The terrible events in California once again show the need for proper counterterrorism policies in this era of heightened threat.
There is still much to be investigated, and much to learn, so it is important that we avoid drawing conclusions too quickly, or use this event to push a political agenda (as President Barack Obama has done).
The Tactics Used
This case is an odd one. The event seems to have been triggered by an argument at a holiday party, which has led some to point to workplace violence as an explanation. However, there are clear indications that something had been planned for quite a while. For instance, the assailant returned with his wife after leaving the event in a huff with tactical gear, rifles, pistols, rolling bags with extra ammo, and pipe bombs.
This was clearly not a spur-of-the-moment action.
The tactics used are at odds with a spontaneous workplace violence event or a lone-wolf, remotely radicalized scenario. The pair clearly planned and prepared the attack, similar to the attacks carried out by the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. The presence of pipe bombs also give the lie to Obama’s reflexive anti-gun response. Violence would have been done even if no guns were available.
How to Respond
Law enforcement must be allowed to do their job, and that will take time.
Police continue to scour the killers’ social media, to question family and friends, and to piece together pre-event behavior. The male shooter, Syed Farook, seems to have been well assimilated into American life. But Farook has been described as having personality changes after a trip to Saudi Arabia for the Haj (the mandated pilgrimage to the holiest site in Islam). Farook’s level of religious focus is said to have gone up, and he brought his wife back with him to the U.S.
All of these could turn out to be indicators of radicalization that may have begun prior to his Haj, or as a result of it.
America must protect itself, regardless of the origin of the threat—be it Islamist terror by ISIS sympathizes, domestic shooters motivated by racial unrest, mentally unstable individuals, or any other source. America must be ready.
Some commentators have picked up the president’s mantra that we “cannot allow this to become the new normal”—as if we have a choice, or that there is some magic button that will stop this violence of which we have previously “chosen” not to use. You cannot just wish this away.
Americans must prepare, must give law enforcement all it needs, and must maximize our intelligence capability within the constraints of the Constitution. We must stop the useless calls for panacea solutions that have proven to be of little use simply because it fits a political agenda.