Is this the way al Qaeda’s decade or so of terror pre-eminence ends? The details are still coming out but from what I’ve seen so far, the latest attempt to attack an American jetliner was done by a wealthy scion of a Nigerian banker who had explosive underwear that he was unable to detonate.
Now it is impossible (and stupid) to say that terrorism is over, but this sort of pathetic, bumbling attempt on a single jet in the US is a far cry from the massive synchronized assaults that were the trademark of al Qaeda’s perverse spectacles. Part of what makes a terror group successful is the perception of it as fearsome and daring – the sort of appeal that villains like Jesse James have accrued at other times. The pampered son of a banker setting his pants on firing and failing at it is not fearsome and daring, it’s lame. Recruiting disaffected young men in the wake of the 9/11 spectacle was surely easy for al Qaeda, doing so in the wake of this latest clusterfuck is surely a different matter.
I am confident that al Qaeda will continue to attempt to launch attacks and I think it even reasonable to expect some of them to succeed, but I also think this latest incident is indicative of their current capabilities. This will snowball, no one wants to join a group that is a shell of its former self.
I should also like to note that this plot could have been foiled with some good police work and some information, the father of this young man reported his suspicions – no waterboarding was necessary. I eagerly await Cheney calling to invade Nigeria though, perhaps he’s awaiting his large payments from that nice Nigerian general who he met through his email.