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Whether they were Al-Qaeda or not, yesterday's news of the arrest in the UK and Pakistan of 2 dozen people who were plotting to blow up airliners en route to the US shows us something very important - and it's something the Bush administration has never understood (or never cared to understand). There is no effective "war" on terrorism - unless you consider the term "war" in the same sense as the war on organized crime.

The way to stop terrorists in their tracks is not by making long-distance travel a study in frustration, and most especially it is not in the massive deployment and use of military might against civilian populations in the Middle East. The way Scotland Yard and the Pakistanis did it was through traditional, if unflashy, police work. They developed informants, did months of investigation, leg-work, and infiltration. And when the right time came, they treated these would-be terrorists as they would any other criminals - they were arrested and thrown in jail.

The Bush administration would rather we were scared half-to-death all the time - frightened people are much easier to manipulate. But the way to deal with those who would sow terror, whether from a neighborhood protection racket or from a trans-national political organization, is by old-fashioned, unglamorous, feet-on-the-pavement and nose-to-the-grindstone police work. And, like most such police work, it should be done as much as possible out of the public eye.

Originally posted to curmudgeon on Fri Aug 11, 2006 at 04:59 AM PDT.

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