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The On V Prediction Scorecard

If I had all the time in the world, I would track the predictions of sports analysts and political pundits to see how often they are flat wrong. I love Pardon The Interruption, but man, those guys hardly ever get their predictions right. (Apparently, experts are wrong all the time.)

Having learned my lesson from a disastrous/ingenious prediction in high school, Eric C and I decided when we started On Violence that we wouldn’t be in the predicting business. That said, after you’ve blogged for over a year and a half, it’s hard to keep a few predictions from slipping in. Thus the latest attempted terrorist attacks stemming from Yemen made us look both pretty smart and pretty dumb at the same time.

Here are four points--and one new idea--that predict or relate to the attempted cargo plane bombings:

Prediction: All roads lead to Iraq. (Right and Wrong) We said in our post “The Obama Blame Game Part 2” that “all terrorists roads lead through Iraq”. We predicted that, if the US gets attacked again, Iraq will have something to do with it. In a strict sense, we were wrong. The failed underwear bomber was from Somalia. The failed Times Square attacker was from Nigeria. And the latest cargo bombings originated from Yemen.

While we can’t blame Iraq directly, the motivation for this attack goes back to Iraq. Besides the transfer of knowledge on how to make bombs, perfected by years in Iraq, the terrorists in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula repeatedly refer to Iraq as a rallying cry in their propaganda. The war in Iraq did more to inspire, motivate, train and instruct future terrorists than anything else the US has done.

Prediction: Failed States are the issue. (Right) We have written about failed states many times before here, here and here. Each time, we said that terrorists live and thrive in failed states. And guess what? Yemen is a failed state. So is Somalia. Nigeria flirts with the designation. Until we crack the failed states nut, extremism and terrorism will be an security issue.

Prediction: Terrorism isn’t an existential threat. (Right) Even if the cargo planes had exploded--and that would have been a tragedy--probably more Americans died in car accidents that day. Or shootings. Or hospital-borne infections. Or ladder accidents. Or surgery complications. The point is terrorism is a statistical anomaly, not an existential threat. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have one goal: to bankrupt the West by destroying our way of life. Don’t believe me? Well, that is exactly what the terrorists say in their poorly written version of a news magazine.

Prediction: Our Intelligence Community needs serious reform. (Right) When we added “Top Secret America” to our blog roll, it was for one reason: the article explained perfectly why our intelligence community doesn’t work. A technological and bureaucratic mess, the only reason we stopped the latest attacks was luck and good Saudi intelligence. Our intelligence community needs serious reform, but hides behind 9/11. That needs to stop.

And one new idea: We can’t let door kickers lead our foreign policy. As a culture, and in our government, we glorify “door kickers”, special operations troops who conduct direct action missions (kill or capture raids). Our video games and movies glorify these men--think Delta Force, Call of Duty or Navy SEALs.

Special Operations Command, through JSOC, along with the direct action arm of the CIA the Special Activities Division, keeps getting more money and more responsibility to fight terrorism. The door kickers took the lead for operations in Pakistan, Yemen, the early days of Afghanistan and other places around the world, all covert and clandestine. But it hasn’t worked. We value operations over intelligence, to our detriment.

We can’t kill our way out of this fight. We have enough hindsight from the last ten years to verify that. Until we remove the door kickers and replace them with intelligence and diplomacy people, we will continue to make more terrorists than we stop.

seven comments

I always find that if I think something is going to happen, it almost certainly isn’t.

I also really recommend readers listening to that link at the top. according to the findings, the more ideological someone is, the more wrong they tend to be.

“The more ideological someone is, the more wrong they tend to be.”

I wouldn’t say this is universally true, but more often than not it’s right on the money.

Socrates had it right.

Yeah, it isn’t universally true—ideologues have to be right at least some of the time—but it makes sense.

i guess the question is, how many pundits or experts actually keep open minds? I can think of a few, but not many.

Yeah I know a few issues I am close minded on—killing civilians doesn’t ever seem appropriate, effective, legal, ethical or moral—but we try to keep an open mind.

As to Yemen, the whole incident is not explored well enough.

I take issue with this statement:

“While we can’t blame Iraq directly, the motivation for this attack goes back to Iraq The war in Iraq did more to inspire, motivate, train and instruct future terrorists than anything else the US has done.”

Before we went into Iraq we had the following happen to our country:

1983 Beirut U.S. embassy bombing
1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut
1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing
1993 WTC bombing
1995 hijacking of the Achille Lauro
1996 Khobar Towers Bombing
1998 Kenya Bombing
1998 Tanzania Bombing
2000 USS Cole Bombing
2001 WTC attack

Back then (in 1996) Osama bin Laden gave plenty of reasons to go after the U.S.:


Those reasons did not really include Iraq.

The point? Islamic terrorists will always find a reason to motivate people. Support for Israel is a big one. Occupation of Saudi Arabia by U.S. military forces is another one. Letting our women vote or learn to read is another. Should we simply stop doing all these things? Of course not.

It is silly to think that if we had not invaded Iraq Islamic terrorism would stop.

As for the rest of the article I say “well done.”

“Letting our women vote or learn to read is another.” Support for Israel, support for Russia in the Chechyn conflict, troops in Saudi arabia, all motivating reasons.

“Letting our women vote or learn to read is another.” is not, otherwise any country that did this would be a victim of regular terrorist attacks. That’s a domestic motivator of—Afghanistan’s tribal areas—but not a motivator of international terrorism.

Women’s rights is not the motivator of international terrorism, agreed, but the immorality of the West, the cultural corruption, is a reason. More specifically, the spreading of this “corruption” into Islamic societies. This would include many things like women being equal to men in society, abortion, gay rights, pornography, pre-marital sex, drug use, drinking, etc… They all run together.

As you pointed out, there are many reasons why an Islamicist would seek to conduct terrorism against the West. Iraq, I’m sure, is a prominent reason now, but if it wasn’t that it would be something else.

One can always find an excuse for anything.