Governments can’t stop terrorism any more than lions can stop flea-bites.
When a single man can kill eighty-four with a truck, it’s time to let go of the illusion that governments can keep us safe from political violence. Lone-wolf terrorist attacks have become part of modern life, and no one can change that. We should accept it and at the same time recognize that we Westerners still live far safer lives than any people in the history of the world. Instead of sacrificing civil rights in favor of persecuting suspected minorities — in a doomed attempt to stop lone wolf terrorists — we should focus on preventing the most devastating attacks, by denying terrorists access to nuclear power plants, airports, and weapons of mass destruction.
As for the lone-wolf and small group terrorists, we should accept that they’ll be with us for the foreseeable future. We should bury the dead, comfort the bereaved, and refuse to be influenced. Imagine terrorists bullying a Roman emperor into changing policy by killing or threatening 0.00002% of his people. Or a an Ottoman sultan, French king, or Japanese shogun? Why are modern Western governments — proportionally so much stronger — more easily frightened than these past powers? We should ignore would-be leaders like Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich who panic and demand that we sacrifice sacred values — religious freedom and minority rights — to prevent flea-bite attacks. Our only hope of reducing lone-wolf attacks is the opposite policy: pulling suspected minorities closer into our national communities, so that fewer imbalanced young men lash out. Beyond that, we should recognize that lone-wolf attacks, while devastating to those involved, are flea-bites to our great nations.
Map: Pays attaqués par au moins une attaque terroriste au 21ème siècle, by Lolaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, licensed through Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
© 2016 by David W. Tollen.