Early word is that the recent axe attacks in Germany, which injured over 20 people, were perpetrated by a 17-year-old Afghan immigrant. Some accounts state that he yelled “Allahu Akbar” during the attacks. Coming right on the heels of the recent attack in Nice, France, in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ran over and killed 84 people, we are once again faced with the frightening reality I highlighted in an article yesterday, in which I disputed that any of these terrorist attacks are well planned, coordinated, or sophisticated. Most of them cannot be linked to overseas terrorist organizations and are, at best, simply inspired by groups like ISIS.
The face of terrorism is changing, and by remaining locked into the paradigm of the last war (the post-9/11 Global War on Terror), we are intellectually, tactically, and strategically falling behind the power curve. After 9/11, Americans were faced with a stark decision: Do we choose security over freedom? America blinked. We compromised and passed the Patriot Act. The decision looming in front of us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, is even more dire.
In an era of social media-fueled terrorism, in which anyone can become a self-deploying radical, any of us could be the terrorist of tomorrow. Are we willing to accept a police state that literally watches over our shoulders the way a teacher watches kindergarteners? Would this type of security state even prevent terrorism in the first place?
These attacks also highlight the fact that banning guns in some shape or form is not going to prevent future terrorist attacks. Anything can be weaponized, from a truck, to an axe, to pressure cookers, or over-the-counter chemicals that can be used to produce poison gas.
We also have to take a hard look at cascading attacks, which are copycat actions—one attack inspires another. Radicals teetering on the edge see other malcontents acting out and feel that they have increased legitimacy. But these radicals do not fit the media narrative we are fed. Bouhlel was more of a career criminal who engaged in online dating than a die-hard jihadi. Omar Mateen may have been a closeted, self-loathing homosexual. Micah Xavier, the Dallas shooter, was a veteran who hated white people and police officers. Gavin Long, who murdered three police officers in Louisiana, was also a veteran and a so-called sovereign citizen. Author’s note: 9/11 ringleader Muhammad Atta was dating a stripper in Florida.
What’s the profile we are looking for here? The enemy is challenging us. They are challenging our creativity, our drive, our determination, and our values. In 1754, Ben Franklin published a political cartoon stating “join or die.” America’s motto today should be “adapt or die.”
America has some choices to make about our future counterterrorism strategy, and we’d better start coming up with answers now, or someone else will make them for us. When I say someone else, I’m talking about the next murderer to pull off something on the scale of 9/11, because the day that happens, the sweeping surveillance laws that Congress will pass in the dead of night will be like nothing we have seen before.