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This Ought To Be Concerning Us

| 6 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Global Guerillas posts that the attack on the Saudi Consulate was a 'shaping' attack in preparation for the infrastructure attacks he expects at Ghawar and other Saudi oilfields and distribution hubs.

He sees this as a great risk because of "highly optimized tolerance" ... i.e. systems that are tolerant of the risks they are designed to tolerate.

The Christian Science Monitor agrees, calling the attack "evidence of the militants' ability to regenerate quickly in the face of concerted government efforts to disrupt their networks, and then target some of the country's most closely guarded installations."

It's going to be an interesting December.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: December 7, 2004 3:12 AM
Excerpt: Saudi clerics have stepped up the anti-U.S. rhetoric. In November, they issued a statement that "it was the duty of all able-bodied Muslims to fight the Americans in Iraq." Read Armed Liberal's very informative post about today's attack in Saudi...

6 Comments

The concept of HOT is very interesting, and most useful to people dealing with internet security and guarding against cybernetic sabotage. I don't know how useful it is in preparing for a guns-and-grunts guerrilla war in "meatspace".

Hackers can explore systems in relative safety and at their leisure, looking for the critical vulnerabilities. Guerrillas and terrorists don't really have that luxury, because of their own terrible vulnerability. They can't afford attrition, they can't afford to risk significant forces, and above all they can't risk a lot of publicized failures. A reputation for incompetence can sink an insurgent force faster than anything - it happened to Sandino in Nicaragua, for example.

So just because something is within their reach, theoretically, doesn't mean the guerrillas can just go for it. If they're smart they stick to sure things, where they know the attack will succeed even if they take losses in the process. We've known for years about the vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants, dams, bridges, etc. But these things haven't been destroyed, or even seriously attacked, because it's so much easier said than done. Besides which, there is no prop that the guerrilla can just kick and bring Western civilization crashing down. Any damage they do, no matter how spectacular or unforeseen, will be purely temporary.

In short, it is right and proper that we pay attention to our weak spots. But to win, we need to start paying more attention to the weaknesses of our enemies - their own problems of intelligence, communications, and logistics; their inability to engage in conventional combat; their dependency on terrain and population to sustain their own forces. And so on.

I would pick Abqaiq over Ghawar as the more attractive target. Within an oil field, extraction facilities are numerous and dispersed. An attacker would require a large force, with concentrated firepower, to do any significant damage before the cavalry arrives.

That is Ghawar. Abqaiq, by contrast, is a critical transportation node, with facilities confined to a much smaller area.

But, and this is important, it's still a very, very large place. Nobody is going to realistically do enough damage to significantly impede the flow of oil for any length of time.

The danger from such an attack would be the overreaction of the market, fed by a hysterical media sensationalizing the story to an ignorant public. (By ignorant, I mean "unknowing," not "stupid.") Such a situation would lead people to believe that astronomical oil prices are the result of the attack, when in reality, no attack is likely to hurt Saudi capacity very much.

Besides, the Saudis have 30,000 people guarding their oil facilities at any given moment, with high-tech surveillance, aircraft patrols at key locations, etc.

I'm not saying nothing will happen. I'm saying that it will be extremely difficult to carry out a successful attack. And success would be measured more by the effect on oil prices than by any actual damage to the infrastructure.

One news organization, I can't remember which one, said that the goal of the militants in SA is for all foreigners to leave their holy land.

Question: Are the Saudis prepared to run their oil fields? Are there enough trained Saudis or Muslims who have the technology to do it themselves. What would happen to the Saudi economy if all foreigners did in fact leave them to themselves? What would happen to the royal family there if all the foreigners left?

Is the world really so dependent on Saudi oil? I can't help but believe that every problem has a solution. Would the world come to a stop if all the foreigners did leave?

Just wondering and would like to know what readers of this site think about this.

I say none of the above are liekly targets, and Saudi infrastructure is probably safe - but Global is onto something. I explain why in my follow-in article.

I used to read Global Guerillas but it seems to have changed tone from describing insurgents to cheerleading. How many times do you need talk about the cutting edge methods cooking implements (knives) have been "repurposed"? How much can you admire the way "trend setters" use motivate their committed change agents (read: suicide bombers).

He's been entertaining in his use of business buzzwords to describe terrorism but the joke is getting old. I mean terrorist studies is one thing but what he's doing to get more consulting gigs goes beyond the pale.

The original article talks about Al-Queda risking shooting themselves in the foot if they do too much terrorist bombing inside Saudi Arabia -- that the Princes will withdraw their support, their sanctuary and their funding.

Alternatively, at the other end of the spectrum, rather than let the incompetent Saudi's take over after the Islamists have blown it to hell, what would happen if America (and the West in general) just went in and took it away from them? It seems to me that that's very real option that Al-Queda never seems to consider, even though I'm pretty sure that the Saudi Princes have thought about it.

I don't understand why we're pussy-footing around with something that the world's infrastructure depends upon. Sovereign is as sovereign does, and if the Saudi's have proven demonstrably that they can NOT handle the current situation, what or who is to stop us from removing them summarily, and setting the whole oil thing up the American way?

After 9/11 -- which Saudi Arabia started, by the way -- all bets are off. And I think we Americans would be damned fools if we don't at least consider this to be an option in what is, after all, a war.

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