So says Matthew Yglesias, in a post titled Not So Scary “Terror” (emphasis mine):
Obviously, people shouldn’t be lighting anything on fire inside airplanes. That said, all the big Christmas airline incident really shows to me is how little punch our dread terrorist adversaries really pack. Once again, this seems like a pretty unserious plot. And even if you did manage to blow up an airplane in mid-air, that would be both a very serious crime and a great tragedy, but hardly a first-order national security threat….
Ultimately, it does no favors to anyone to blow this sort of thing out of proportion. The United States could not, of course, be “devastated” by anything resembling this scheme. We ought to be clear on that fact. We want to send the message around the world that this sort of vile attempt to slaughter innocent people is not, at the end of the day, anything resembling a serious challenge to American power. It’s attempted murder, it’s wrong, we should try to stop it, but it’s really not much more than that.
Contrary the criminal justice mindset, any attempt to blow up airplanes is a threat to national security in the same way as the 9/11 attacks. The effect, had this attack been successful, not only would have been a large loss of life, but enormous economic disruption and terror spread throughout the U.S.
It is not hard to imagine an emergency grounding of all air traffic as on 9/11, and days or weeks before travel resumed a normal pattern. The psychological effect, which is the point of terror, would have cast a pall over the country.
Not so scary terror? Only because it didn’t work.
Not a serious plot? It turns out that incendiary device was made of the same highly explosive material used by “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid, there are increasingly clear links to Yemen, and the U.S. was on notice for two years that this specific individual was a risk.
The Think Progress crowd may not like it politically, but we do need to do a better job at connecting the dots, as Congressman Pete Hoekstra has said.
And we can speak this truth even though Obama is in office, much as George W. Bush was criticized for not connecting the dots leading up to 9/11. We must not allow groups like Think Progress, which seeks to protect Obama’s image, to deter us from speaking up out of fear of being ridiculed, as is happening to Pete Hoekstra.
Relying on terrorists to misfire is not a national security policy. It didn’t work in the 1990s, and it will not work now.
Update: Thanks to Donald Douglas for this screen shot of a tweet by Spencer Ackerman on the same “not so scary” theme:
Abdulmutallab gets an explosive device from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen; takes a couple of layovers to get on the plane; boards with his device; ignites it; it fizzles; passengers and crew subdue him. And we’re supposed to be scared of this?
Ackerman dismisses the attempt as “a desperate bid for relevance” by an al-Qaeda under pressure. Well, blowing people up is what al-Qaeda does, so by that definition, 9/11 also was “a desperate bid for relevance.”
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