Times Square Bomber Popped a Bubble

Not surprisingly, since we are conducting a virtual war inside their country, 64 percent of Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

The bubble is bursting.

I'm not talking about the Greek economy, the collapse of which has
bankers and finance ministers trembling from Athens to Antarctica. Nor
am I talking about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which reminds
us once again that our current energy security rests on shaky

I'm talking about the Times Square bomber. U.S. citizen Faisal
Shahzad tried, quite ineptly, to blow up an SUV in midtown Manhattan
and was apprehended aboard a plane as he attempted to flee the country.
Initially tagged as a lone wolf, Shahzad has now been linked to the
Pakistani Taliban.

Bubbles are built on illusions. We believed that our high-tech
companies and, after that, our houses would continue to rise in value
and then...pop! We believed that we could continue offshore oil drilling
without environmental consequences and then...pop! And we believed that
the drone program in Pakistan, which expanded in 2009 and has killed
hundreds of civilians, would not generate any blowback and then...Faisal

Not surprisingly, since we are conducting a virtual war inside their
country, 64 percent of Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

Yet the Obama administration is still invested in drone attacks. It
has signed on to a major expansion of drone activities by continuing to
give the CIA permission to go after individuals whose identities the
agency doesn't even possess. Everyone in Pakistan has become a
potential target, not just a narrow list of al-Qaeda and Taliban
leaders. You might imagine how such a program could raise some
eyebrows, even for Pakistanis who despise the extremists.

Moreover, in an interesting causal turnaround, the Obama
administration believes that these drone attacks, rather than
precipitating terrorism, have prevented it. "Because of our success in
degrading the capabilities of these terrorist groups overseas,
preventing them from carrying out these attacks, they now are relegated
to trying to do these unsophisticated attacks, showing that they have
inept capabilities in training," the administration's top
counterterrorism advisor John Brennan recently told CNN.

These illusions of omnipotence--how on earth can we "degrade the
capabilities" of all groups everywhere at the same time?--blind us to
the more important task of addressing the motivations behind the
attacks. We're clearly losing the "hearts and minds" campaign in
Pakistan. Drones aren't the only reason for militancy in the country.
There's the conflict over Kashmir, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,
the fundamentalist elements within the Pakistani government itself. But
drones provoke a heat-seeking anger directed specifically at the United

This brings us to the other bubble on the verge of bursting: our
conviction that the anger is simply "over there." For years, European
governments have faced the challenge of homegrown extremists. Only now
is the United States waking up to the reality of this strain of
domestic terrorism. Remember that incident at Fort Hood, where Maj.
Nidal Hasan is suspected of gunning down 10 fellow soldiers? Or the
five youths who left Northern Virginia, allegedly to join a Pakistani
militant group? How about Colleen Rose, aka "Jihad Jane," the American
woman who reportedly planned to kill a Swedish cartoonist earlier this

Viewed in isolation, the Times Square incident is terrorism in a
teacup. It was a poorly planned and poorly executed effort that has
garnered mass attention and not a small amount of derision (even the
Taliban has disowned the "idiot bomber"). But as our drone war in
Pakistan escalates, domestic extremism is likely to follow suit.

You don't have to be an expert in ordnance disposal to figure out
how to defuse this ticking time bomb. The Obama administration could
draw down our foreign wars and redirect that $100 billion toward
domestic needs, winning hearts and minds at home and abroad. If it
doesn't, a tempest is sure to follow.

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This column was distributed by OtherWords.