Pondering how the passengers on Flight 253 saved the day after Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab’s bomb failed to ignite properly, law professor Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, links a column he wrote after the D.C. snipers were caught in 2002 by a citizen who spotted their car and blocked it from escaping with his own vehicle (boldfacing mine):
Regardless of whether or not the D.C. snipers count as “terrorists” under your particular definition (they do under mine, but the authorities seem to be shooting for a much narrower standard) there seems little question that in coming weeks, months, and years we’re going to be dealing with a lot of fast-moving, dispersed threats of the sort that bureaucracies don’t handle very well. (Every domestic-terrorism victory so far, from Flight 93 to bringing down the LAX shooter to spotting the D.C. killers was accomplished by non-law-enforcement individuals, after all). Rather than creating new bureaucracies, we need to be looking at ways of promoting fast-moving, dispersed responses, responses that will involve members of the public as a pack, not a herd. Even if doing so reduces the career satisfaction of shepherds.
Read the whole thing — my headline comes from another writer that Reynolds quotes in his piece.
The initial news reports were rather bland, but Hot Air has a video (which is on auto-play) of how the bomb was made and only required an amount of explosive material the size of a matchhead to bring the airplane down. And Mark Steyn has the best analysis on why the solutions Fareed Zakaria touted in his HBO whitewash of the 2008 attack on Mumbai, in which my friend, Alan Scherr, and his daughter were murdered, just will not work — and, in my opinion, are being offered as a tactic to delay and delude.
But the reason I’m writing this particular post is that it reminds me of a story my father likes to tell about why America beat Germany in World War II. First, he points out that America’s armed forces included an awful lot of farm boys who were accustomed to fixing things themselves on their own initiative. So, my father says, when a Jeep or tank broke down, the soldiers immediately got busy repairing it and improvising when they didn’t have the needed tools or parts. Their officers did not resent this — they demanded it. In contrast, my father continues, the German soldiers had to wait for orders when equipment broke down, regardless of any doom bearing down on them.
Then Dad drives home the point of the disastrous effects of such top-down, command-driven social orders by explaining that Hitler was asleep when the Allies launched their D-Day attack and HIS GENERALS HAD TO WAIT FOR ORDERS BUT EVERYONE WAS AFRAID TO WAKE HIM. (I hear tell Obama wasn’t notified of the Flight 253 terrorist attack until three hours after it happened, but certainly there’s no connection and no one will ever expect to derive future strategic advantage from attacking while their victims sleep. That would be mean.) By the time Hitler woke up and started giving orders, the advantage had tipped to the Allies.