Sunday, January 17, 2010

Everybody Loves Yemen

Why is there a seeming torrent of people who think invading or attacking Yemen is a good idea?

Explain to me, please, how Yemen is connected to anything. I understand the 'underwear' bomber came into contact with al-Qaeda there but let's be honest with ourselves. If we invaded every country with al-Qaeda cells, we'd have to occupy a good portion of the Mideast and maybe Somalia and Sudan as well. For as much we villainize it, it is still a popular movement.

Consider also that Pakistan has numerous al-Qaeda rumblings yet I haven't seen any noise suggesting we invade there. Granted, it's already a satellite of us anyway (us being the United States, I live here hence the 'us'). But Yemen isn't exactly hostile to us either and in fact went and condemned the attack.

It certainly cannot be because the bomber said he obtained the chemicals (he apparently smuggled the ingredients on the plane and mixed them in the bathroom en route) in Yemen. If so, we'd have to invade any country in the world with a functioning chemical laboratory. Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is sometimes used as a drug; acetone peroxide is an occasional byproduct of other reactions. Anyone of dubious character in a chem lab could either make or steal these things. In fact, I was taught some of the basic processes to create both of these highly explosive compounds. You might as well arrest me.

In short, if our country decides to attack or invade Yemen as some of the more shrill have suggested then it is a complete mistake in my opinion. To invade and topple what appears to be a stable government (a Republic, no less! With relatively free elections!) just to crush one al-Qaeda cell is ridiculous.

Now, to do something controversial, I'm going to say that this 'blow up airplane' strategy is flawed. Mister Terrorists, you're going about this all wrong. There is so much effort trying to sneak explosives past and then igniting them in midair with dubious concoctions.

Consider this hypothetical scenario:

There is usually now a considerable crowd in line waiting to screen past security. Imagine if something detonated in this crowd. Imagine if a lot of things detonated at many of the terminals. Imagine if the cabs outside the airports detonated. Imagine an Oklahoma Bombing style attack, a truck filled with explosives ramming into the airport building and blowing up. I can certainly imagine this.

We've become so focused on keeping the planes safe that a smart terrorist would perhaps want to feel out different approaches. What about trains? What about highways? Ferries? Cruise ships? Why is there this fetish with planes? And this is not without precedent: remember the London and Madrid bombings.

Now, I know that it's a fine line to absolute tyranny where there are Checkpoint Charlies everywhere and freedom of movement is gone. Naturally, we can't sacrifice all freedom and liberty and even if we did it wouldn't stop attacks. But at least we might have some level of alertness, some good eye to spot a carbomb or something in time. We wouldn't have to be overly paranoid, but just keep in mind that terrorist like all humans are fairly ingenious and plugging the dam in one area might cause it to leak somewhere else. That we so casually ignore things such as this worries me a little.

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