|This is the haystack. The needle is considerably|
more dangerous, however
So with the Olympics kicking off in London in a couple weeks, there is a lot of low-level concern over the potential for attacks and the difficulty of securing such a large venue for so long. But for the life of me, I can't understand what it is about the Olympics that would make it an attractive target. If terrorism is the use of violence against non-combatants for political purposes, it seems counterproductive to attack such a 'cuddly' target - you and your cause end up being hated, instead of your enemies. Plus, even if it may not be possible to completely secure the entire undertaking, the levels of security will be massive, and the likelihood of any successful attack is low. Sure, there is the history of Munich Olympics in 1972, but that was another time altogether. The Palestinians were committed to armed resistance and terrorism, and the Israelis had yet to completely internalize the need for unusual levels of security. Today, there is little in the way of Palestinian terrorism, and targeting athletes or specific individuals or nationalities is virtually impossible. And the other major Olympic attack, the bombing in Atlanta in 1996, was carried out by a Christianist anti-abortion activist with a strictly domestic grievance.
So I look at this years events in London with two conflicting thoughts. First, there is ultimately no way to prevent political violence at the Olympics if an organization is determined to accomplish it. But second, there is no reason to do it, no value to be accrued, no benefit to the organization or their cause. But if attacks do come, my biggest concern would be drones. Certainly, if there are no drone attacks this year, it will quite possibly be the last Olympiad where they are not a major threat. The fact that they can be launched from outside the venue makes all the perimeter defenses pointless, and the can be guided autonomously to a pinpoint location, which makes them all but unstoppable. I have already reached the conclusion that we have set ourselves irreversibly on a course to a world dominated by airborne killer robots, and every time one looks into the future one has to take into consideration the existence of surveillance and attack drones of all sizes and shapes.
In the end, it's impossible to predict what might happen in London. Most organizations will have decided it's too difficult, too costly and the payoff too meager to undertake. But a small cell of fanatics, such as can be found in fundamentalist religious orders, can accomplish a lot, and if they have a little bit of luck they could do an awful lot of harm. As I say, however, the basis on which the major trans-national terrorist organizations have traditionally selected their targets is bizarre and self-defeating, so there may be something just outright irresistible about such a large, multi-national event that will draw attackers like honey draws flies. In which case some very bad things might happen.