We’re encouraging amateur terrorism

Islamist terrorist groups should have realized by now that there are two ways to execute a terrorist attack against a Western country.

1) Spend time, resources and trained terrorists on a spectacular attack that kills a lot of people.

2) Put some amateur on a plane and have him set fire to his leg.

From a terrorist point of view, the first option achieves the most.  Whether the goal is to spread fear or cause the enemy to respond in a clumsy and oppressive manner, a successful attack is better than a failed one.

But it’s also a lot more expensive.  Considering how cheap the second alternative is, the pay-off is huge.  You don’t have to train the terrorist.  You don’t have to think of a fool-proof plan, just a plausible one.

And what you get in return is a lot of fear, a lot of press coverage, and a lot of stupid security responses.

Option 2 works better in certain environments.  A failed terrorist attack against a plane is scarier than a failed terrorist attack against a bus or the subway.  And there’s far more governments can (pretend to) do about it, adding to the paranoia.

Which means we may actually be providing terrorist organizations with an incentive to carry out lots of stupid, failed attacks on airplanes. This does have an upside, (maybe they won’t bother with real attacks), but it’s mostly just very stupid.

We need to learn how to live with terrorism.  This isn’t it.

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