Stupidity in Government: Not just in the US

A lovely article in The Register describing a recent debate in the House of Lords about the airline liquids ban. To quote:

“We continuously monitor the effectiveness of, in particular, the liquid security measures…”

How, one might ask? But hold on:

“The fact that there has not been a serious incident involving liquid explosives indicates, I would have thought, that the measures that we have put in place so far have been very effective.”

Ah, that’s how. On which basis the measures against asteroid strike, alien invasion and unexplained nationwide floods of deadly boiling custard have also been remarkably effective.

So they think! Once my Automated Ovinator is complete, all the roads in England will be transformed into Lemon Custard! And then I’ll show them all! Wahahahaha!

Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 15:39  Comments (8)  
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Protected: Fun at the border

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Published in: on July 19, 2006 at 16:33  Enter your password to view comments.  
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Airport security

Notice how, over the past five years, American airport security has gotten systematically more invasive, more edgy, and more unpleasant? Well, apparently it still hasn’t gotten more effective to go with that. You can still transport as many bombs as you want aboard aircraft, just so long as they aren’t hidden inside your shoe.

(Which, really, shouldn’t surprise anyone. Fake security monitors objects and has lots of procedures; real security monitors people. But that requires extensive training and may involve things like profiling, which are politically unpalatable. Even the best physical security screening of luggage doesn’t really achieve anything, since there are plenty of other places you could smuggle things aboard. [Left as an exercise for the reader — I can think of some really fun ones that they’ll never be able to screen for without causing a riot])

Published in: on March 20, 2006 at 10:29  Comments (6)  
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Time to worry.

I know most of you don’t want to read this, and it’s fairly long, so I’m going to put this behind a cut. The subject: the problem of terror has, in the past few weeks, gotten qualitatively worse in a way that it hasn’t since 9/11.


Published in: on September 4, 2004 at 14:28  Comments (9)  
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“Intelligence is useful only to the intelligent.”

— R. A. Heinlein, in re Neville Chamberlain

Also: There is a peculiar amusement to standing in an airport security line in the United States while reading a book on Farsi grammar. And no, I was not dragged away by Men in Black.

The weekend was excellent; got a chance to see a bunch of much-missed people, and watch fireworks, eat damned good sushi, play games, and sit around in a hot tub. I need more weekends like that.

Today, on the other hand, is the run-up to more work… so time to get back to prepping this talk.

Published in: on July 6, 2004 at 22:21  Comments (2)  

Lovely line…

From an FAS report (interesting read) on the potential use of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles against passenger aircraft, a little bit of bureaucratese:

“the penalties of dropping incendiary flares on populated areas near airports are prohibitive.”

Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.

Published in: on November 8, 2003 at 23:10  Comments (5)  

A question of strategy

A thought that occurred to me during a conversation earlier today.

A popular buzzword lately has been “asymmetric warfare,” describing engagements between combatants with radically different strengths and weaknesses. One classic example is 9/11, but another example that we shouldn’t ignore is the present war in Iraq. In this case, though, it’s asymmetric in the other direction – we chose the manner of engagement to our maximum advantage. The fact that the war has gone as well as it has so far (knock on wood) is really due to the fact that in large part we set it up to play to our strengths.

This brought to mind a point which I don’t think has been discussed enough in relation to wars in general. Asymmetric warfare situations – which appear to now be the norm for war in general, not just terror activities – place an enormous premium on highly aggressive tactics. The basic reason is that the attacker gets to choose the nature of the engagement, and since asymmetric warfare by its nature is about focusing one’s strengths on the enemy’s weaknesses, this gives a much greater premium than it does in more symmetric conflicts.

If this is correct, then tactics and strategy need to be radically changed from the strategies of symmetric conflicts. Defenses need to be more uniform, not presenting any obvious weak points for an enemy to target. The absence of clear lines of engagement makes this even more severe, since the distinction between military and civilian targets has been eroded into invisibility in the past few years. But more importantly, it suggests that the only way to win an asymmetric conflict is by maximally aggressive tactics, continuously searching out enemy capabilities and striking them at their weakest points.

I’m not entirely happy with this thought, because it seems to argue in favor of several policies that I’m rather leery of – “preventive war,” for example. But I’m not certain if there’s any way around this in the context of highly asymmetric threats.

Published in: on April 8, 2003 at 13:37  Comments (21)  
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Follow-up to yesterday…

Well, it looks like the attack threatened yesterday happened – but mercifully didn’t go off as planned. Details here. The big one wasn’t the car bomb at the hotel, but notice a couple of other things:

  • Two Stinger missiles (shoulder-mounted heat-seekers) were fired at a B757 as it was taking off from Mombasa airport. This would have been the first successful destruction of a passenger aircraft, not from aboard the craft but from the ground.
  • There are also rumors (debka, so take with some grain of salt) that aircraft strafed the hotel building in Kenya which was bombed.
  • There were four major, synchronized attacks: The aircraft strike, the Kenya bombing, the attack at the polling place in Israel, and a nearby major car bomb. (Which failed to detonate) Multiple widely separated, synchronized attacks are a classic al Qaeda calling card. (cf. Sept. 11, or the embassy bombings a few years ago)

So yes, sometimes it pays to be paranoid. One interesting point of analysis from debka: “The Mombasa attacks like the Bali bombing targeted exotic tourist spots frequented by Western vacationers – focusing on Australians in the first and Israelis in the second. “

Published in: on November 28, 2002 at 10:44  Comments (7)  
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