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Senior Slate columnist, Timothy Noah presents an eight-step scale to answer the everlasting question of how much Americans should worry [about terrorism] here is my personal review of his article/theories.

Noah presents a scale that is composed of eight distinct yet overlapping theories that offer explanations as to how a determined enemy was able to successfully execute the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Furthermore the eight theories offer several hypotheses on terrorism behavioral patterns and actions.  Using this scale and its eight essays, this paper attempts to articulate the reason(s) behind why there haven’t been any terror attacks in the United States since the dire attacks of 9-11-2001.

Noah’s scale is composed of eight interdependent theories placed on a beaded scale suggesting how much people should worry about terrorism based on their allegiance to each theoretical bead.

Image acquired from http://www.Slate.com

The scale starts with the least worrisome theory and progresses towards the most troubling predictions.  First on the scale is the Terrorist-Are-Dumb-Theory, followed by the Near-Enemy, the Melting-Pot, the Burden-of-Success, the Flypaper, the Bush-Kept-Us-Safe, the Electoral-Cycles theories, and finally the Time-Space, inevitable-terror, theory.  Each of the named theories is presented in an evidence-based, rational fashion, showing that this is not so much  a scale as it is a spectrum of facts presented in a manner that offers the reader the chance to pick certain facts and allot them more credit in the despair America has been spared.

The Electoral-Cycles theory is perhaps the most unsound theory of all eight.  This theory suggests that terrorist attacks are linked to the democratic political calendar of the United States.   While there is some evidence of electorally-timed attacks, for example the 2004 Madrid bombings in Spain, the other examples utilized are unconvincing.  Perhaps the attacks were timely to political events, but only whimsically so, and in no way in sync with the democratic events of the United States.

The Melting-Pot theory is plausible; however, it undermines the seriousness of many attempted and successful attacks within the United States over the past eight years.  This theory offers statistics suggesting that American Muslims are more concerned about the rise of fundamentalism in America compared to their counterparts in Europe; yet the theory fails to mention that the same statistics source identifies that six percent of American Muslims are sympathetic to suicide bombers in some situations.  Six percent of American Muslims equate to roughly 250,000 people, yet it only takes one individual, or at most a handful to carry out the devastation of a terror attack. Thus this theory does not provide the full scope of risk the US faces.

The bilateral nature Time-Space theory is deceiving at first.  The space component of this theory is sound; however the time component is too theoretical to offer any solid grounding for gauging scientifically interruptible guidance as to when the next attack would be. The theory lacks sufficient data, making space for statistical inaccuracy. Israel offers a great Petri dish for this kind of science that depends on the frequency of attacks.  If applied to America it could yield frail results. The theory ignores the rigorous military effort by the United States in both Afghanistan an Iraq, an effort that diminished much of Al-Qaeda’s overseas capabilities, and in turn might increase the time of another attack infinitely.

It is more conceivable to coalesce the elements for a few of the theories to explain why America has been spared from a terror attack on its soil since 9-11.  Combining The Terrorists-Are Dumb, Near-Enemy, Burden-of-Success, Flypaper and Bush-Kept-US-Safe theories might offer the best response.  It is evident from intelligence collected in a pre-September 11 world that US law enforcement and intelligence agencies should be attributed partial credit for the success of the terror attacks.  The goals of Al-Qaeda are indeed ambitious, but such goals are sought out via a certain terrorist logic.  If Al-Qaeda is viewed through the lens of generic institutional interest science, one must see that any limited organization seeks highlighting its successes and hiding its failures, which makes the Burden-of-Success such a credible piece of the answer.

The Flypaper and the Bush-Kept-Us-Safe theories also have some solid credibility.  Judging by previous jihadist behavior, the warriors of Allah swarmed Afghanistan in the 1980’s, thwarting the invasion of former Soviet Union.  Whether the majority of the enemy captured/killed was jihadist in nature or not, it is undoubtedly certain that Iraq and Afghanistan became the flypaper that lured the wasps in.  The threat of Al-Qaeda was never embodied in a manpower issue.  At the height of Al-Qaeda’s might, America’s military and technological advances superseded its opponent’s by light-years.  Instead, Al-Qaeda posed a threat because the damage each of the individuals could cause, as a solitary unit.

From a short term perspective, Bush and his stack of flypaper, disrupted terrorist activity on American soil, limiting the bee-nest and hindered the beast, that is Al-Qaeda.  As for the long term scope, it is still uncertain which side the Muslim world will side with, the American giant bully or the malignant fundamentalist jihadist.  Both sides have claimed their fair share of collateral damage.  Suicide bombing yields some form of results for Al-Qaeda.  Likewise, had coercive torture methods not yielded results, the US wouldn’t have reason to implement it.

Considering all eight theories, it is probably in the best interest of the US to remain alert and worry in moderation.  Deeming the enemy “dumb” is unwise; claiming that attacks will continue on with no end in sight is counterproductive and fatalistic.  America was spared because of local and international efforts, along with poor preparations on the part of the enemy.  America should be prepared, yet not to the point of unbending rigidity.

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