As Parisians enjoyed an evening out on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, terrorists obliterated the mood with mass shootings and four suicide bombings in multiple locations. These coordinated attacks left 130 people dead and hundreds injured across Paris in another proclaimed “victory” for ISIS.
Four months later, three bombs were detonated in Brussels, Belgium, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more. Though these horrific attacks targeted the European Union, they again revealed just how vulnerable we all are.
Brussels was yet another tragic wake-up call for the whole world.
The perpetrators attacked what are known as “soft targets.” Places that we all go to work, commute, or socialize. Malls, airports, train stations, concert halls, restaurants, bars, schools, sporting events and office buildings.
These are called soft targets because, for the most part, they’re unprotected. They lack the security measures that might prevent these horrific acts.
People often ask me how worried we should be about terrorist attacks as we go about our daily lives in America.
I tell them, I’m not overly concerned about infiltration by foreign radical terrorists or terror cells. I fear the lone wolf.
In the U.S., we have implemented many heightened and tightened security practices that make it harder for foreign terrorists to enter the country and that make it harder for them to launch large-scale collective attacks.
Because of the heightened security in America, terrorists prefer to use technology, such as social media, to recruit people who already live in the U.S.
By using the Internet, terrorists don’t have to move people across borders to carry out their atrocities. They can instigate cyber-recruits, who already live in your back yard, to attack as “lone wolves” or in “small packs.”
And so the biggest threat to our way of life comes from American residents who have been radicalized either by the rhetoric of ISIS or their own self-fulfillment.
The Tsarnaev brothers used pressure cookers to bomb the Boston Marathon in 2013. The brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, were not recruited by radical, Muslim agents to carry out this horrendous act. They simply learned their “trade” online. And sadly, I predict that Americans will face many more monsters like them.
Lone wolves don’t have the support of large terror organizations. They are expected to gather intelligence, develop their own plans, and use whatever resources they can scrounge to execute the plan. Yet, they succeed despite their lack of official training or funding.
And they go virtually unnoticed until they strike. So ISIS has carefully shifted its tactics to gain this “share” of the market in America. And as these shadow terrorists 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 most Americans do not want to be bothered or inconvenienced. They do not want to walk around in fear, constantly concerned that something bad will happen. So they choose to ignore the dangers and hope that they will just go away on their own.
Unfortunately, terrorism is not going away anytime soon. And nothing will change until we acknowledge that we have a very serious problem in the United States and around the world.
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 personal security, the security of the people around them and the security of our nation.
Watch the people around you. Look for clues that something may be amiss. Beware of abandoned backpacks. Illegally parked cars. People dressed in bulky clothing, which could conceal weapons or bombs.
And if your inner voice says, “Be afraid,” then get away and call the authorities. It’s better to feel foolish than die a horrible death.
Until next time, stay alert, check your six and stay safe!