Lessons Unlearned: Panty Bomber vs. Shoe Bomber

Many have compared our failure in 2001 to stop Richard Reid, the shoe bomber to the 2008 failure to stop the panty bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas, 2009. The prosecution of the panty bomber in civilian court is also justified by the earlier prosecution of the shoe bomber in civilian court. These observations miss the critical role that learning must play in developing strategic methods (2.6 Knowledge Leverage).

Good strategy never emerges fully formed on the first day of discovering a vulnerability. That idea is comes from strategic planning, not Sun Tzu's rules. Using Warrior's Rules, strategy and supporting methods emerge through a series of decisions over time, an iterative process of discovering what works (1.8.2 The Adaptive Loop).

The only real failure is in forgetting or turning our back on the lessons learned. The shoe bomber attacked in Dec, 2001, four months after 9/11 and just two months after the Patriot Act. Given the pace of the federal bureaucracy, this was not nearly enough time for security measures to begin, much less mature. It was long before military tribunals to deal with illegal non-combatants were created. Despite these fact, a huge amount of web commentary is devoted to explaining how our earlier failure in 2001 some how was comparable to our more recent one (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.)

Learning is real. From 2001, we did not see any similar attacks on the US until the Fort Hood attack followed closely by the Christmas panty-bomber. Both had many more red flags that the attack of Richard Reid in 2001 and many more systems that should have picked them up. (It is a mystery why only self-styled progressive don't seem to understand the reality of progress over time.)

We cannot compare the shoe-bomber and panty-bomber to claim that the same system failed in both cases. The real question is what happened to the system that was developed after 2001 and working until 2009? What happened for us to unlearn methods that objectively worked for seven years.

Warrior's Rules: 

Competitive Arenas: