Terror’s Sophistication Paradox 

Orlando, London, Paris, San Bernardino, Manchester, Berlin. These are cities with which we now associate terrorist attacks. New York, Mumbai, Oklahoma City, and Washington as well but the more recent events reveal a contradiction ripe for explanation. 

The sophisticated and coordinated attacks of 9/11 in the U.S. and 7/7 in the U.K. gave rise to new defensive measures, more restrictive access, and improved systems of monitoring that have, as of yet, prevented repeats of those deadly and dramatic acts. Today’s terrorist will have a much more difficult time planning, coordinating, and executing terror attacks of that scale. We reacted and responded, and now we understand how those acts were successful. We “plugged the gaps” in the security procedures that failed us. 

Today, we are witnessing the inevitable byproduct of those enhanced and improved defensive systems: Less sophisticated, but more frequent, terror attacks. 

It is now virtually impossible for a single person to amass the quantities of materials used by Timothy McVeigh in his attack in 1995. It is far more difficult for groups to bypass airport security with knives and access the cockpit of an airliner, as was done in 2001. 

In response, terrorists are simply relying upon simplified but no less terrorizing methods with which to wage their war on western culture. Firearms and knives will be more common than explosives as the terrorists run out of options for large scale death and destruction. This will not, however, reduce the panic and terror they create with those acts. 

Whereas previously we had anxiety boarding a plane, train or cruise ship, we now suffer the same anxiety buying groceries, walking over a bridge, or enjoying a drink with friends in a pub. The threat will move from major tourist attractions and centers of government to small town and heretofore unknown locales. 

A van can jump a curb and kill dozens in Akron, Ohio, the same as London or Berlin. A lone jihadist can enter a nightclub and shoot dozens in small town Alabama just like Paris or Orlando. As we drive terrorists away from what are considered major targets, they will simply adjust to our response and decide upon easier targets. Open air markets, retirement homes, sports events, or just the local club scene. 

Our governments are much more vigilant today. As a result, we, the citizens, must learn to also be much more vigilant as the threats spread to our communities. WE are the first responders and victims of these acts. We must be prepared for them. We must be prepared for the war that comes to our doorsteps. 

Be armed. Be trained. Be prepared. Be vigilant.