A wannabe al-Qaeda went on a killing spree in France. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief because it happened over there. It can happen here.
At least 45 plots aimed at the U.S. since 9/11 have been thwarted. Good work—but cold comfort. We have not stopped all of them. When Major Nidal Hasan allegedly shot dead his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, it was after having told an al-Qaeda recruiter, “I can’t wait to join you [in the afterlife].”
Alone or in small numbers, a few can slaughter many innocents—and it doesn’t take a weapon of mass destruction much more sophisticated than a mind of full of hate. Even the horrific 2008 attacks in Mumbai by bands of armed terrorists is something that could happen anywhere in the free world.
When it comes to dealing with these threats, not much has changed since 9/11. The best defense against organized armed assaults is to stop them before they occur by developing and maintaining effective counterterrorism, intelligence, and information sharing programs. If these kinds of armed assaults do happen, the best preparation is to think about the unthinkable beforehand and be ready to deal with it.
The incident in France also reminds us that al-Qaeda is not just a global transnational terrorist network. It’s the core of global Islamist insurgency, and dealing with that kind of threat requires a more robust strategy than just chasing down individual terrorists. Sadly, the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy doesn’t get it, and following the President’s approach to dealing with terrorism might well make us less safe.