January 08, 2010

Yes, but what did they do, exactly?

David Brooks:

"At some point, itís worth pointing out that it wasnít the centralized system that stopped terrorism in this instance. As with the shoe bomber, as with the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pa., it was decentralized citizen action. The plot was foiled by nonexpert civilians who had the advantage of the concrete information right in front of them ó and the spirit to take the initiative."

Um, no. Once you were at the point where the "explosive substance" was already smoking away and the bomb-wearer was getting burned, it almost certainly wasn't then going to suddenly detonate. The "plot was foiled" by an incompetent bomb maker and/or degraded explosives. What the passengers did was put the flaming would-be terrorist out and restrain him so he couldn't do any more damage to himself or others. Which was awfully nice of them, and undoubtedly brave, too. Given that the alternative was a guy with his pants literally on fire running up and down the aisle screaming until the plane landed, presumably someone was going to have to do something about it sooner or later. And they should also be credited, I think, for not kicking the guy in the head more than they apparently did... it's always nice when our side is the civilized one. But in all likelihood their "initiative" didn't save their own lives or the plane by doing so, any more than the "centralized state" did.

See also Lewis Page.

Posted by BruceR at 06:54 PM