No Such Thing as an “Attempted Terrorist Attack”

So what do you call it when a man, claiming affiliation with al Qaeda, ignites an incendiary device on a commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit?

It’s being reported that President Obama has called the Christmas day incident an “attempted terrorist attack.” I hope that’s not what he’s calling it.

If someone attacks innocents, for terrorist purposes, then the attack is a terrorist attack, whether or not the attack is completely successful. The Christmas day attack was an attack. Though no one was killed, though everyone arrived safely on the ground, though the attacker was apprehended, the attack was not a total failure. It has bestirred a nation to fresh concerns about security. Who can say that this was not its purpose, or a sufficient condition for its success in the minds of its planners?

The attacker’s associations and objectives will have to be investigated. Meanwhile, it has to be assumed, at least by ordinary Americans, that this was a planned attack by recognized terrorists. The President has not yet completed his first year in office, and now there has been another attack in the United States. Our president has been shy in speaking out against terrorism. His mettle in dealing with terrorism will be tested at a new level, starting now.

Pretty much all of us have anticipated another attack. Many have feared that there will be another soon, and that it will reap deadly, mass destruction. The Christmas day attack is the first incident since 9/11. Things could have turned out much worse. There was understandable fear and commotion as passengers on board the flight responded to what was happening. Reportedly, at least one was burned. All were threatened.

The plan was foiled, but not the attack. And for all the measures that have been adopted to sift the terrorists from the rest of us, it appears that none of these measures made a difference in this case. The plan was foiled by alert citizens.

Alert citizens must accept the challenge, now, of pressing for proper vigilance. We don’t want to hear anymore stories about how this or that clue slipped through the cracks. An attack is an attack, even if no one is killed.

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

4 Responses to No Such Thing as an “Attempted Terrorist Attack”

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Sharon,

    It does seem unlikely that the dates are coincidental. Some have speculated that these were botched jobs, meaning that al Qaeda was thwarted and that they aren’t as effective now as before. Others allow that they were botched, but that these were part of a strategy to test our security systems with techniques they’re trying out, perhaps using volunteers who are expendable.

    I don’t know how we’re supposed to know which of these is the case (or whether something else is the case), but if we don’t know, I think we should assume the worst and plan accordingly, rather than assume best case scenario.


  2. So well said Doug – thanks – but it seems to me this Christmas Day attack was #2 since 911, with Ft. Hood being #1, and now #3 on the CIA just a few days ago. Do you think it’s possible that with the first coming on the anniversary of the morning when so many Americans felt such jubilation for the future with the announcement of a new president, the next on our most celebrated religious holiday, and the 3rd (CIA) must have happened on New Year’s Eve Day (given the time change) in Afghanistan…. that the dates may not be coincidental but could be forewarning a message of destruction aimed against power, faith, and culture – just as 911 was carefully chosen to send the message that all our emergency systems were powerless at this event.

    Now perhaps more than ever we need to be united in prayer for our country, our children, and the world to whom God sends us out to bless.


  3. Bill Gilbert says:

    Doug you are absolutely correct in that any act of terrorism failed or not is by design successful. God bless you . Bill Gilbert


  4. Kaosu says:

    That’s a very good point, and one I hadn’t considered. I think you are right, since arguably the point of terrorism is often not primarily to kill people (since the people in question are often politically insignificant targets, i.e. civilians) but to send a message and to evoke, well, terror.


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