Coulda Been A Lot Worse

Al Qaeda had much bigger plans than what was actually executed on 9/11, according to the bipartisan commission investigating the terrorist plot. What's astonishing to me is just how low the cost of operation was.

The plot cost an estimated $400,000 to $500,000, not including the hijackers' training in Afghanistan. The hijackers spent about $270,000 in the United States, mainly on flight training, travel, housing, and vehicles.

These numbers do not bode well for the future. The US government will be spending billions of dollars to prevent another such attack. Yet, the cost for Al Qaeda for 9/11 was at least a thousand-fold lower. Al Qaeda's offense is much more decentralized and efficient than is the US government's defense.

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On the other hand, the

On the other hand, the 'masterminds' of Al Qaeda haven't been able to pull anything else off since then (in the US, at least). Even though most Americans can think of trivially difficult ways to kill hundreds of our fellow citizens/neighbors. Those of us who worked on public infrastructure issues since 9/11 are acutely aware of vulnerabilities. And yet, nothing from Al Q but screeds and promises of death und destruction.

Decentralized != better, always and everywhere, or even for that matter often or in many places. I'm thinking that in this case, economies of scale are dominating, and the cost of action in the US has gone up by orders of magnitude, vs. slumming it in the slums of the world (Indonesia, Northwestern Pakistan, Southern Phillipines, Sunni Triangle Iraq, etc).

I think the biggest problem with the cost-effectiveness idea is that we know from hindight that the $500,000 operation could have been stopped with a trivial amount of effort at any number of spots, and was in fact detected by many federal agencies; just that prior to 9/11, a combination of institutional barriers and nobody thinking about that sort of thing let it get by. Such a permissive environment does not exist, nor does the willingness of passengers to sit back and let a plane get hijacked exist anymore.

The tradecraft of the 9/11 hijackers would be considered high camp incompetence if not for the tragedy that they *succeeded*. I think that post 9/11 we've seen just exactly what kind of sophistication our enemy had brought to bear (hint- not much) and had in store.

If Al Qaeda were made up of westerners determined to wreck havoc via asymmetrical warfare, we'd be in a lot more trouble. But they're composed of self-delusional thugs whose comprehension of reality (and history) is severely impaired.

From the reference

From the reference --

"...The report said that Atta was in Virginia on April 4 -- evidenced by video that shows him withdrawing $8,000 from an ATM -- and he was in Florida by April 11 if not before. ..."

Was I mistaken in believing that ATM withdrawals were typically limited to $500 per day?

Regards, Don

"If Al Qaeda were made up of

"If Al Qaeda were made up of westerners determined to wreck havoc via asymmetrical warfare, we?d be in a lot more trouble. But they?re composed of self-delusional thugs whose comprehension of reality (and history) is severely impaired."

Likely. Note the sort of havoc the DC snipers caused with a *tiny* budget, and the fact that they basically turned themselves in.

A small cadre of intelligent, committed terrorists with a few grand apiece could shut the whole country down.