Terrorism is an abnormal beast to fight. For the majority of human history, when one country goes to war with another, uniformed men and women took up arms against organized, well-armored and strategized enemies over particular stretches of land or resources. As these battles or wars conclude, there is a determinate victory or stalemate between forces.
Terrorism — unlike conventional war — knows no geographical bounds, is orchestrated by rag-tag militias, multi-national organizations or lone wolves, and can strike at any time in well-populated cities or countries to produce fear.
Although terrorism has been a plague to humankind, our resolve to diminish the threat of terrorism or respond with appropriate force has faltered, resulting in an ongoing crisis of security, ideology and freedom.
Our response to recent acts of terrorism — like the attacks in Berlin, Paris, Orlando, Brussels and other major cities — seem to be more apologetic towards those affected rather than emboldened against the terrorism itself. We have begun to take a more apathetic response to an escalating number of attacks or skirmishes by terror organizations. Although we are shocked by substantial deaths and injuries, we have little understanding of the gravity of terrorism and receive little shock to the news or the threat of terrorism. For many of us, we have reached the point where reporting terrorism is merely a commonplace occurrence rather that a vast threat to freedom and security. Since 9/11, it appears that post-attack action has changed as well. We went from blood drives, charity, inter-community unity behind fighting organizations of terror to fear, reluctance to address communities or organizations that are complicit with terror, and Facebook profile-photo overlays expressing empathy or remorse to those affected. Furthermore, the spread of extremist ideologies through social media and the dark web allows proliferation of information, targets, or literature related to terrorism, and the lack of government agencies to prevent terrorism has also lead to appalling atrocities. For example, the FBI knew Omar Mateen was placed under government surveillance yet he was able to pass a background check (allowing him to obtain the weapons he used in the Pulse nightclub massacre). The Tsarnaev brothers were placed on a terror watch list for 18 months and yet were still able to carry out the Boston Bombings. Both of these examples represent a significant failure in surveillance programs to prevent terrorism. Perhaps these programs are not as good as the government agencies tout them to be.
If there is one way that we let terrorists win, it’s allowing them to continue to perpetrate the ideologies fueling terrorism by acting overly apologetic towards victims, yet showing little initiative to combat terrorism. Although terrorism may be difficult to prevent, the best method of stopping terrorism is by spreading public awareness about how terrorism affects people all around the world — even in communities or countries where terrorism is scarce. Furthermore, we must stop accepting it as a commonplace occurrence — whether in the Middle East or in Europe or the U.S. — and show greater force in fighting and rooting out terrorist actors wherever they hide. Mass surveillance, while occasionally successful, has failed numerous times and represents a significant threat to the constitutional rights and freedom of citizens. Finally, we must be brave enough to call out organizations, communities and nations that either harbor potential threats to our safety, or that are sympathetic to terrorist ideologies, before attacks occur. The cure to terrorism is not an easy path, but it is one that must be taken without hesitation or apology.