Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Most Likely WMD Scenario?

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) recently issued a report indicating that the most likely WMD terrorist threat involves a radioactive dispersal device, or "dirty bomb," the Globe and Mail reported.

The CSIS even goes so far as to say that it's surprising that no one has yet used this mode of attack:

Canada's spy agency says it is “quite surprising” that terrorists have not detonated a crude radioactive bomb, given the availability of materials and ease with which they could be made into a weapon.

But the CSIS study cautions that “a determined and resourceful terrorist group” could execute more elaborate forms of nuclear or radiological attack.

The technical capability required to construct and use a simple RDD is practically trivial, compared to that of a nuclear explosive device or even most chemical or biological weapons,” the CSIS study says.

A homemade radiological weapon could consist of a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material commonly found at universities, medical and research laboratories or industrial sites.

The intelligence service points to the notion terrorist thinking has shifted from the desire to inflict mass casualties to “one of inflicting severe economic damage.”
It's not news that an RDD is a more likely mode of attack than a nuclear weapon. It's important to note, though, that the CSIS is seeing terrorists as pursuing economic aims rather than bodycounts. This has long been a key element of al Qaeda's strategy, as Brian Michael Jenkins pointed out in his excellent book, Unconquerable Nation:
Lest anyone misunderstand the purpose of jihad and consider it a form of spiritual calisthenics, bin Laden is explicit: “It is a religious-economic war,” he says. ... He argues that the United States can be brought down by destroying its economy.
Al Qaeda, in its view, brought down the Soviet Union by draining its economy through the Afghan war. It seeks to do the same thing to the United States.

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