The main factor preventing another 9/11 was not counterterrorism, but simple awareness that another attack could happen

A lot of the 10-year retrospection discussion on 9/11, the extent to which al-Qaeda has been degraded, the necessity or non-necessity of an Afghan invasion, seems to me to be missing a key point:

We could have taken no action at all against al-Qaeda after 9/11 — no Afghanistan invasion, no drones in Pakistan or Yemen, — and we probably still could have prevented another attack on that scale. I’m not saying that we should have taken this approach, but the single most critical factor in preventing a major attack was simply the awareness that someone was out there, trying to kill a lot of people in the United States.

A hijacked passenger jet is probably one of the few weapons capable of causing such destruction, that was also relatively easy for terrorists to obtain. And as of 9/12, no one was going to hand a jet over to terrorists. The 9/11 hijackers had such an easy time of it because of the “Common Strategy”, by which crews were trained not to resist hijackings. The Common Strategy was based on the assumption that hijackers wanted to simply to land the plane somewhere, and realize their demands.

It’s shocking, in retrospect, that this assumption and this protocol was maintained all through the 90s. But once it was thrown out, a flying fuel-filled missile was no longer available to anyone who walked to the cabin and demanded it.

An unmolested Al Qaeda would have retained the ability to train people to stage car or subway bombings, or bombings of individual aircraft. How much difference that training would have made is difficult to assess. But 90% of the organization’s ability to kill people inside the United States and other Western countries was lost when they exploited that one, easily-closed window of vulnerability.

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7 Responses to The main factor preventing another 9/11 was not counterterrorism, but simple awareness that another attack could happen

  1. j middleton says:

    I suggest you aquaint yourself with the laws of gravity as propounded by Mr Newton. Buildings do not fall down at freefall speed or near to without good reason…….controlled demolition.

  2. Pachalo Chirwa says:

    Its good to know these news.

  3. Don Whitehead says:

    I have serious doubts about how the 9/11 incident happened. First because it is clear the main protagonists were ALL Saudis. secondly because it is now admitted that the Afghan invasion was planned at least one month before 9/11.

    It seems that the US establishment already had plans for an anti moslem war before this, and the 9/11 incident gave them a cover story, so the suspicions of some americans that the incident was not what it seemed is understandable.

  4. Regardless if it was Al Qaeda or a cover-up conspiracy that seems both rather plausible and extremely unlikely at the same time, the fact made in the article is true. That the buildings came down in what looked like controlled demolitions does not necessarily prove that they were controlled. It is factual however that the invasions, especially Iraq, were not what prevented other attacks being planned or being successful.

    Some were, it is true, but people like Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, were stopped mainly due to public awareness and far less effective planning and execution.

    A misconception is that the Government protects its citizens, it is probably more true to say that citizens protect their government.

  5. keith says:

    The “official” 9/11 story is the biggest conspiracy theory. If Bin Laden was intent on hurting the US A he could have waged a decade of terror on the them and establish himself as a freedom fighter (or Terrorist) for the Arab World. Worldwide shipping is corrupt to the core with tax haven countries devoid of legal or moral principles used to flag many Multi national shipping companies. Leaving it open to whole crews of Fanatic Al Qaeda to be established on board. A ship full of “Timothy McVeigh” explosives or worst a dirty nuke in every major port in the USA would have devastating affects yet tightening security in this area has been pathetic.

  6. stanwright says:

    Absolutely. That was exactly my reaction. These hijackings exposed a terrible blind spot in our understanding of hijacking but even by flight 93, the fourth hijacked aircraft, that window closed. Ironically, this was likely the death-knell for the other kind of hijacking, also. After that day, no one is ever going to surrender control of an aircraft to any attack short of a pitched battle to the death.

  7. greg bryce says:

    You are, of course, correct. However, the people demanded reaction and protection. Any politician trying to explain risk assessment realities would have been electorally lynched.

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