As the populace and media try to digest and debate what the recent string of lone wolf attacks really means for the future of law enforcement, it seems obvious that the news anchors and talking heads have it entirely wrong – again. For the past few weeks and months, the prevailing topic of discussion has been centered on the effort needed to prepare our policing agencies to respond to these Lone Wolf style attacks. Wrong. Dead wrong – literally.
While we could (and may at some point) examine the psychological issues associated with someone becoming radicalized within his or her local community, our focus today as citizens should be to first on preparing for the reality that we may be caught up in a lone wolf attack at any time and in any venue. The realization that you may be the first, last, and only line of defense for yourself and others during a lone wolf attack is a foreign idea to most living in Western society. Never the less, the lone wolf style attack is likely here to stay.
The proliferation and accessibility of the Internet make it an ideal recruiting tool – vast and far-reaching, relatively private, and available 24x7x365. Terror groups become more sophisticated in their recruiting and their psychology. Ironically, this sophistication is applied to radicalize people into committing terribly unsophisticated lone wolf style attacks with an alarmingly high success rate.
Lone wolf attacks are effective primarily because the attack paradigm does not require substantial pre-planning, excessive communication, and/or heavy operational support. To the contrary, a lone wolf style attack is effective specifically because these requirements do not exist. Because there is 1) no obvious pre-planning that requires drawn out timelines – extending the potential for the authorities to discover a terror plot, 2) no substantial communication that requires secrecy, all but muting any opportunity for authorities to intercept operational communications, and 3) no operational support/activity necessary that might call attention to the planned attack.
In short, there is little time to respond, little chance to intercept communications in what few messages might be sent (if any), and little pre-attack activity that is typically required for operational support. Lone wolf attacks are designed to circumvent any and all law enforcement activity including policing, investigating, intelligence gathering, and surveillance. With regard to mission success, defined by casualties and the terror a lone wolf attack can proliferate, a lone wolf attack is in many ways a high-value terror tool.
Imagine a committed, self-radicalized citizen following a simple tactic: grab a kitchen knife, conceal the knife with clothing, drive around searching for a soft target (a police officer on traffic duty, a middle school play, diners at a crowded restaurant, or a local soccer game), and start stabbing as many people as fast as possible until authorities arrive and force a halt to the mayhem. How do you stop that kind of attack? The police simply cannot be in all places all the time; these types of attacks must be addressed by the people being targeted.
I wonder if any one of the recent attacks might have been different had one or more of the patrons been trained and armed with concealed handguns. I suspect the entire incident would have been much different. What about the Australia coffee shop where innocents were killed? What if he shop owner, who heroically lost his life, would have been trained to take weapons from attackers? The point is a simple one: lone wolf attacks will continue, and the only way to stop these attacks at their origin is with a trained and armed citizenry.
The intelligence community has been warning about these types of attacks for years – literally years. But, for terror groups to incubate and mobilize individuals, propagandize, and inspire seemingly normal people to take up arms against innocents in their local communities takes time. Clearly, the time has come.
Ironically, many of the recent lone wolf attackers displayed radical tendencies across social media platforms and to some extent at their work places. However, in a free and open society, these indicators are often ignored (lest we become singled out as phobic and prejudicial). This is a hangover from a tsunami-like effort to silence people through political correctness for fear someone else might get his/her feelings hurt (as opposed to hacked to death?).
Ironically, as I wrote this article, local police were alerted to a suspicious object – in my wooded neighborhood approximately 150 feet from my house – over the weekend. Police and fire units closed down the streets, examined the object, and determined it to be a pipe bomb. The bomb was detonated by the local bomb squad.
To often, our collective consciousness forgets too quickly the lessons of yesterday, as we hustle to meet the demands of today. The western way of life, our assumptions and patterns, and our default settings make us ideal targets. We have become the unsuspecting sheep.
We must all become The Sheep Dog or The White Wolf – aware and ready to respond. For more on this, check out the article on Situational Awareness in this week’s newsletter.
My sources tell me we haven’t seen anything yet…so, train hard, stay safe, and walk in peace.