Intelligent point from The Wall Street Journal’s opinion section:
If 19 terrorists (the number who carried out the 9/11 attacks) each blew himself up at one- or two-week intervals in a shopping mall or a movie theater, America likely would become a seething nation of paranoid shut-ins. That it hasn’t happened tells you something: Al Qaeda doesn’t have a ready supply of competent suicide bombers, domestic or imported, to carry off serious attacks. That it continues to pour what little resources it can command into lame airliner attacks, like shoe bomber Richard Reid’s failed attempt to blow himself up in 2001 and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt on Christmas Day, tells you something else:
Al Qaeda may be incapacitated, but its leaders aren’t dumb. So what if their hapless messengers only embarrass themselves and burn their legs? Al Qaeda can still count on the sizeable damage we will inflict on ourselves through an airport security apparatus that specializes in expensive political displays of barn-door closing that seldom have any real security payoff.
Exactly. Similarly, as I’ve been saying, the very fact that there are so few of these people out there makes it practically impossible to catch them reliably. This is a problem, but it’s clearly a much better problem to have than the problem where there are tons of al-Qaeda operative, we catch them fairly reliably, but still five percent or so slip through the cracks.