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Whiners and losers

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Whiners and losers

Earlier this week while waiting for a plane at Newark Airport, I resorted to watching CNN Airport News. Given the time, the Eliot Spitzer show was on. His lead story dealt with a claim by Al Qaeda in Yemen that even though the two bombs they sent to the US did not blow up any planes, their failed attempt nevertheless was a success. According to the report, they argued that they spent only $4,200 in total, and in return the US would spend additional billions on security. This is a new twist on “grasping victory from the jaws of defeat.”

Spitzer seemed to be in agreement with their position, thus inadvertently giving credence to their claim that even failures can be viewed as successes. This, of course, only plays into the public relations campaign of Al Qaeda, making the organization look even more formidable and successful. In turn, this likely helps them in their campaigns to recruit people and money.

Spitzer should have taken a page from David Letterman who regularly spoofs Al Qaeda and their leaders. He should have emphatically declared the latest bomb plot an utter failure, which it was. Furthermore, Spitzer should have pointed out that Al Qaeda’s track record, at least outside of Muslim countries, has been marked by many more failures than successes, and that even the few successes, other than 9/11, have largely been the result of luck and have been rather ineffective. It is very important in a war of words to tarnish the image of Al Qaeda as a successful and creative organization. They are neither!

They have been marginalized, and their plots have been simplistic and largely predictable. Al Qaeda may pretend to be important, but were it not for the Western press, they long ago would have exhausted their 15 minutes of fame.

Spitzer should have learned by now a very important lesson from professional sports and cut-throat politics: humiliation of your opponents gives a team/individual an important psychological advantage in the next game. You do not pat an incompetent organization like Al Qaeda on the back and say” “Well done”. Instead, you make fun of them and continually treat them as a joke. This should increase the chances that they might make even more mistakes in the future.

Spitzer also supported the Al Qaeda claim that for a very small investment, they were able to impose significant costs on the US. What he ignored was that every plot that is intercepted and prevented probably saves billions in economic costs for the US. So the money spent on security might very well be an excellent investment for the US.

Yes, this failed plot may have cost only $4,200, but if it had succeeded, the economic fallout could easily have run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Where I finally did agree with Spitzer was that the money currently spent on security could probably be better spent. There undoubtedly are many ways to improve the security system (two using RFID technology quickly come to mind) to significantly increase the likelihood of preventing terrorist attacks, reduce the negative economic impacts of the current security system, and possibly save money on security.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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