Mueller ’10 – professor of political science at OSU
John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State University, Calming Our Nuclear Jitters, Issues in Science & Technology, Winter 2010, Vol. 26, Issue 2
The terrorist group might also seek to steal or illicitly purchase a "loose nuke" somewhere. However, it seems probable that none exist. All governments have an intense interest in controlling any weapons on their territory because of fears that they might become the primary target. Moreover, as technology has developed, finished bombs have been outfitted with devices that trigger a non-nuclear explosion that destroys the bomb if it is tampered with. And there are other security techniques: Bombs can be kept disassembled with the component parts stored in separate high-security vaults, and a process can be set up in which two people and multiple codes are required not only to use the bomb but to store, maintain, and deploy it. As Younger points out, "only a few people in the world have the knowledge to cause an unauthorized detonation of a nuclear weapon."There could be dangers in the chaos that would emerge if a nuclear state were to utterly collapse; Pakistan is frequently cited in this context and sometimes North Korea as well. However, even under such conditions, nuclear weapons would probably remain under heavy guard by people who know that a purloined bomb might be used in their own territory. They would still have locks and, in the case of Pakistan, the weapons would be disassembled.
-9/11 upped the stakes to every attack has to be large
-no al-qaeda in the US
-can’t sneak into the US
Bruce, internationally renowned security technologist and author. Described by The Economist as a "security guru," May 5, Schneier on Security, http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/05/why_arent_there.html
Why Aren't There More Terrorist Attacks? As the details of the Times Square car bomb attempt emerge in the wake of Faisal Shahzad's arrest Monday night, one thing has already been made clear: Terrorism is fairly easy. All you need is a gun or a bomb, and a crowded target. Guns are easy to buy. Bombs are easy to make. Crowded targets -- not only in New York, but all over the country -- are easy to come by. If you're willing to die in the aftermath of your attack, you could launch a pretty effective terrorist attack with a few days of planning, maybe less. But if it's so easy, why aren't there more terrorist attacks like the failed car bomb in New York's Times Square? Or the terrorist shootings in Mumbai? Or the Moscow subway bombings? After the enormous horror and tragedy of 9/11, why have the past eight years been so safe in the U.S.? There are actually several answers to this question. One, terrorist attacks are harder to pull off than popular imagination-- and the movies -- lead everyone to believe. Two, there are far fewer terrorists than the political rhetoric of the past eight years leads everyone to believe. And three, random minor terrorist attacks don't serve Islamic terrorists' interests right now. Hard to Pull Off Terrorism sounds easy, but the actual attack is the easiest part. Putting together the people, the plot and the materials is hard. It's hard to sneak terrorists into the U.S. It's hard to grow your own inside the U.S. It's hard to operate; the general population, even the Muslim population, is against you. Movies and television make terrorist plots look easier than they are. It's hard to hold conspiracies together. It's easy to make a mistake. Even 9/11, which was planned before the climate of fear that event engendered, just barely succeeded. Today, it's much harder to pull something like that off without slipping up and getting arrested. Few Terrorists But even more important than the difficulty of executing a terrorist attack, there aren't a lot of terrorists out there. Al-Qaida isn't a well-organized global organization with movie-plot-villain capabilities; it's a loose collection of people using the same name. Despite the post-9/11 rhetoric, there isn't a terrorist cell in every major city. If you think about the major terrorist plots we've foiled in the U.S. -- the JFK bombers, the Fort Dix plotters -- they were mostly amateur terrorist wannabes with no connection to any sort of al-Qaida central command, and mostly no ability to effectively carry out the attacks they planned. The successful terrorist attacks -- the Fort Hood shooter, the guy who flew his plane into the Austin IRS office, the anthrax mailer -- were largely nut cases operating alone. Even the unsuccessful shoe bomber, and the equally unsuccessful Christmas Day underwear bomber, had minimal organized help -- and that help originated outside the U.S. Terrorism doesn't occur without terrorists, and they are far rarer than popular opinion would have it. Small Attacks Aren't Enough Lastly, and perhaps most subtly, there's not a lot of value in unspectacular terrorism anymore. If you think about it, terrorism is essentially a PR stunt. The death of innocents and the destruction of property isn't the goal of terrorism; it's just the tactic used. And acts of terrorism are intended for two audiences: for the victims, who are supposed to be terrorized as a result, and for the allies and potential allies of the terrorists, who are supposed to give them more funding and generally support their efforts. An act of terrorism that doesn't instill terror in the target population is a failure, even if people die. And an act of terrorism that doesn't impress the terrorists' allies is not very effective, either. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the terrorists, 9/11 upped the stakes. It's no longer enough to blow up something like the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Terrorists need to blow up airplanes or the Brooklyn Bridge or the Sears Tower or JFK airport -- something big to impress the folks back home. Small no-name targets just don't cut it anymore. Note that this is very different than terrorism by an occupied population: the IRA in Northern Ireland, Iraqis in Iraq, Palestinians in Israel. Setting aside the actual politics, all of these terrorists believe they are repelling foreign invaders. That's not the situation here in the U.S. So, to sum up: If you're just a loner wannabe who wants to go out with a bang, terrorism is easy. You're more likely to get caught if you take a long time to plan or involve a bunch of people, but you might succeed. If you're a representative of al-Qaida trying to make a statement in the U.S., it's much harder. You just don't have the people, and you're probably going to slip up and get caught.
Terrorism is not an existential threat – at most it will kill a few hundred people a year – the fear of WMD terrorism is overblown.
John Mueller is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession. “The truth about al Qaeda”. August 5, 2011. CNN’s Global Public Square. http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/05/the-truth-about-al-qaeda/
Outside of war zones, the amount of killing carried out by al Qaeda and al Qaeda linkees, maybes, and wannabes throughout the entire world since 9/11 stands at perhaps a few hundred per year. That's a few hundred too many, of course, but it scarcely presents an existential, or elephantine, threat. And the likelihood that an American will be killed by a terrorist of any ilk stands at one in 3.5 million per year, even with 9/11 included. That probability will remain unchanged unless terrorists are able to increase their capabilities massively - and obtaining nuclear weapons would allow them to do so. Although al Qaeda may have dreamed from time to time about getting such weapons, no other terrorist group has even gone so far as to indulge in such dreams, with the exception of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, which leased the mineral rights to an Australian sheep ranch that sat on uranium deposits, purchased some semi-relevant equipment, and tried to buy a finished bomb from the Russians. That experience, however, cannot be very encouraging to the would-be atomic terrorist. Even though it was flush with funds and undistracted by drone attacks (or even by much surveillance), Aum Shinrikyo abandoned its atomic efforts in frustration very early on. It then moved to biological weapons, another complete failure that inspired its leader to suggest that fears expressed in the United States of a biological attack were actually a ruse to tempt terrorist groups to pursue the weapons. The group did finally manage to release some sarin gas in a Tokyo subway that killed 13 and led to the group's terminal shutdown, as well as to 16 years (and counting) of pronouncements that WMD terrorism is the wave of the future. No elephants there, either.
Claims of an existential risk from terrorism are irrational
Fettweis, Professor of Political Science, ‘10
Chris, Professor of Political Science @ Tulane,Threat and Anxiety in US Foreign Policy, Survival, 52:2
Conventional war, much less outright assault, is not the leading security challenge in the minds of most Americans today. Instead, irregular or non- state actors, especially terrorists, top the list of threats to the West since 11 September 2001. The primary guiding principle of US foreign policymaking, for better or worse, is the continuing struggle against terrorism. President Bush repeatedly used the term ‘Islamofascists’ to describe the enemy that he re-oriented the US defence establishment to fight, transforming al-Qaeda from a ragtag band of lunatics into a threat to the republic itself. It is not uncommon for even sober analysts to claim that Islamic terrorists present an ‘existential threat’ to the United States, especially if they were ever to employ nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Perhaps it is Parkinson’s Law that inspires some analysts to compare Islamic fundamentalists with the great enemies of the past, such as the Nazis or the Communists, since no rational analysis of their destructive potential would allow such a conclu- sion. Threat is a function of capabilities and intent; even if al-Qaeda has the intent to threaten the existence of the United States, it does not possess the capability to do so.