept in the war on terror.

(h/t Bad Attitudes)



Blogger Lisa said...

"If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade"

Exactly. Somehow, we've jettisoned impeccable logic, or just logic, or just common sense.

7:19 PM  

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