Response to Comments on Mumbai Analysis

Thanks again for the many good thoughtful comments. A few themes emerge.

First, it is absolutely true that the overall moderation and patriotism of the American Muslim community (with unfortunate – but thankfully rare exceptions) has been a crucial component in the lack of terrorism in the United States. On that theme, it is worth noting that the Pakistani Muslim population is also relatively moderate. Islamist parties receive very low support in elections. It is true the Kashmiri Islamist groups have no shortage of recruits, but there are vast numbers of under-employed young men with no future who are ripe for recruitment. Considering how poorly governed Pakistan has been since its founding, it is frankly surprising that the population is not more radicalized.

Second, there was some concern that radicalization was in fact happening here. Certainly this is possible, but the level of indoctrination needed is extensive. Paintball may be an effective entry point, but it is not sufficient. I would submit that individuals not sufficiently indoctrinated would have difficulty actually pulling the trigger – even if they were devoted to the cause. Finally these activities are suspicious and attract attention, and this brings me to the final point.

Most of the comments discussed what would happen to a potential terrorist raiding party that did manage to reach the US. First, as an analyst of terrorist groups, I would prefer to keep the terrorists far away and deter potential attacks through various barriers (physical and otherwise.) Ideally you don’t want to meet an enemy in battle, you want to prevent them from being able to fight (think Sun-Tzu – or for that matter Bruce Lee.) Also, I am not tremendously familiar with urban combat operations and if I had taken on the challenges facing terrorists after they landed the post would have been endless.

American public safety is not perfect, but certainly is better trained and equipped than their Indian counterparts. Big city police departments have the resources to train for a range of contingencies.

Several posters noted we have an armed citizenry – of course that might depend on where they landed. Houston is NOT a soft target. Cities in the northeast might not be as well armed. But the deeper theme is that we have an active citizenry. People from around the world (going at least as far back as Alexis de Tocqueville) have observed that Americans tend to be pro-active in facing challenges (although de Tocqueville would probably not have used the world proactive – he was French.)

Regardless of how Americans would react in an attack, this activist streak has another important component – we are likely to notice things out of the ordinary and report them. Terror attacks require extensive reconnaissance, and this reconnaissance is likely to be noticed. That represents another important barrier to carrying out major terror attacks in the United States.

Thanks again and keep reading.

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