CHARLOTTE, January 23, 2014 – Media frenzy over security at the Sochi Winter Olympics is at an all time high. The problem is that in typical Western fashion we may be focusing on the wrong things.
If the goal of Islamic jihad is to disrupt the games, then the terrorists are already succeeding before the Olympics even begin.
Awareness that there could be problems is a good thing. A very good thing. It is too bad that such scrutiny only results during a major international event and not as a on-going commitment around the world as standard operating procedure.
Unfortunately, much of the greater-than-usual security, or lack of security, attentiveness could actually be detrimental to assuring maximum safety in Russia. In the United States, the media is doing our athletes a disservice on two fronts by the way they are covering the story.
First, strong concerns have been raised about U.S. involvement to “help” Russia with their security. That does not play well on two counts. To begin with, it demonstrates an arrogance on our part that Russia is not capable of handling the situation. In essence we are saying to Vladimir Putin that he is not equipped to handle the massive task of ensuring a safe venue for the Olympians and their countrymen.
Americans view the offer as simply providing added assistance to guarantee the security of the games. But that does not play well from the Russian perspective when it appears to them that the United States is once again saying no one can provide credible security without our help. If that is the case and the danger of terrorist attacks really is that great in Sochi, then perhaps the American team should not compete at all.
The second part of the equation, which is equally insulting to the global community, is the way our media is reporting that we must ensure the safety of the American athletes. Obviously we want our own athletes to compete without fear, but again, if the perception is that we wish to offer added security purely to protect American athletes and let the rest of the world be damned, that does little to reinforce the image we wish to project to the world.
Some analysts are using previous attacks in Russia as examples of how terrorism has infiltrated the country in the past. Such events were horrible and did, indeed, demonstrate that Islamic extremists are always lurking in the shadows.
On the other hand, the “experts” fail to mention the bombings at the Boston Marathon or that the 9/11 attacks, arguably the worst of them all, took place on American soil, not in Russia.
The connection being that all of those incidents succeeded due to the element of surprise. Surprise will not be a factor in Sochi. If terrorist attacks do occur, it will not be out of a lack of awareness that they could happen.
For the past week, the talking heads have been warning us about three or four “Black Widows” who may have already infiltrated the Olympic perimeter. One report says that an Islamist militant named Eldar Magatov has been killed by Russian police, and there is also fear of lone wolf attacks during the games.
Considering the amount of coverage that has been devoted to the subject of security, just in the United States alone, does it not make sense that much of this chatter is being done as a diversionary tactic to allow terrorist incidents to happen in other parts of the world? With so much attention on Sochi, the most logical way to for extremists to gain maximum exposure is away from the Olympic site altogether.
Such disruptions would still take the Olympics out of the limelight. Chances are more innocent people would be killed or maimed and devastation created than could be accomplished at the games themselves. Furthermore, if attacks occur simultaneously, which is a standard al-Qaeda tactic, in several other countries the Islamists will have accomplished their goals while making a definitive point that they understand us far better than we understand them.
The good news is that finally the world is paying attention to the threats of terrorism. The bad news is that we may be looking in the wrong direction thanks to diversionary strategies intended to highlight our weaknesses in dealing with global jihad.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
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