A year ago, Americans reacted in horror as a pair of bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There is a real question of whether we will see more random acts of terrorism on the American soil. But according to a terrorism expert who spoke at an economics conference in Las Vegas, the answer is no.
John E. Mueller, a political scientist who has authored several books on terrorism, called such threats “overblown,” and not worth the trillion dollars or more spent on homeland security to prevent such acts of terrorism.
Mueller proceeded to cite dozens of officials, including Presidents Bush and Obama, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, National Security Administration Director Gen. Kenneth Alexander, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (no relation), who offered all kinds of cryptic warnings of terror attacks, without any evidence that such threats were really imminent, or even likely.
These politicians and agency heads claimed there were thousands of al-Qaeda sleeper cells, their attacks were certain to occur, and we should be really afraid, according to Mueller. Of course, those attacks largely failed to materialize. But that hasn’t stopped the flow of dollars or the fear largely subsided.
Mueller said America is not suffering from the 9/11 syndrome so much as it is plagued by “the 9/11 commission syndrome.” This meant that every lead, no matter how trivial, would have to be followed up, including ridiculous emails like one which sent saying “Dear America, I will attack you if you don’t pay 99999999999999999 dollars.” And the cost of running down each lead only contributes to the astronomical cost of such an event.
The scare of the unknown has not just taken its toll on the public. It also may have contributed to the suicide of an FBI agent. He also quoted George Tenet, the CIA Director, who said “you could drive yourself crazy…we knew most threats were bogus, but not which ones.”
But Mueller noted that 9/11 was “an extreme aberration” where Osama bin-Laden hoped that with one attack, America would pull out of the Middle East, as it did after the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, and after Black Hawk Down in Somalia a decade later. “Guess he forgot about the Alamo and Pearl Harbor,” Mueller wryly observed.
“Aren’t these deterring attacks?” an audience member asked. “There are millions of targets that could be hit,” Mueller replied. “Someone wanting to die wouldn’t be deterred.”
Less than 20 Americans have died from international terrorism in the USA. Of those, 13 were killed at Fort Hood several years ago. Those arrested for planning attacks were pretty inept, and easy to catch, the speaker noted.
But what about the infamous “sleeper cell” who has been in America for years, biding his or her time, waiting to act? “Such a person is only increasing his or her chances of being caught before carrying out an attack.” So Mueller’s conclusion may well resemble the popular catch phrase borrowed from the British: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”