Ryan Clark Holiday recently did a post on 4th Generation Warfare on the Internet(link), which lead me to a post on Global Guerillas that talked about Urban Takedowns in India, as well as this IEEE Spectrum article.
Back in the eighties a friend of mine read a book (the title and author are lost to memory) about a guy who did guerilla warfare against New York City. One of the exploits was poisoning the reservoirs. Around the same time, the Tommy Lee Jones movie “The Park is Mine” came out where one man was able to defend Central Park against a host of law enforcement types long enough to make a statement. I often wondered at the time when it would really happen here.
Big shows by terrorists like the WTC or Oklahoma City get a lot of attention but fade pretty quickly. Even the effects of the WTC, which is now six years in the past, are fading. People are pretty much back to business as usual. Global Guerillas makes the case that:
- Singular terrorist events (black swans), like 9/11, do not impact city viability. The costs of a singular event dissipate quickly. In contrast, frequent attacks (even small ones) on a specific city can create a terrorism tax of a level necessary to shift equilibiriums.
- In the labor pooling model of city formation, a terrorism tax of 7% will cause a city to collapse to a lower equilibrium. Labor pooling equilibrium reflects the benefits of aggregating workers in a single location. Workers get higher wages and more choices. Firms get stable wages (no one firm can deplete the market) and more candidates.
- In the core-periphery model of city formation, a terrorism tax of 6.3% will push a city to a lower equilibrium. The core-periphery model is based on transportation costs. Firms generate transportation savings by concentrating in a single location next to suppliers and customers. Customers and workers glean the benefit of lower transportation costs by locating near jobs and goods.
Back in the day there was a novel by Thomas Harris and a movie called Black Sunday, where a guy attempted to crash the Goodyear Blimp into the Super Bowl where the Steelers where playing. I write stories and one idea I fooled around with was a terrorist cell operating in Pittsburgh. Consider the possibilities:
- The airport
- Reservoirs and water towers
- Cyber attacks on stoplights and such
Route 376, the Parkway, is the major route in and out of the city on the east side. It has a bottleneck at the Squirrel Hill Tunnels. Let’s say at about 5 AM, an active terrorist cell brings two trucks laden with explosives from opposite sides of the tunnel. They coordinate their attacks using throwaway cell phones. They park the trucks, jump out and get into (stolen?) cars following the trucks, and once clear of the tunnels use the phones to detonate the bombs. That artery is now closed and many thousands of people are re-routed through suburban arteries with stops signs and lights.
The next day the same terrorists drop the Fort Pitt Bridge, a major artery out of the city to the west, into the Monongahela River. Note that many terrorists are engineers, so this isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility, especially if they do it at night.
Over the coming days, they put anthrax in several reservoirs and water towers, launch a Stinger at aircraft taking off from the airport, and use cyber attacks to play with traffic signals causing accidents and snarling up traffic even worse. Perhaps a few smaller bombs at shopping malls.
And then they quietly evac out of the country over the open Canadian border.
They’ve gotten major media attention, every attack is posted to Youtube, and now several other cells mount attacks in other cities, using the lessons learned from this first group.
And suddenly, it isn’t so safe here in the US anymore. And no nukes were required.
So how do we defend against something like this, without declaring martial law? That’s complicated, I think.
First, better protection at the borders. We have over 12 million illegals here in the United States. Who’s to say if some of them are not here for a better life? How do we protect those borders? Well, there’s a whole bunch of well-trained, experienced soldiers getting shot at in Iraq….
Regular patrols and electronic surveillance of public infrastructure targets like reservoirs, water towers, tunnels and bridges. One question is who would handle this?
- Police – obviously, this would require a lot more manpower as well as being expensive. The police are not really meant to be used for this sort of application anyway.
- Army or the like
- Mercenaries like Blackwater. If this option were used there would need to be strict Rules of Engagement to avoid shooting of innocent civilians, as has happened in Iraq.
Jammers around public infrastructure – this would inconvenience people with cell phones, and would only be supplemental. After all, a timer can be used to detonate explosives, requiring no radio signal. But it might be helpful anyway.
There are ways around each of these, of course, and I’m sure there are many other solutions I haven’t noted. There are no easy answers, but in the Flat World this sort of thing is a danger that we’ll eventually have to grapple with.