On Friday November 13, 2015, we watched in horror as six nearly simultaneous attacks on Paris, France happened right in front of our eyes. The death toll continues to rise and those injured number in the hundreds. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham) had finally brought their war directly to the West as they had threatened so many times before.
No longer were the threats hollow and no longer were people in Europe and the United States able to dismiss ISIS as a Syrian and Middle Eastern problem.
These attacks seemed to hit us in a profound way, in a way that was different than other terrorist attacks. By attacking restaurants, cafes, and a concert ISIS demonstrated to us that the places where we relax and unwind after a long week are vulnerable. The victims, mostly young, symbolize our future, and thus this attack demonstrated so clearly that our future will no longer be safe and secure without rethinking the threat and the enemy we face.
ISIS has for years been threatening the United States and France. Were we listening? Did we dismiss them out of arrogance? Regardless we are listening now, and the future of our security at home depends on what we do at this moment. Continuing to believe that ISIS does not pose a threat to the US or our way of life would be akin to burying our head in the sand and hoping that we don’t see what is coming. And it is definitely coming. The reality of the world is often scary, but we can’t allow fear to paralyze us or to pretend a different reality exists.
Fear is a great paralyzer. Yes, fear which is what ISIS and other terrorist groups want to instill in us. They are watching and analyzing our reaction to this event and others, and reacting fearfully in anyway gives them a victory that is hard to overcome.
Our men and women working on the front-lines of our national security face fear every day. They embrace it and move beyond it, doing their jobs in the most dangerous places and situations we can think of. To honor them we must show strength and resolve at home, to be their support in those situations very few of us have ever experienced. We should show strength in our commitment to protect our country, way of life, and ensure that no one is threatened by the hatred and evil from ISIS, al Qaeda, and others.
In order to show our strength of commitment we need to look at our security in four ways.
First, we need to solve the root of the problem, radical Islam. We can combat ISIS on the battlefield and win victory after victory, however if we fail to address Islamic extremism this threat will never diminish. We need to empower Muslims world-wide to take back their religion from those who have hijacked it and to fight to keep their religion from at least being overshadowed by an incredible evil. The fight against this radical ideology can only be won by the Muslim faith but with the support of all religions and denominations.
Secondly, we need to push out our borders and ensure that we are working around the globe to protect our national interests. To this end we need to get back to traditional intelligence collection. Human intelligence (HUMINT) provides a critical basis for which all other intelligence can support and augment. HUMINT has become seemingly unpopular with the current administration and has been replaced by an emphasis on technical collection. While technical intelligence is important, solely relying on it, as we are seeing as more details emerge on what was known prior to the Paris attacks, leaves major gaps in our intelligence and hinders our ability to prevent catastrophes.
Intelligence is not something that can be built overnight and as politics at home ebbs and flows we need to remain vigilant that our intelligence capabilities continue to expand not retract. Only through verified and validated information can we catch the needle in the haystack needed to prevent another 9/11 or Paris attack. Getting back to the basics instead of relying on toys and billion dollar projects is what we need to combat all enemies foreign and domestic.
The third pillar to protecting our way of life is our fight. We are not tired, we are not war weary, we are resolute in our love for our country and our way of life. Politicians have been telling us for some time that we don’t want war, and we don’t. But our enemy has long since declared war on us and we can’t afford to ignore their desire to destroy us, because they are willing to die in the process.
Civilian leaders need to reacquaint themselves with history. Gently getting into conflict prolongs the resolution, and ultimately costs more lives. If we are to use any aspect of our military we should be prepared to use all of our military. Military action should never be taken lightly nor used in a haphazard way like we are seeing now. Resounding military action, from land, air, and sea are ways to quickly destroy ISIS. What happens to Syria as a whole afterwards is a different discussion and one that needs a thoughtful policy and strategy as well.
Finally, the ultimate protection of our country and our way of life lies with us. We need to interact more with each other, see and recognize changes in our environment, and act when there is an absence of action. Terrorists no longer want to take hostages and exchange them for political prisoners, they want to get attention from the media and kill as many people as possible. After all of the layers of security we have, ultimately our observations and actions will be the pivotal factors in continuing our way of life.
The tragic events in Paris last week should serve to help us move forward as a community rather than divided and fearful. Our strength comes from being united, and the destruction of ISIS and other terrorist groups comes from our resolution that we shall not live in fear. Action, cohesion, and faith will guide us to victory over one of the most evil ideologies humans have ever faced.