Comparing it to recent attacks in Ottawa and Sydney misses important differences. The Paris assassinations of 12 people at the offices of the French periodical, Charlie Hebdo, involved more than a single attacker. These attackers were heavily armed and made a getaway, unlike the so-called lone wolves to whom they are being compared.
There will be no workplace violence discussions here, in part because certain features of workplace violence cases are altogether absent. Disturbed individuals who bring carnage to a workplace tend to be seeking not so much victory as relief. Consequently, they give little thought to escape and often die after carrying out their attacks, whether by their own hand or via suicide by cop. Clearly, the Paris attack was bereft of such elements.
Cries of Allahu Akbar are becoming a unifying thread running through attacks by armed killers against unsuspecting and unarmed victims. This common feature does appear to salute the effectiveness of the public relations arm of violent radical Islam that promotes murder stewed in the brine of antipathies legitimized — whether through propaganda, casuistry, or xenophobic bigotry — through a religious imprimatur.
The bottom line is that violent radical Islam and its adherents are waging a declared war against Western culture, institutions, and citizenry. In doing so, they are taking calculated advantage of civil liberties and freedom of maneuver that the radicals never see in their own countries of origin, where dissent is suppressed and deviation from ecclesia and state-enforced orthodoxy becomes freedom- and life-threatening.
We are neck-deep in a war with one self-imposed, knee-capping disadvantage: The adversary recognizes this situation, while we refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, we go to great lengths to discount violent radical Islamist terrorism. The net result is the kind of self-hobbling that limits the ability to conceive of let alone implement meaningful response.
Otherwise, what form might some kind of meaningful response take?
We, in the West, could begin by defining as a renunciation of citizenship any direct linkage to such terror groups and supporters. Want to link arms with ISIS and fight against the infidel?
Fine. Just don’t expect to be allowed to return to the country that has hosted you in your formative years of fostering resentments.
Refuse to assimilate by learning the language and adhering to the laws of the free country you inhabit but hate?
Fine, but you don’t get to stay there to defame and undermine and attack it.
A slow awakening is costly, but it can still avail. Ask the British, who took a long time to realize that the thugs and thugee were an existential threat in India during another century. Once the British finally awoke to this realization, however, they named the threat, studied it, and took severe measures to wipe out in six years a threat that had gone unchallenged and unabated for three hundred years until that point.
This success required closing exploitable gaps in the legal system, implementing harsh measures to contain and bring thugs to justice, and demonstrating the unrelenting resolve to pursue these measures until the threat was extinguished. Then, despite whatever fears of a new totalitarian state there may have been, the British returned to a permissive legal and societal order that had existed before the existential fight had begun. (For a study of this case, consult John Coloe’s 2005 master’s thesis, Government actions in the demise of the Thugs [1829-1835] and Sikh terrorists [1980-1993] and lessons for the United States.)
We, in the West, can do the same, but before there can be resolve, there must be clarity. We have little hope of winning a war if the only one who knows we are in mortal combat is the adversary but not the defender.The author was a contributor to a security industry study on workplace violence response after having had a workplace violence practice while a consulting security director for Kroll Associates. His area of interest is insider threats, on which he has published a text, Managing the Insider Threat: No Dark Corners. He has also developed curricula and taught in homeland security programs for the University of Alaska and Colorado Technical University. Views expressed here are solely his own.