Thursday, August 10, 2006

8/09: How talented is this group?

The initial impression, obviously uncertain, is that the 8/09 multi-plane bombing plan was (is?) a serious operation of an al Qaeda like group. I'm most interested in the talent level of the group.

The current hypothesis about why we haven't had major attacks post 9/11 in the US (exempting the mysterious anthrax bio-attack) is:
  1. No robust command and control function left post Afghanistan.
  2. A desire for a 'big' attack -- no wish for smaller actions.
  3. An unexpected (by many) level of opposition, or at least non-support, among US muslims for any attacks.
  4. Some minimal hardening of the most obvious targets. (Except for the cockpit doors, however, this is largely discounted.)
My personal hypothesis is different. I think al Qaeda has had a very weak bench. I think that the intellectual capabilities, operational effectiveness, and creativity of their "team" has been miserable.

I began to think this after the Richard Reid "shoe bomber" episode. Sending a cognitively disabled paranoid schizophrenic on an attack only made sense if it was either a "feint" -- or if that was the best they could do. In retrospect the Reid attack was not a feint, so the implication is that they had almost nobody left with any talent.

Why is this? Genius is everywhere. There must be tens of thousands of Muslims who are smarter and more creative than anyone I know -- albeit with, on average, fewer educational opportunities. If they wanted to destroy western civilization we'd be on our backs now. As it is, despite Bush's incompetence, we're still breathing.

For some reason, al Qaeda hasn't been able to recruit really talented attackers. I think Bush has been doing an outstanding job of helping al Qaeda improve their recruiting pool. Once we get a look at this bunch, we'll see how successful he's been.

Update 8/16/06: Early returns suggest a very thin bench here. I'm still waiting to learn if any went to college, and particularly if there were any scientists, technologists, geeks, or engineers.

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