06 Jan 2010

Andrew Sullivan’s Reader Analyzes Jihadi Intentions

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Excitable Andrew Sullivan quotes an email he received from one of his readers, which I think represents a classic example of liberal analysis.

It is quite possible (in fact I think probable) that the people who planned this event, and used the young man from Nigeria as a tool, were aware that due to security measures in place, there was no way they could actually get a bomb through that would actually work. The detonation equipment needed would have been detected. The same applies, by the way, to the shoe bomber.

Again, think about it. If you wanted to blow up a plane, would you attempt it from your seat, where somebody could quite possibly stop you? No, you would go to the washroom where you could set off the bomb without disruption.

Of course, if it failed to go off, then people wouldn’t necessarily know what you were trying to do. Therefore you have to make sure it is one in the open, or the very failure is perceived as a terrorist attack. The fear result is the same whether or not the bomb goes off.

In addition to the torture lovers advocating a return to waterboarding, the administration sets up more stringent guidelines for air travel (most of which are unlikely to be effective at all) and other people call for the resignation of the head of DHS. In other words, the response is what al Qaeda and other terrorist groups want.

Al Qaeda has lost a lot of its prestige and influence in the Muslim world. They need something to get it back. How better than to do something that creates a reaction on the part of the US or Great Britain that shows just how bad we are and how we are so anti-Islam.

In ABC video of federal test, 50 gr. of PETN destroys airliner

For liberals, a well-formed argument is everything. Facts are fungible and analysis constitutes simply a matter of choosing the propositions necessary for one’s argument work. Analysis is a lot like Interior Decorating.

It becomes easy to deride Western counter-terrorist efforts, if one argues that Al Qaeda can’t really smuggle a bomb that would actually work onto a plane in someone’s shoes or underwear. The jihadis knew all along those bombing attempts would never work. They just intended to win tons of publicity, frighten Western officials into making air travel even more miserable, and panic us into picking on innocent Muslims.

Except as the government test shown in this 2:57 ABC video demonstrated Richard Reid’s 50 gr. PETN shoe bomb could have blown an airliner into pieces very nicely. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was carrying 80 grams.

Additionally, we know that the attempted bombing of Flight 253 was part of a suicide bombing campaign begin last August when a suicide bomber using the same kind of infernal device concealed in his underwear successfully did detonate a bomb which wounded, but failed to kill, Saudi Counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Clever reasoning. Unfortunately, yes, Andrew, these kinds of bombs can be successfully exploded. The failures of Richard Reid the shoe bomber and the Flight 253 underwear bomber were the result of good luck and happenstance.

One Feedback on "Andrew Sullivan’s Reader Analyzes Jihadi Intentions"


The news reports I saw stated that Mutallab spent some twenty minutes in the restroom immediately before returning to his seat and placing a blanket over his lap as he tried to detonate his bomb. He didn’t, therefore, try to detonate the bomb “in the open”–it seems more likely that he was unsuccessful in getting the acid syringe into the PETN in the restroom, and thought that he could more easily accomplish this in his seat. So much for the theory that this was intended to fail.


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