As Parisians and visitors alike were out to enjoy the evening on Friday November 13th, the mood was obliterated by mass shootings and four suicide bombings in multiple locations. These coordinated attacks left 130 people dead and hundreds injured across Paris, another proclaimed “victory” for ISIS.
Though this time, Paris, France was targeted; it again revealed to the world just how vulnerable we all are. This was yet another tragic wake up call that could be heard around the earth. Even with the intelligence agencies working around the clock, a no-fly list that keeps get longer, a massive terror watch database and ears to the ground across the globe, it only takes a “lone wolf” to wreak havoc in any city in any country at any time.
The perpetrators planned and plotted to attack what are known as “soft targets”. Places that we all go to work or to be “social” with one another such as malls, concert halls, restaurants, bars, schools, sporting events and office buildings. These are soft targets, for the most part, unprotected and vulnerable to attack.
People often ask me if there is reason for concern in regards to future terrorist attacks as we traverse through our daily lives here in this land we call America. The reality is that while we have implemented many security practices, which help us mitigate large scale collective attacks by tightened and heightened security measures to make it more difficult for these people to enter the country. It is not the foreign radicalized terrorist or terror cell that concerns me. It is the lone wolf.
Because of heightened security here in the United States, (and not that a large scale attack could not happen, we just allocate huge resources to reduce the possibilities of coordinated attacks) terrorist organizations are utilizing technology such as social media to aid in recruiting people here.
In this manner, they do not have to move people across borders to carry out acts of terror, because they are already here in your backyard. And as America is a “cultural melting pot” with a thirst and laws to allow everyone their civil liberties to live their beliefs and lifestyles, it is not a far stretch for people to self-radicalize with extremist Islamist beliefs.
And so it is this lone wolf, this individual or small group of individuals that is already here, and that has been radicalized either by their own self-fulfillment or by the rhetoric of ISIS that poses a threat to our way of life currently.
You will recall the Tsarnaev brothers, who used pressure cookers to bomb the Boston Marathon in 2013? These brothers were not recruited by ISIS to carry out this horrendous act of terrorism; they simply learned their “trade” online.
In October of this year at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Chris Mercer carried out a mass shooting on campus that killed nine people.
These are but two examples of “soft targets” and the “lone wolf” perpetrators. There are many more and sadly, more yet to come. These soft targets lack the physical security measures that would make it more difficult for these horrific acts to be carried out.
The lone wolf does not have the support of these large terror organizations, even if recruited they are expected to develop their own plans, use whatever resources are available to them to gather supplies and intelligence and to execute.
They succeed despite the fact that they do not have much or any training or funding. They go virtually unnoticed, and thus ISIS has carefully shifted their tactics to gain this “share” of the market in America. Get these lone wolves to “buy into” the Islamic extremist propaganda. And as these supporters grow in numbers, they are encouraged to attack targets within the United States.
So Why Don’t Americans Change Their Mindset and Thinking to Alter Outcomes?
The simple answer is that Americans for the most part do not want to be bothered or inconvenienced. They do not want to walk around in fear or with constant concern that something bad will happen and so they choose to ignore it and hope that it will just go away on its own.
Unfortunately, it’s not going away anytime soon. Until we acknowledge that we have a very serious problem here in the United States and around the world, nothing will change.
We need to instill a security mindset into people everywhere. We need people to understand that the barn door is already open and the “animals” are out. We need to find a way to balance daily life with security. Security is and should be the “word” of the day. It needs to be a daily part of everyone’s life.
When it comes to soft targets, the first line of defense is going to be a combination of everyday people watching out for one another and private security firms working in coordination with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. If we are going to win this war, it will be done collectively, and the collective starts with each and every person taking an active interest in their personal security as well as the security of our nation.