Sheep No More

James S. Robbins at NRO on one of the main and largely unacknowledged reasons why three of the four September 11 hijackings were successful, at least from the point of view of the barbarians:

The al Qaeda attack plan exploited our preconceptions, particularly our knowledge of what a hijacking was. Before 9/11, hijacking was largely a form of theater… The way for innocents to get out of the situation alive was to relax, let the scene play out, and hope that if there is a rescue attempt, that none of the bad guys has a bomb. In short, cooperate, don’t escalate. Don’t be a hero.

This is why box cutters could be used successfully to hijack airliners…

Would the box-cutter scenario work today? Of course not. We are no longer told to be quiescent and leave everything to the experts…

[B]y the time United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania the paradigm shift had been made. The admonition “Don’t be a hero” was replaced with “Let’s roll.” I suspect this change is permanent. No Americans will ever be led to slaughter that way again. The terrorists exploited a seam that they could only use once.

Yes, exactly. As Robbins also notes, the vaunted 9/11 commission has not even mentioned the forty years of conditioning to act like sheep when confronted by hijackers–which played as much into al Quaeda’s hands as any intelligence or security missteps.

Regardless, there are no more sheep on American airliners. Additional security or no additional security, there will never be another successful takeover of an airliner with American passengers onboard.

UPDATE: A reader points out this staff statement from the commission that does note the hijackers’ expoitation of the prior “Common Strategy” for handling aircraft takeovers. That’s fair enough, and I suppose it’s also fair to note that very few people had actually suggested the possibility of airliners being used as guided missiles prior to September of 2001 (except, er, Tom Clancy in a number-one bestseller, but let’s press on).

All of the above brings up two thoughts in my mind. Number one, that doesn’t excuse the societal message of “be a sheep when confronted with crime or violence” that had been (and still is being) preached by our supposed leaders in government, the media, and academia.

Secondly, why is it okay to give the promoters of the “sheep strategy” a pass while piling on everybody else (at least everybody with an “R” next to their name) for other pre-September-11 miscalculations?

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15 Responses to “Sheep No More”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Actually, the 7th public hearing of the 9/11 Commission addressed aviation security, and the fourth staff statement, entitled “The Four Flights*”, specifically talks about the “Common Strategy” used to combat hijackings pre-9/11, and how al Queda exploited this strategy.

    Of course, these hearings weren’t as sexy as the more recent ones, with former and current Cabinet officers being grilled, so they haven’t gotten as much press.

    *http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing7/staff_statement_4.pdf

  2. Brian Perry Says:

    I’m sure a lot of people are with me on this, but every time I am on a flight I prepare a little bit for what I would do if a terrorist threatened the plane. I have a deep well of “9/11 rage” that I would be willing to unleash on anyone who attempts a similar attack. Whether it’s with my bare hands or what, the memory of Flight 93 demands that each of us do whatever it takes to stop a successful hijack from happening again.

    One thing I worry about- terrorists somehow immobilizing the passengers, or the hijacking of softer targets such as freight jets.

  3. Will Collier Says:

    Thanks, Jeremy, I’ve made an update and added a few additional thoughts.

  4. Chuckg Says:

    To be fair, even Clancy’s scenario didn’t imagine the plane being hijacked with box-cutters — it had the captain of the airplane going completely insane, and stealing an unoccupied aircraft from his own airline.

    (Faked up a flight plan for his craft that had him leaving his normal passenger run to do a ferry flight from A to B to replace another aircraft that had supposedly mechanical’ed, then got the hell off the ground before the local office could check back w/ the main office as to whether or not that info was correct. As he was a trusted senior employee, he got away with it.)

  5. Mike M Says:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, today we have discovered and foiled a terrorist plot to hijack American airliners and crash them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Capitol building. hey would have boarded planes as passengers, and taken control of the aircraft using box cutters before diverting them to their targets.

    We have discovered the forces behind this plot is Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. To prevent anything like this from happening again, we will invade the country of Afghanistan, remove the Taliban from power, and destroy the al-Queda terror network. Combat operations will begin in two months.”

    Think this would fly? Really? We needed a shock to move us from our traditional ways of thinking about terrorism. The sacrifice of the 9/11 victims will make it much less likely that something like this will ever happen again.

  6. Timbeaux Says:

    Because the ones in the ‘piling on’ business almost all have a D next to their name.

    The Founder’s best attempt to suppress the “evils of faction” has ultimately been only marginally successful, which is perhaps better than anyone else has managed to do.

  7. rosignol Says:

    Actually, re the ‘airplanes as missiles’ thing, Stephen King beat Clancy to it for a few years. Read the print version of “Running Man”.

  8. Robert Says:

    Mike M,

    Especially if it were John “The Devil” Ashcroft announcing the uncovering of the plot.

    Looney Lefty woud say
    “Ashcrofts gone bonkers, Islam forbids suicide (er, except against Jews) or attacking civilians (er, except against Jews); he just wants to erode our civil liberties. It’s part of a Haliburton plot to get us into Afghanistan to secure an oil pipeline!”

  9. Outside the Beltway Says:

    Beltway Traffic Jam

    The Thursday linkfest: Craig Henry discusses how to read more books while reading less. Jeff Jarvis is going to be explaining how to make money…

  10. felixrayman Says:

    That’s fair enough, and I suppose it’s also fair to note that very few people had actually suggested the possibility of airliners being used as guided missiles prior to September of 2001

    Actually the possibility had been discussed quite thoroughly. The Pentagon mentioned it in a 1993 study, it was mentioned in the first WTC bombing trial, it was not only mentioned but mentioned specifically in connection with Al-Qaeda in court documents from 1995. And in July, 2001, The Daily Telegraph reported on a

  11. Dean Says:

    For Felix and his co-believers, I have one question:

    Did you really think, when the first plane hit the WTC that September morning, that it was a hijacked aircraft?

    I would bet 99 and 44/100% of Americans did not.

  12. pianoman Says:

    Because anyone with an “R” next to their name has suspicious motives and cannot be trusted, while anyone with a “D” next to their name is a paragon of fairness and justice.

    Which is why kind deeds performed by the former are suspect, while the same deeds performed by the latter are virtuous.

    The 9/11 commission lost its bipartisan sheen long ago. It is currently an attempt to smear Bush (by the Dems) and Clinton (by the GOP), with both sides angling for edges heading into November.

    This commission should have been created after the election.

  13. Miller's Time Says:

    Miller’s Twelve Pack…

    Being Friday it is time once again for the weekly roundup that is the Twelve Pack. Sit back and enjoy the wonderful writing of the week.

  14. PoliBlog Says:

    Pre- v. Post-911 Mentalities

    Will Collier of VodkaPundit nots a piece from NRO that illustrates something about pre-and post-911 mentalities that I have been meaning to note:The al Qaeda attack plan exploited our preconceptions, particularly our knowledge of what a hijacking was. …

  15. Ginny Says:

    What if Americans had not kept going over the evidence on the earlier, Egyptian, crash and instead stuck to their guns: the pilot meant to crash and kill everyone on board. If, instead of yet another test to try to find some never found mechanical problem, the inspectors, bureacrats, etc. had simply asserted what they were pretty sure of, might that have changed our paradigms? Perhaps too great a sympathy to try to understand others’ culture led to a greater misunderstanding of it. Perhaps a greater “sureness” on our parts would have shifted our perspective enough to expect suicidal pilots acting as incoming bombs. Instead, apparently, the approach was respectful, one that accepted the Egyptian arguments, that tried to look at the accident in terms of what the inspectors were clearly sure was “spin.” In the end, of course, it looks like many of our brightest minds on terrorism hadn’t shifted their paradigms: trying to see through another’s eyes – they failed, of course, to truly “see.”

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