Monday, June 14, 2004


In the next few days, the cry will begin that shopping malls and other public places suffer from a dangerous lack of “security”.

This will come in response to today’s arrest of a Muslim suspected in a plot to blow up a mall in Ohio.

Unfortunately, it seems like the terrorists do know how to bring down the U.S. (although there's really no need to train for this kind of thing in Ethiopia for a year).

Not too long after Sept. 11, I put together my mental "If I were a terrorist" to-do list, and blowing up bombs at malls was near the top.

Here, in case you're a terrorist, are the three most effective ways I came up with to destroy the U.S.:

• Mall Attacks

The setup - Send 5 Muslims to 5 different shopping malls across the U.S. with explosives stuffed in their backpacks. Have them put the backbacks in the food courts and set them to blow up at roughly the same time.

The result - Bombs go off, killing a few people but sending Americans into a panic. All shopping malls in the U.S. shut down for a few days, then re-open with few people venturing inside. The federal government hastily organizes the Mall Security Administration within the Department of Homeland Defense and commits $10 billion a year to installing metal detectors and staffing the entrances of every mall in America with MSA agents so every person entering the mall can be screened.

The effect - Retail spending drops by 40% overnight and takes more than a year to recover. Major retailers declare bankruptcy; tens or hundreds of thousands of retail workers laid off; more federal spending drains economy; U.S. pushed back into recession. stock rises 75%.

Why this works - Faced with any chance of danger, Americans cower and then demand to be made “safe”. Five small bombs could drain billions out of the economy overnight.

Level of effort for the terrorists -1 (on a 1 - 10 scale)

• Suitcase Shuffle

The setup - Send 5 Muslims to 5 different airports across the U.S. with explosives stuffed in their suitcases. Each Muslim checks in for a flight, checks their bags and leaves the airport.

The result - Two possibilities - either one or more of the bombs go off, or one or more of the bombs is found. In either case, the event would shut down the U.S. commercial air system once the other bombs are found. People again avoid flying, the TSA adds another $25 billion to its budget and spends another 45 minutes searching all of the old white women.

The effect - Post-Sept. 11 revisited. Airlines seek a bailout, but probably don’t get it. Major carriers fail; people are afraid to fly; travel industry goes back into recession and the U.S. economy is carried with it. Federal spending on transportation “security” causes further economic harm, higher taxes, etc.

Why this works - You saw what happened after Sept. 11, right? The recession was caused by a collapse in the travel industry and related economic panic; not by the actual destruction that took place. And now the Muslims don’t even need to bring down any planes. Just the realization that a coordinated effort was put together to blow up planes will send the public back to panic.

Level of effort for the terrorists -3

• School Bus Boom

The setup - Send 15 two-person teams of Muslims to 15 different towns across America armed with RPGs, big-ass guns or whatever other destructive stuff they can find. Each team rents a car and pulls up to a school bus on the same morning. They take out the big bananas at about the same time.

The result - The children?!?!?!? They’re attacking THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!?!?! Schools shut down for two weeks; Moms are afraid to let their kids out of the house; police forces across America begin to hire School Bus Patrol officers by the thousands; school systems order new $400,000 armored Blue Birds.

The effect - The crippling effect on local governments and school boards would be amazing. Per-pupil spending would reach $50,000 thanks to increased security, and local police budgets would skyrocket, causing massive property tax increases and ultimately collapsing the housing market. Banks fail, recession follows.

Why this works - Anything that threatens “the children” must be met with an overkill of expensive “security” measures, bankrupting the local goverments who just can’t say no to “the children”.

Level of effort for the terrorists -4

It should be noted that I do not (seeing as I am not a Muslim) advocate any of these (or other) terror tactics, but I see the potential for a relatively small terror effort to paralyze the U.S.

And the reason is this: Americans are stupid, scared and lazy. We're the perfect target for terrorists. Where Brits withstood months of German bombing raids in World War II, Americans would just move en mass to Montana. Where the Israelis cope with everyday bombings, Americans would freak out.

The effectiveness of terrorism depends not on the act, but on the effect. Remember that when the first mayor or police chief recommends more "security" at the local mall.


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