Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 20, 2013

Attention must be paid

Filed under: Media,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 20, 2013

Choice of attention – to pay attention to this and ignore that – is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be. (W. H. Auden)


Saturday I wanted to pay close attention to the situation in Algeria, Mali, and related, but had other commitments both paid and personal. As a result, I had to depend on broadcast media, mostly car radio, and what I could quickly call-up on my hand-held.

As a result, I learned that for most Americans the hostage-taking, final assault, and casualties at the In Amenas gas plant was a sort of vague echo over the horizon. Much to my wife’s surprise,  I actually cursed at NPR’s All Things Considered for their insufficient coverage.  This is, no doubt, one of the consequences to which Auden is referring.

Once I was able to sit down with a computer-on-the-Internet I found the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and French media were all rich sources of information. The BBC was, for my taste (and language skills), the best source.

But even among the best sources, there was — at least on Saturday night — a paucity of strategic context. There was little attention to the rapidly developing situation in Mali or details, for example, such as the permission given for French air assets to transit Algerian air space or the multinational character of the terrorist gang.

Sunday morning broadcast news, at least at 0730 Eastern, was even worse than Saturday night.  Inauguration preparations, AFC/NFC championship pre-game analysis,  Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, a complicated murder trial in Phoenix and the weather just did not leave time, apparently, for anything as lame as a four day terrorist assault on a major natural gas production facility.

Those on the US East and Gulf Coasts have learned to pay attention to weather patterns over the Sahara to provide early warning of hurricanes heading our way. Given what else is happening across West Africa — from Nigeria to Mali to Algeria to Libya and more — low pressure pulses are not the only threats to which we might usefully attend.

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Comment by Claire B. Rubin

January 21, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Here are some other compelling reasons to pay attention to this incident:

Comment by HGRATTAN

January 21, 2013 @ 8:21 am

The War (GWOT/Overseas Contingency Operations) is best kept “Over There.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_There

The War (GWOT/Overseas Contingency Operations) is best kept “Over There.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_There

What might be a good sign is that terrorists (not unlike criminals) like soft targets.
If HLS-Writ Large did anything, HLS did harden homeland targets and access thereto.

IMHO, U.S. citizens are far less concerned with terrorism when it happens “Over There.”
This is not to say that U.S. homeland security interests are not connected to foreign affairs and especially energy resources. They are!

FYI, my undergraduate terrorism class begins on Tuesday. I typically include what many consider a terrorism primer (lessons not learned) movie The Battle of Algiers. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bOr_U_92xE

In addition, I always use current events. On Tuesday (first class) I will ask, what is terrorism?I will offer the still unfolding events in Algeria as context. At least thirty-five Americans will be interested in the 2013 Algerian terrorist attacks (might be on the midterm).

Finally, as a Jet fan, I was delighted to see the Patriots fall. Go Ravens!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 21, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

Claire and Mr. Grattan:

Thanks. Following are links to a few related stories that I have found especially interesting. This does not mean I necessarily agree. But each got me to thinking:

For President Obama, al-Qaeda is our Problem Now, Janet Daley in The Telegraph.

French troops advance in Mali as Islamists melt away, Reuters

France in Mali: Rapid Reaction, International Institute for Strategic Studies

The Nouakchott Information Agency, Mauritanian news bureau (in French)

The Long War Journal has a series of posts.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 22, 2013 @ 8:37 am

I waited until after the inaguration to post this comment. Why? Almost nothing about military intervention, a militarized foreign policy, or even any foreign policy in the President’s second inagural speech. A wasted opportunity when you consider that foreign affairs have ended the “American Century” that began in 1945, August specifically, much earlier than most would have anticipated.

So it continues that a President that won a Nobel Peace Prize ain’t got a clue when it comes to foreign policy and now likely to have a Secretary of STATE nomionee confirmed that after the passage of over 40 years still cannot articulate whether he thinks the US involvement in Viet Nam from 1962-1975 was a good or bad idea and a successful or failed effort.

And remarkable to me Phil is how often you post on this blog on foreign affairs and events. I see the link to HS as do you but how about others?

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » CAREFUL attention should be paid to Northern Africa and terrorism…

January 28, 2013 @ 12:12 am

[…] too long ago, Phil argued that “Attention must be paid” to events unfolding in Northern Africa regarding terrorist risk: Those on the US East and […]

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