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Will Obama reassess the threat posed by al Qaeda?

ASK THIS | February 02, 2009

Terrorism skeptic John Mueller wonders if Obama has considered the possibility that the al Qaeda threat has been overhyped – and he wonders how Obama's foreign policy team fares on a key litmus test.

(Part of a continuing series of questions for the new administration from a wide range of experts.)

By John Mueller

Q. Tallies by three separate think tanks conclude that the number of people killed worldwide by al Qaeda, al Qaeda look-alikes, al Qaeda wannabes, and al Qaeda maybes since 2001 outside of war zones comes to some 200 to 300 per year. That is clearly 200 or 300 too many. However, given that degree of destruction, does it make much sense anymore to consider efforts to deal with such people a "war" or "struggle"?

Q. Intelligence estimates reported in the press and analyses by some academic specialists suggest that al Qaeda central, holed up in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan, consists of less than 200 actual people. In addition, the group could be considered to consist as well of various radicals around the world who hook up on the internet and dare each other to do something. All these people should be considered dangerous. But does it make much sense anymore to consider efforts to deal with such people a "war" or "struggle"?

Q. Since 2001, some two billion foreigners have been admitted to the United States legally (as well as, of course, countless thousands illegally). Even if screening and other efforts are 90 percent effective, it would seem likely that at least a few al Qaeda terrorists would have made it in. Moreover, if they did get in, it seems likely that the FBI and other agencies would have picked up at least a few of these. But they have yet to find a single one. Does this perhaps suggest we have overestimated either al-Qaeda's determination or its capacity?

Q. Among the people selected to run foreign policy in the Obama administration, which, if any, actively and publicly opposed the war in Iraq before it was begun?

Q. In the 1990s, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the United States was "the indispensable nation," because "we stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future." In the ensuing decade and a half, how have we done on seeing further into the future?

Three letters, o, i, and l.
Posted by Bill Hunt
02/13/2009, 05:06 PM

As an abstraction forgetting about all else and from a distance the single greatest contribution of terrorism is to the price of oil.

Indeed, a hand full of folk can rattle enough tin cans to make it sound like the vermach is on the march again. When every time two cans bang together the price of oil goes up one is left to wonder who in reality is behind it all.

More people are killed taking baths every year than al qaida et al manage to kill to say nothing of traffic accidents and lightning. One terrorist attack gets more press than deaths from all other sources put together. Our troops are now killing themselves in greater number than al qaida so maybe their formula has some merits we're overlooking.

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