Some say last week’s attack in Paris underscores a change in terrorist tactics – from high-overhead, difficult attacks on “hard” targets (targets that are in some way defended), like the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, the USS Cole, and even US airliners on 9/11, to “soft targets” like the Nairobi Mall, schools in Pakistan and Nigeria, tourist hotels and synogogues, and rooms full of recalcitrant journalists in cities where guns are banned in fact or effect.
It’s a trend that intelligence officials say makes the fight against terrorist threats more complex and potentially more disturbing because the kinds of attacks now grabbing global headlines require far less planning and are harder to detect and disrupt.
It’s not a new trend, of course; after 9/11, Al Quada attacked a disco in Bali, buses and trains in London and Madrid, and countless other “soft” targets. And the PLO was massacring Israeli school children in their kibbutz classrooms and buses (the 1970 Avivim Massacre, the Kiryat Shmona massacre, and the Ma’alot Massacre) over forty years ago.
There are those who say the answer is to give police and intelligence even more power than they already have – which makes sense on the one hand, and pushes us further down the slippery slope toward having no freedom at all, in which case the terrorists will have not only won, but they’ll keep killing people anyway.
The Israeli examples are instructive, of course; after the three heart-wrenching massacres I list above (which killed 42 school children altogether), the Israelis started allowing teachers to carry legally-permitted guns in the classroom. Over time, that morphed into security guards, which I think is a step back, but the point is they turned “soft targets” into “hard targets”.
In parts of the US, “soft targets” are a little harder; many, many people have made themselves into “harder targets” with their legally-permitted firearms, to the chagrin of not a few murderers (spree killers rather than terrorists, although to the would-be victim, the distinction is secondary).
And Minnesota is one of those places with a fairly enlightened civilian carry permit law. It could be better – see Arizona, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming – but it’s gotten better over the past decade.
So Minnesota targets should be just that little bit “harder”, right?
Back to the drawing board there.