Counter-Terrorism: June 27, 2005

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After four years of the war on terror, and no doomsday terrorist attacks, there is increasing anxiety about how well prepared everyone is for an attack using chemical, biological or radioactive weapons (WMD, Weapons of Mass Destruction). Al Qaeda has been taking a beating all this time, but their brand of terrorism is still popular in the Islamic world. Arab media, in particular, casually discuss the likelihood of WMD attacks by Islamic terrorists. Al Qaeda needs a major attack to restore its reputation. A WMD attack would do it.

This has led the target nations, especially the United States, to take a closer look at what exactly would happen if these attacks took place. This was very much thinking the unthinkable. Early on, even before September 11, 2001, this led to calls for training vast numbers of specially trained first responders to WMD attacks, and preventive measures like vaccines for biological weapons like Anthrax and Smallpox. At that point, reality set in. There was not enough money, or public will, to carry out these measures. Thus, in the last year or so, wargames of potential attacks have concentrated on making the most of what is available. That means going through what civil and military first responder resources are available, and seeing how they can be best used against various attacks. This is where the wargames come in, as researchers try different response plans, and tweak existing capabilities to see what can be accomplished. This is an acknowledgement that dealing with WMD attacks is something of a, as the military likes to put it,  come as you are war. In other words, the public wont put up with a lot of new expenditures and drills that will disrupt their lives. So lets plan around what we got, or suggest minor changes, changes that are likely to be accepted. One such change is the creation of databases of what is available, at the local, state and national level. Often, the local cops and firemen dont know what nearby military reserve units have, that would be very useful if there were a WMD attack. After four years, its become obvious to all the players that dealing with WMD attacks is going to be more a matter of using whats currently available, than waiting to get some great stuff thats never going to arrive.

 


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