Uncertain Future – Part III – Online Harassment

Beginning in August 2014, a the hashtag #GamerGate [6] began to form. It was began by groups of video game enthusiasts on differing camps of the politics of gaming. Those on the side of Gamergate gave the stated purpose for it to be combatting political correctness, censorship, and poor journalistic ethics in video game reporting. Specifically, many organized their efforts to target several female members of the gaming community for attacks against the genre norms and values. In retribution, these women and commenters denied the ethical basis and condemned the affair as misogynistic, which then led to reprisal attacks from across the internet world.

The roots of the debate began as a progressive pull to make  females in video games less… um… genetically improbable babes.

Designers and other feminist gamers argued against the exploitive nature in which females were depicted in many games, showcasing outrageous body types, and surfacing new controversies like “Same Armor/Same Stats” and “Less Armor/More Protection”.

So yeah, anyone who argues that is pretty much arguing, “I want more boobs! Don’t take away the boobs!” Granted, in the defense of the status quo, some interesting arguments did come out  deeper than merely, “Save the boobs!” Many Gamergates, argued that coming down on developers was a legitimate attack on free speech, while others decried the very nature of political correctness for gaming. Perhaps the best I had yet heard gave a rather remarkable feminist appeal by asking whether a very popular, and famously buxom, character from the 1990’s should be “reduced” for the upcoming remake. The argument there was that to retool, some said sensor, a character which is already well known on account of her body type is an attack on anyone who legitimately has that body type. In this case, it sends the message that simply having large breasts or long legs is wrong, and something to be ashamed of.  [7]

I honestly didn’t know if I just heard a masterful counterargument supporting both sides of the controversy from the feminist perspective or simply some grade A BS. Regardless, many of the feminists dismissed such views outright, some retaliating through the absolute attack on what it meant it meant to be a “gamer”, coinciding the meaning with being synonymous with misogyny. This, as it should surprise no one, led to a greater and greater tit-for-tat assault on both sides. More joined the Gamergate cause simply in opposition to the radical feminists among those who in over the top demonstrations, stated that all those who don’t agree with the narrative of the feminists were misogynistic, and eventually homophobic, racists, and bigoted.

That was wrong, but what happened next disappointed many as conversation wasn’t the only thing that came out. Users operating, mostly anonymously via sites like Reddit, 4Chan, and 8Chan, began attacking against leaders on both sides taking the stances that games need to redirect. The attacks eventually grew to threats, including the threat of rape and murder for many of the feminists, and threats to have get many of the Gamergaters fired from their real world jobs. Most of us were surprised it got as bad as it did as fast as it did. I wondered why so many gamers became so visceral in their attacks against activists in the industry, or even just their defense of the boobs. I, along with much of the rest of the gaming community with large internet followings, just wondered with surprise how it got that bad.

And that is what is really scary about online security threats like these. People online can get really mean, hateful, and even cruel. I’m not talking about calling you an “asshat” cruel. I mean subjecting people to the constant barrage of hate that results in  IRL (in real life) ugliness. There is even a hashtag going out on snapchat called #TBR. For those of us blessed not to work with children on a daily basis, you’ve probably never heard of #TBR, but it stands for To Be Rude. Literally, it is nothing but children being hateful to one another, insulting one another in “secret”, via Snapchat. Snapchat is a novel tool for kids because it allows sharing of content that will “delete” after a predetermined time or number of views, and only to those you choose. I suppose this may be useful to revolutionaries fighting against totalitarian regimes, but mostly kids just use it to post pictures of themselves naked and be monsters to one another. It sort of explains the ghost icon, though; a hint of secrecy.

Now where this fits into the GamerGate controversy was that we didn’t just see children acting like children. We saw adults acting very maliciously with the intent to cause fear and psychological harm, with the intended purpose of manipulation. By most accounts, that’s terrorism. What made normal, boring actually, twenty and thirtysomething year old gamers turn into, well let’s call it what it was, terrorists is a question we all need to answer, but it is probably the same reason kids use snapchat to post hateful videos instead of Youtube.

Not getting caught.

In both cases of Snapchat or #Gamergate, the offenders function behind a wall of protection from authority. For middle schoolers acting badly, it is really no different than any other time when mean girls said mean things when no teachers were around. With #Gamergate, we saw something very different. Grown adults behaving online in a way they never would in the real world. Many attribute this to the anonymous nature in which they gathered, communicated, and executed their “operations.”

Anonymity on the internet is an important thing if for no other reason than to understand how people act when functioning under the guise of anonymity. Dr. John Suler is a Professor of Psychology and has written on the subject of online behavior. In his paper The Online Disinhibition Effect, Suler argues that those on the internet are able to disconnect from their normal behaviors and can frequently do or say as they wish without fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal. An example being most Internet communities, even one such as Quora which uses real names. The worst kind of punishment an offender can expect for bad behavior is being banned from interaction. In practice, however, this serves little use; the person involved can usually circumvent the ban by simply registering another username and continuing the same behavior as before [8]. Suler calls this toxic disinhibition.

CB radio during the 1970s saw similar bad behavior:

Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge.

Suler’s work was a brilliant synopsis, but we on the internet need a simplified version. “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory” was a posted comic strip by Penny Arcade. The post regards reflects the unsocial tendencies of other internet users as described by the online disinhibition effect. Krahulik and Holkins, Penny Arcade’s creators suggest that, given both anonymity and an audience, an otherwise regular person becomes aggressively antisocial. [9]

How this relates to security is obvious to those who have experience it. The internet can feel like an unsafe place sometimes. The internet can be an unsafe place sometimes. Looking to the long term effects of bullying that are being better understood every day [10], sometimes I wonder if this place I’ve called a second home is a place I want my kids to play on. Most of us who are active on this playground understand this as the status quo, but in the future of internet security, the debate will center around the freedom to be private and the freedom to be anonymous. Many fear, given precedence, what may happen under this veil of anonymity. I can’t help but agree that his is a rational concern for many. Sometimes the internet comments go far beyond words or threats, which carry lasting psychological damage to some of the victims, but transforming to very legitimate real world threats. What this will mean for the future is that companies is deciding what kind of culture they want to deal with. For the internet to stay the internet we want to be on, we may see more companies adopt guidelines like Quora’s, with it’s real names policy and Be Nice Be Respectful Policy, a place where people feel welcome and safe to exchange and interact.

Advertisements

Uncertain Futures – How Safe Will You Be and How Security Will Change in the World of Tomorrow

I’m starting a multipart series on what are the biggest ways in which the world will be be different 20 years from now, with a key focus on how changes in the security fields will impact all of our lives.

When you ask most people what the groundbreaking “X-factors” of the future will be, they’ll say many wildly bold, exciting, and optimistic predictions of a future not far from us today. So far, answers to that question have ranged from technological leaps in machine automation, biotech, robotic swarms, and 3D printing; to social evolutions such as the conversion to all credit economies, an end to diseases, the post-scarcity, and new levels of international individual equality. Yet more promise better governance via more openness, and even a possible end to war through an even more interconnected world. Of course, others are going the other direction with predictions of diseases we haven’t yet discovered, or worse, haven’t yet invented. Some warn weapons too terrifying to detail. Others have echoed cautionary tales against the possible destruction of us all through climate change, energy crisis, nuclear devastation, and now to add to the list… radical religious fundamentalism.

As I examine the answers I wonder to myself what the odds of any one of these outcomes may be. Some seem well thought out, bringing in insights from brilliant minds. Some are simply ridiculous. I am left, however, with one surreal and terrifying truth… at least a few of them will be right. Some of these predictions, wild as they may be, will come true. The sad thing is, we aren’t really sure which ones. All we can be sure of, is that there will be change. Change, however it happens, is the one certainty among all this speculation.

Change will most certainly come, but it won’t come alone. After great change, there is always a period of disruption. Disruption is often used in Silicon Valley to symbolize the moment one company strikes it rich by finding an unknown vacuum to fill, a need to satiate, or dismantling an inefficient system. For many others, it is the fear that automation will leave them and millions of others out of a job and no hope to fill it. To some governments, disruption means a protest of thousands of angry and jobless people turning into a riot, or even a full blown rebellion. Disruption may be in the creation or destruction of entire industries, or as has been the case very recently, entire regimes. Most of the world has already experienced a decade pass where we feel less safe, less secure, and less sure that some catastrophic event won’t destroy our lives in the blink of an eye or the click of a mouse. Likewise, many millions have already felt the effects of change destabilize their nations with ramifications that will echo for years to come. Many of the other answers to this question have illustrated why, whether they intended to or not.

Consider a case study in change and disruption that was the Arab Spring of 2010. Then, new technology gave way to empowering the youth of several nations with information. A wave of democratic energy swept across the region. Caught in this wave were dictators over nations like Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria. The world watched in amazement as millions upon millions flooded streets to demand change. To them, change indeed came. In several nations, reforms are taking root, and dictatorial regimes have been replaced, if not ousted entirely. Millions are indeed living freer lives.

But…

At the same time, today there are three nations currently gripped in struggles of civil war, numerous uprisings already violently crushed, millions already killed, and many tens of millions of people displaced from their homes both nearby and across the world. Worse yet, chaos and anarchy in the region formed in the void of power that once existed under the despots who ruled there. In that void grew medieval death cults bent on absolute devastation and the full scale disruption of the Western world, for no other reason than that the West needed to be disrupted. Today, news of the Middle East centers only on one word – Chaos.

This isn’t to say that change is necessarily a bad thing, nor even that the disruption that change brings is evil in itself. It is just acknowledging that change happens, and that where change occurs, not far behind it, disruption is sure to follow. Finally, where disruption takes place, as we have seen in Middle East, instability is sure to follow, as well. It is this instability that leads to the crises which we hear about daily, and this instability that creates an ever widening gulf between where are today and the world we envisioned for it twenty years ago. Furthermore, as we experience yet more change, the kinds of technological, social, and political changes highlighted over and over throughout this question, instability will build upon itself, sometimes making way for progress and improvements, but other times, most of the time, preparing the ground for the kinds of horrors that only come from the vacuum where order once existed. It is in these environments desperation happens, and the kind of dangerous actions take place which only further dismantle everything. We see a model of this in Syria, where a desperate leader does unspeakable things to his people, to stop rebels and religious fanatics, all empowered by modern technology, both military and civilian. From the chaos of that nation we have seen yet more chaos spread far beyond when millions fled to Europe, bringing with them terror hidden as one of the refugees.

For this reason, the real “X factor” won’t be any one technology or suite of technologies. It won’t be an idea or a revolutionary act of governance, nor will be the culmination of one single ideological movement. The real “X factor” will be how we deal with all of these changes that are sure to come. How do we deal with change which could come from any source, at any time? How can we continue our operations when others fall into chaos? How do we guarantee safety when we have no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like? The world will change, but it will be the people who can adapt to that change that will survive it the best. Those people are going to be the ones who protect themselves, their communities, and their assets. As others fail and a little bit more chaos is built, these groups and individuals will be those who provide the long term stability needed and become anchors in ever changing worlds. For that reason, the true “X-factor” in the future will be the force, in all its forms, that allows the most positive change for the greatest numbers of people, while preventing the kinds of negative change that pulls us all a little bit closer to the abyss.

The factor, is security.

But wait, security isn’t something that is “possible.” It is everywhere around us already. While I would agree, this answer will seek to explain just how good our security needs to be in the future, and how it has failed us today. More so than this, I want to show all the needs we have for security already, and how improbable it is that we will live in perfect peace in the next twenty years. Internationally, 2015 saw a surge in terrorism born from conflicts in the Middle East. Attacks in Paris, one at the beginning and again the end of the year, along with another in California, woke many in the West to the present threat that exists when terrorists inspired by jihad overseas are brewed at home. The year also saw tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of individuals hacked in some of the largest information attacks in history. Going beyond this, privately operated drones are now being empowered not only to deliver mail to our doorstep, but to look right in on our lives, as well. What this means for today is a desperate scramble to attempt to find a new normal which we can all feel a sense of peace. What it will mean in the next twenty years is a complete change in the way we see the security industry, and scale which we deal with it in our daily lives.

The rest of this series will be dedicated to listing some of the ways the security industry will need change, and how those changes will affect off all of us. Perhaps more than the question asked, this answer will leave you realizing one truth. Anyone can handle when something goes right, and some new technology makes your life better, but who is going to be left when everything goes to Hell?

Escape From Terror – A Guide to Getting Out

Given no other information than that there is a shooter or an active terrorist attack, one in which the attackers didn’t kill themselves in the beginning, there is a lot you can do to maintain your own survival and the survival of others.

Stay positive

I know it sounds flippant to start off with “Stay positive,” but this is literally a guiding principle taught in the United States Marine Corps Recruit Manual and is part of the US military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) schools to train Marines, Army, and even Navy SEALs and other Special Forces survival in the harshest of situations. The overriding theme of that first section is that in horrifying situations, much like those of this question, the number one life saving mentality is to stay positive so that you don’t panic. A panicked mind does not make smart decisions. Furthermore, maintaining optimism maintains the belief that survival is possible. When one believes they will be all right in the end, really believes it, their instincts work to support their mind toward maintaining their survival.

Note that I didn’t say that you should tell yourself, “Don’t panic”, because saying “don’t panic” doesn’t actually prevent people from panicking. It’s just something they do in movies to add intensity. It doesn’t help in real life. You do need to stay positive. Most people panic from a flood of many things happening at once. People hear shooting. Someone else screams. A flood of people start moving. Children get separated from parents. More screaming. You should remember to stay calm, not by saying, “stay calm”, but by saying things like, “It’s going to be OK, I know what to do, I will be all right.” Keep repeating affirmations to yourself like this to ensure that you actually do stay calm and remember everything else you need to do to get to safety.


After staying positive, an acronym currently being used to train students, teachers, and businesses on how to handle terror events and active shooters is ALICE.

  1. Alert
  2. Lockdown
  3. Inform
  4. Counter
  5. Evacuate

ALICE is a tool used to keep victims and staff aware of their options during what is called an “active shooter event” and is also useful advice if are involve in an act of terror. It quickly guides you through the important decisions you may need to make. It is important to understand the ALICE acronym is not meant to serve as a sequential list of steps to follow, but to serve as a guide for understanding your role – which it is important we understand isn’t determined by you, but by the shooter or terrorist – in surviving the encounter and aiding others to do so, as well. Depending on where the shooter is in relation to you, you have several different responsibilities to ensure your own safety and help you escape, as well as that of others. In relation to this question, most of the steps involved do not involve interacting with the shooter – in fact, they specifically attempt to avoid it.

Alert

The first is that you witness the event taking place. It is important to remember that, as members of a civilized society, we are all the responsible in some way during a threatening situation to preserve as many lives as possible. Even if you aren’t trained to do much, or aren’t in a position to physically help, the information you know may be vital to others when added to their own. Consider this someone who, from a safe distance, saw someone enter the building with a weapon or acting in a suspicious manner. Perhaps this person saw or heard an explosion or can hear shooting off. This person has the responsibility to stay safe (by not entering the dangerous area) and alerting police or any other official. The information you saw and reported could be compiled with others to help ensure that hundreds who aren’t safe are able to escape who don’t have the benefit of your point of view. Your testimony may also help provide key evidence after the fact, as well.

Lockdown

If you aren’t in the immediate presence of danger, and if warning is given, people should attempt to take a Lockdown, ready stance. If you are very near the threat and a known secure means of escape already exists, then you should always escape first before attempting Lockdown.

Lockdown allows small groups time to create as defensible a position as possible. The average response time for police is somewhere around 14 minutes to produce first responders to a scene of a violent incident. This in no way is a failure of police, but just a reality of having very few people responsible for the safety of very, very many and never knowing where a situation might happen. For this reason, those who are alerted to the presence of danger are asked to Lockdown, in an effort to gain some security during the time when it isn’t known if a safe escape route exists and when first responders have not yet arrived on the scene. Lockdown drills are performed by most schools already, though this is typically the extent of the exercise. They do this by locking all doors, both exterior and interior, and barricading those doors before taking a position in a darkened room, away from visible sightlines of any windows and in a defensive posture.

By defensive posture, this means that students or anyone caught in a terror environment where a terrorist or shooter currently isn’t, such as a room behind a locked door, are to try to use whatever means necessary to provide them with cover and concealment. Concealment is anything that will prevent an enemy from seeing a target, like a curtain. Cover is the military term for something that can conceal you from a threat and be used as a source of shielding in the event that you’re shot at. Once the students are in the most covered and concealed location they can create in a timely manner, they should stay vigilant, and stay prepared to move to escape or react to a forced entry by the shooter.

This is an effort to create a “safe space”, not meant to say that it is perfectly defensible, but as a primary fall back point for all students and individuals to retreat and seek shelter in the event of terror until an escape route can be secured. A terrorist’s goal is to cause as many casualties as possible. That said, if the terrorist or shooter remains a threat after the initial attack, they will often be deterred by obstacles like locked doors, instead looking for easier targets. In this event, creating barriers between a shooter and potential victims often ends the threat of a direct confrontation, before it starts. That said, having a secondary fall back position, in case it seems apparent that a shooter is set to enter your safe space, is a good idea if one is available.

Lockdown is not the same as hiding. We have seen examples of those involved in shootings attempting to make use of whatever concealment they have to hide from the attacker. This includes hiding under tables in the room they are in or in unsecured rooms, then staying put there for several minutes during a massacre. In the Columbine attack, students who hid under tables when it became known that an event had begun were eventually found and murdered. Any defensive position can be overcome by a determined adversary. For that reason, do not get too comfortable in your relative safety, but always remember that your primary goal is escape, not defense. Always be looking for information that will be help you get away from

Inform

Someone in the room should be communicating with police and emergency personnel, both to tell them what you are witnessing and to have a link with information from the outside. During lockdown, communications may be disrupted, or it may not be advised to broadcast escape information while the shooter is active. This isolates victims, which can be deadly. For that reason, it is important for someone in the room to keep an active communication line to the police in the event of an emergency. Most police departments are equipped to handle overflow traffic in the event of a major emergency.

My personal advice is that the person on the phone shouldn’t be the person charge, be it a teacher, the boss, or whoever takes charge of a situation. They need to be in charge of leading the students in whatever circumstances take place from then on. If specific instructions need to be given, than the leader can be given the phone, but generally, the leader’s job in this instance is to keep the rest of the room calm and prepared. Communicating with the outside takes the leader’s focus away from the room and away from what is going on outside their safe space. The communicator needs to calm and level headed and able to communicate; the type of person who can decipher what is important for police and the leader to know and what to communicate. For high school, a student who is calm and reliable should be able to communicate with emergency response and relay important information to the teacher. Most middle school classrooms should, as well. For elementary and primary schools, the teacher unfortunately needs to be the one responsible for many roles.

Key things to be aware of at all times, but particularly in lockdown:

  • Know the source of danger
    Where is the threat? Know where the danger is coming from. Is this person shooting actively? Are they on the move? In which direction?

    Maintain your wits and try to assess what actually caused the threat. Don’t take more than a few seconds on this. Don’t take more than a few seconds on this. This doesn’t mean you create a doctoral thesis on the threat’s relationship with his mother. Where is it that you get the instinctive reaction that the threat is coming from? Don’t look at which way people are running, or running from. Numerous accounts exist of people, usually in panic, running directly toward the danger, in some instances leading others as well. This isn’t their fault. They just lacked the training to know what to do. From there, you have a few options that you need to consider.

  • Find the exits
    Attempt to get away from the immediate danger. Find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible. It may be a better idea to lockdown and stay where you are, but either way, you need to know where the danger is and what avenues you have to escape. Again, time is key, a few seconds at most to find the exits.
  • Arm yourself
    At my school, when we practice for one of these lockdown drills every student has at their disposal a stack of books and other objects to throw or use as weapons. The Marines call these weapons of opportunity and they are any tool you can use to help you defend yourself if you directly encounter the threat. Once you find a tool to use, keep it with you until you have successfully escaped.

Escape/Evade/Evacuate

I’m going to go out of order and talk about escape before counter. As I have said, the ultimate goal of any terror event should be to escape the situation. This needs to be repeated for emphasis. The goal should not be for individuals to stop the shooter, but to get to a safe area. Everything else listed in this answer is strictly in the event escape is deemed more unsafe than staying put, or the shooter has removed the option to escape.

Most of the people who become victims do so very early on. Either they were very close to the terrorist when they began their attack,0 or they were isolated because they hesitated in their movements, or found themselves pinned in and immobilized. Once you find the exit, you should be going there. There shouldn’t need to be thinking about which exit may be closer, or which exit may be jammed or what if there is someone waiting at the exit… just run. A person should be far enough ahead that you can’t get pinned in the event of a wrong turn.

If a shooter is in the open, such as an attack on a mall, one should attempt to get away from the immediate danger as fast as possible. Don’t call the police immediately, just get to a safe location. Immediately seek cover and concealment by staying low, out of eyesight. Remember that concealment is anything that will prevent an enemy from seeing a target and cover is anything that can both conceal a potential victim and will help deflect or absorb incoming rounds fired at the them.

From there, one should remember always to know the source of the threat and find the exits.

Knowing this, a person should find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible. Where is the nearest exit? Can I reach it while staying behind cover and/or concealment? If you know the source of danger and you know the route to the exit, watch for hardened obstacles to keep between you and the threat. A hardened pillar or support beam can be a good source of cover, as can a large desk or wall. A large fountain, a car, the corner around a turn; anything that is hard and large should be a goal of someone to keep between them and the threat. It’s important not to get pinned behind cover, and to just think of it as a temporary obstacle to keep between you and the threat until you reach the exit or safety. Again, time is key, a few seconds at most to find the exits. As soon as possible, make for the exits.

This is also why keeping in contact with police is so vital, primarily if you aren’t in the open and in a lockdown situation where your escape is determined by information you can’t know because it is outside your room. Keeping communication lines open, even if you are silent and just waiting for information to be given to you, lets police and rescue know where you are, which lets you know when it is safe to escape and by what means. Most likely, there will never be a need to encounter a shooter. This is because, once a shooting begins, entire towns shutdown to ensure that the event is taken care of as quickly as possible. For that reason, those who don’t begin an attack in a safe place need to find the safest place possible, fortify, call for help, and prepare to evacuate when it is safe to do so.

By prepare to evacuate, I don’t mean find a safe place and stay there forever. An element of static defenses, those that don’t move or change, i.e. our barricades or locked doors, as I said in the previous section, is that a determined adversary can and will overcome them. Think about if a shooter is searching for one particular person, like that bully, mean teacher, their child, ex-spouse, or their boss. If that person was the motive of the attack, then obstacles won’t deter them. They might slow them down, but not provide true safety. This is true of muggings, burglaries, terrorism, or military combat. Most of the time these are deterrents that force a shooter on, hoping to find an easier target, however, if a gunman is set to defeat a certain barrier, for any reason, they will attempt to do so. Given enough time, they will defeat it. This is why staying in a state of Lockdown throughout the duration isn’t advised.

We can see an unfortante proof for this from the Virginia Tech Shooting of 2007. There, 32 students were killed and the majority of those were traced to a single room. A professor locked the students in the room, similar to a lockdown, but wouldn’t let them leave even when an opportunity was available. The shooter eventually overcame the lock on the doors. The room had no exits and he then proceeded to kill first the teacher, then everyone else in the room. From this lesson we see that a lockdown is necessary, but not a perfect defense. While we must lockdown, we must also prepare for an escape as quickly as possible. Making a plan out of staying put is itself, a danger.

Some guidelines to remember during an escape:

  • Move quickly
    Most of the people who become victims do so very early on. Either they were very close to the shooter when they started or they were isolated because they hesitated in their movements, or found themselves pinned in and immobilized. Once you find the exit, you should be going there. There shouldn’t need to be thinking about which exit may be closer, or which exit may be jammed or what if there is someone waiting at the exit… just run. Stay far enough ahead that you can’t get pinned in in the event of a wrong turn.
  • Use cover
    Cover is the military term for something that can conceal you from a threat and be used as a source of shielding in the event that you’re shot at. If you know the source of danger and you know the route to the exit, watch for hardened obstacles to keep between you and the threat. A hardened pillar or support beam can be a good source of cover. A large fountain in the middle of a food court, a car, the corner around a turn, anything that is hard and large should be a goal of someone to keep between them and the threat. Don’t get pinned behind cover, just think of it as a temporary obstacle to keep between you and the threat until you reach the exit.
  • Avoid traveling along walls
    Bullets travel along walls. I don’t know why, but a bullet that is fired at close to the same angle of a wall will ride the wall and stay very close to it. From what I have seen, they can do this a while. Try to stay at least six or so inches from the wall if you can.

Counter

If a terrorist or gunman enters your safe space, or if he pulls a weapon in the middle of whatever you are doing, say during a class period, work, or, just passing by they have left you with no time to prepare. You have to accept that the gunman has removed all good options from you and that you’re now left with very few alternatives. All your remaining choices boil down to basic human responses to fear. You have probably heard of “fight or flight”, and that is what I am talking about, but there are more and each choice has very different ramifications depending on the circumstances. They are flight, freeze, submit, posture, or fight. Before I continue, we need to consider these five basic human responses to fear and how they would manifest themselves in an active shooter or terror environment.

  • Flight – generally speaking, if you can, fleeing is the best option. That said, as a teacher, fleeing isn’t always an option. For example, in my classroom, which is virtually identical to all the other classrooms in the Middle School, High School, and Elementary, there is only one door. The windows are also shatter resistance, designed to prevent an intruder from the outside getting in, but also preventing students from being able to break out, as well. ( They are actually designed for storm debris because far more people are killed by tornadoes where I live than the violence of this question.) There is only one entrance to the room, and therefore, only one exit. While the ultimate goal of being in an event is the escape the situation, and most of the time, an avenue is available… frankly, sometimes we don’t have that as a real option.
  • Freeze – Freeze is a common response to panic educing situations. For many, it will be the default response. There is a saying, made most famous by the United States Navy SEALs, but common throughout the United States armed forces: “One doesn’t rise to the occasion, but falls back to their training.” This means that if a person is not trained, or have not prepared themselves to recognize and respond to a stressful situation, they will likely fail in that situation.

    A person who freezes, or fails to take any action in the presence of an active terrorist will be an easy target. Shooters aren’t targeting specific individuals usually, at least not long into the shooting. If they are attempting to right some injustice, the shooting eventually turns indiscriminate, where shooters are attempting to not find specific targets of opportunity, those that aren’t actively seeking escape, or using cover and concealment. This obviously isn’t the best solution, but not honestly the fault of the victim. A person must be trained to recognize and prepare for the possibility of violence and have a plan on how to act. If they don’t, they default to the freeze state.

  • Submit – submit refers to complying to the shooter’s demands. This is the hostage scenario. Hostage takers bargain with victims for compliance. They offer safety in exchange for control of the situation. For active shooters, those involved with terrorist attacks, school shootings, and workplace massacres, this is not common. They aren’t interested in a prolonged engagement and may not even care if they get out alive. Typically, these events take place, from beginning to end in less than 12 minutes, that being the amount of time it would take a dedicated shooter to either run out of ammunition, be brought down by police, or as often as is the case, end the encounter by taking their own lives.

    Therefore, it isn’t common for shooters to make demands that will keep people alive. Typically, they are there for a set purpose of inflicting causalities. For that reason, in the event of an active shooter, it is extremely unlikely that giving into the shooter by following any of their demands will ensure survival. In the Umpqua Community College Shooting, this is what students did. The shooter began by first executing the teacher of the room before making demands that all Christians in the room make themselves known by standing. The classroom full of students did as they were instructed and several who stood, were then executed.

  • Posture – Posture is creating the appearance of threat without actually being a threat. Imagine boxers before a fight, trying to look intimidating to psyche out the other opponent. This is an attempt to psychologically dominate an opponent during a fight, in the hopes that it makes them easier to deal with.

    I can’t imagine a worse idea in a terror situation. Shooters are obviously unbalanced people, so attempting to intimidate someone who, because of their weapons, is in an obviously tactical advantage seems, to me, to be suicidal. Furthermore, I can only imagine it further enraging an active shooter, so that, once they are done with whoever tried to appear intimidating is dead, the rest will receive an even more relentless assault.

What is currently being taught, in these danger close circumstances, where escape is not a timely or possible solution, is to fight, some would say attack, the attacker.

The idea here isn’t to combat an attacker one-on-one armed with only a book or stapler against a gunman. It has been shown, however, that working as a group, a number of victims can overcome an attacker and, if nothing else, minimize the harm which he could inflict.

In the instance of a single attacker against a room full of individuals, the presence of massive amounts of common items being thrown to assault, en masse, is the key defensive element. This means that a person doesn’t need to be a martial arts expert, or spend countless hours in training and exercise to prepare for the event. It also doesn’t require that any one individual has the physical and mental capability to disable the shooter. The act only requires coordination of many people moving very quickly. This doesn’t end the threat, but is intended to stun the attacker long enough for the students, once again en masse, to swarm the attacker, ground him, and hold him until others are able to evacuate or hold the attacker until police are able to intervene. Through swarm tactics, which is how they are literally termed in some ALICE training, the groups of potential victims are able to maximize their collective survival by overwhelming attackers.

During this time, students are encouraged to use “weapons of opportunity” or “improvised weapons” in their own defense. “Weapon of opportunity” is a term used from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and other self-defense programs, which basically means any common place item which can be used a weapon. The Marines train to fight, in the last resort, with sticks, rocks, and anything else which may be available to them. For a classroom or office setting, this translates to books, staplers, tape depressors, and even chairs being used as throwing objects or even blunt force items. It is also advised to keep on hand pepper spray and a very good improvised weapon is also the fire extinguisher. The cloud is both stunning and disorienting, and the canister itself is an extremely blunt object which can be both deadly and easily used as a club. The fact that any good classroom or office should have fire extinguishers available anyway, makes this one of the best self-defense tools for this question.

There is practical rationale to this tactic that is, as well, based on military combat psychology. The term is violence of action.

[The following is an excerpt from SEAL SURVIVAL GUIDE: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, written by Former Navy SEAL and preeminent American survivalist Cade Courtley.]

Violence of action means the unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise, and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy. I’m repeating this to drive home the concept that any fighting technique is useless unless you first totally commit to violence of action. Don’t be afraid to hit first, and when you do, hit hard. Remember, you are fighting because this is the best and only option. Pull the trigger — because you are in a battle for your life! Your instincts, assessment, and situational awareness have told you that you are in mortal danger. You don’t know the other person’s intentions fully, and you never can. What you can do is survive — it is your right to not be killed or harmed by another person. As with most things survival-related, fighting has its own set of priorities that need to be addressed at lightning speed.

Stories of violence of action successes are well documented in the military, showcasing how lone soldiers or Marines pushed back or dominated enemy forces when they were very much outnumbered. In an active shooter scenario, however, a single person will almost never be able to dominate an aggressor because of the presence of their gun. Working in conjunction with an entire classroom, all working to stun, disorient, and then hold down an enemy until help arrives, would have the effect of violence of action. As a seasoned shooter myself, I don’t know how I could manage to carry on an attack while simultaneously dodging a barrage of non-lethal items. As a teacher, I was extremely pleased with this approach because it addresses the danger involved in Lockdown only training, in which a static defender is always the victim to violent attackers.

If you feel this is a terrible idea, I agree with you. It does put those attacked in momentary extreme danger. It is very, very hard for me to say this, because, to me, these children aren’t statistical, but faces with names and it terrifies me to think of them being in harm. Yet, I know that for this to even be considered, they were already in extreme danger. It’s just very hard for us to imagine it that way. I also know that statistically, though some may come to harm if more organizations implement ALICE type group defense, more of these rampages will have ended before a shooter has a full 14 minutes to blow away anyone who he sees. The long term reality of this is fewer children and innocent people will die. This is particularly true of the children in the room, those who have had the choice to hide and wait taken from them. If history is our guide, these children have faced the cruelest and most unforgivable odds of all, being trapped face to face with an active shooter. Grimly speaking, they are most benefited by fighting back for their own lives.

We see this example too, demonstrated recently by actions of military veterans who took part in ending shootings or aiding others in their escape. The first of these examples is Chris Mintz.

Image courtesy of Chris Mintz – UCC Shooting Survivor.

Chris Mintz is the current man of the hour. Mintz is a 10 year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.

According to a student witness Chris

“ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”

While attempting to stop the shooter Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, and is now on the road to recovery and a normal life, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses. That fund is currently just over $800,000. What Chris’ heroic acts showed was how a dedicated person can slow down and prevent a shooter, making it possible for others to survive and, just as importantly, that this act itself is not a death sentence.

A better example comes from the recent attack aboard a train between France and Belgium. There, a terrorist opened fire on a train wounding a few of the passengers. Onboard the train were National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler. They earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full on terrorist gunman in the middle of what amounted to a holiday vacation.

“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.

Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and a knife. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire. In the end, he was hog tied and, though one of the heroes received superficial injuries, no one, not even the shooter, was killed. No better example currently exists for the argument that active defense is necessary in ending the threat posed by an active shooter or terrorist.

While both of these events center around veterans who placed themselves in harm’s way while in civilian roles, what they did isn’t something that requires one to be a military person to do. In these specific cases, it was just people who believed they could control the situation, who knew how to react to danger, and who were, at least instinctively aware that the collective’s survival was most ensured by the group fighting back.


I know that it is hard for many people to accept this idea. ALICE training is highly controversial because, when it is implemented in schools, it asks teachers to encourage kids to work together to take on lethal and murderous shooters in certain, very limited, situations. No one feels this as much as I do. This has been one of the hardest articles I have ever written in the last six years of writing online. As a teacher, it’s painful for me to accept that this is even something we need to prepare for. I had to stop and gather myself several times when the thought passed through my mind of my kids (students) being put in this scenario. As a Marine, however, I know that our actions are often determined by those who want to do us harm. Sometimes, a terrible idea, such as leading a group of children to assault a deadly attacker, is the only option left to you.

I know that if this information becomes commonplace enough, many innocent people are going to make it out all right, who otherwise wouldn’t. Furthermore, when those people who are thinking about attacking schools and workplaces, or committing acts of terror see similar actions foiled in the first few minutes by groups of individuals before they turn into massacres, they wouldn’t see the sinister glory in it. They wouldn’t be able to dream of suicide after committing massacre or death by cop. Instead, they might even face prison. Their goals would be worthless.

Furthermore, ALICE initiatives take away the helplessness of the victim, and let’s them know that they have options and responsibility in their own survival, as well as the survival of others. This knowledge is empowering in that it lets them know that the power doesn’t just revolve around the attacker, but that they have agency in the matter, as well. I know in my heart that if the people who attack others like this were to become more afraid of the victims, than the victims are of them – school shootings, gun massacres, and vile acts of terror would disappear.


In Summary, two brief lists to remember:

ALICE

  • Alert – notify people around you and authorities of the problem.
  • Lockdown – secure yourself in a location so it’s hard for a terrorist to get to you and those nearby.
  • Inform – continue to keep authorities apprised of the situation and know your surroundings.
  • Counter – if you have no other options, confront or interrupt the attacker.
  • Escape/Evade/Evacuate – if you can escape the situation safely, then do so.

And the other:

  • Stay positive – A calm and collected attitude of optimism avoids panic, maintains clear thinking, and the preserves belief of survival.
  • Know the source of danger – Where is the threat? Know where the danger is coming from and stay away.
  • Find the exits – Attempt to get away from the immediate danger. Find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible.
  • Arm yourself – Anything can be used as a weapon. Make yourself as dangerous as possible in the event you are forced to defend yourself.
  • Move quickly – Never plan on staying still. Always be prepared to move and quickly get to where ever it is you need to go.
  • Use cover – when on the move, move from one strong point to the next, never staying in open longer than is needed.
  • Avoid traveling along walls – Bullets travel along walls. Try to stay at least six or so inches from the wall if you can.

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays. Thanks for reading.

Questions Remain as Inconsistencies Surface in President’s December 6th Oval Office Address.

I, like millions of other Americans, watched the president’s address to the nation concerning the fear that has been mounting, due to the continued threat of active terror in the United States.

Others will discuss at length many of the correct or comforting points the president made. I agree with him that all Americans are brought together in mourning for the tragedy of more than a dozen of our own. I also agree that the attacks in San Bernardino do not represent a conflict between the United States and Islam, but to use his words, “that the two of them [Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook] had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.” He also followed this by pointing to the difficult work of our military, police and law enforcement, as well as the heroic efforts of our intelligence services to stop countless numbers of these attacks from being made, both domestically and abroad. Among these efforts, he listed the killing of Osama bin Laden, the disruption of terrorist safe havens, and the decimation of al Qaeda’s leadership network. For that recognition, I heartily agree.

I also agree with him where he states that, in spite of the efforts of millions of men and women over the last fourteen years, the War on Terror still continues, and the terrorist group known as ISIL and has survived to reach a second phase. Now, instead of the highly organized attacks that initiated the war, many more attacks of a lesser nature are happening, such that we have seen in Europe and now in the United States. I will also agree with his words that as the Commander in Chief, he has no greater responsibility than to the security to the American people.

There is much, however, that was said beyond this, that I find I disagree with. Following his points that the road to victory against terror won’t depend on tough talks, abandoning our values, and giving into fear, he began to paint a picture that was intended to educate Americans of what the ground situation in Syria actually looks like. He mentioned that we will “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us”. In this picture, he stated that the US military will continue to hunt down terrorists by being strong and smart, and relentless, and by drawing on every aspect of American power. He continued that in Iraq and Syria, US bombers are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy assets, and infrastructure, and that since the attacks in Paris, we have been joined by our allies in Europe to do the same. He also mentions that we are providing equipment and training to forces on the tens of thousands of local fighters in Iraq and Syria who are combatting ISIL on the ground, to take away the safe havens of the terrorist organization. Next, he mentioned that efforts have been underway to dismantle ISIL’s operations, their finances, and their recruiting efforts abroad. Along with this, he mentions how the United States is working with Muslim majority countries to solve this problem and combat the vicious spread of the perversion of Islam he referenced earlier. Finally, there is mention of a ceasefire, led by American intervention and a possible end to the Syrian war.

If this picture were all that was going on in Syria, we would be in a very good situation. One is almost forced to ask, if this is case, why has ISIL not yet been defeated?

To answer that question, we have to look at the rest of what was not said.

  • We will “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us.”

 

This is reassuring. It is a statement of force that says that the United States and her allies will not stand against the threat that these attacks have imposed. The problem with this, is that it differs in almost no way from similar speeches made over a year ago where the President promised to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”  Since that point, the Islamic State has suffered little loss of territory in Syria and Iraq, and has since spilled over into Libya, has claimed direct responsibility for numerous terror attacks in Europe, and have reached at least as far as Bangladesh, where Muslim bloggers speaking out against the Islamic State are being murdered for delivering the voice of Muslim activists the world so desperately wants to hear. Only weeks ago, the President referred to the Islamic State as “contained” within Iraq and Syria, a comment whose timing was tragic, appearing only days before the Paris attacks of late November, and which completely ignored the presence of ISIL troops ravaging Libya, all those acting abroad, and recruiters working throughout Europe. It, however, made apparent how very disconnected to the crisis the President’s foreign policy concerning ISIL is to the truth on the ground, or that what he is communicating is a far more optimistic interpretation of events than followers of the crisis have come to know.

In a post by Carter Moore, numerous polls are showing that more and more Americans aren’t being swayed by what an increasing number of us are viewing as a half-hearted policy towards ISIL’s elimination, and an overall lack of belief that the President’s plans for the region are grounded in either a realistic understanding of the situation, or that his plan can succeed in the future. Along with this, Americans have embraced the unfortunate reality that terror would likely grace our shores, reality that terror would likely grace our shores, “soon”, as indicated by polls done by CBS and Quinnipac University. Along with further polls done by ABC, the overriding theme of the American people is an overall lack of belief in the President’s continuing promises to “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us.”

  • The US military will continue to hunt down by being strong and smart, and relentless, and by drawing on every aspect of American power.

Every aspect of American power does not correlate to the offensive that is currently taking place. To begin, the United States does not have the forces it had available when we left Iraq prematurely in 2011, and we lack the ability to regain the initiative in this fight. The forces available in the Middle East have been reduced to the point that it’s first option of regular troops for when something in the region goes South isn’t even a combat team.

The US Marine Corps is preparing to deploy about 2,100 grunts to be based out of Kuwait in a new unit configuration designed to respond to crises in the region, according to Corps officials.

Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Central Command will be equipped to perform noncombat evacuation, humanitarian assistance, infrastructure support, tactical aircraft recovery, fixed-site security and theater sustainment missions, said Brig. Gen. John Love, assistant deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.

This sort of force would have been useful during events such as Benghazi amid the Libyan turmoil several years ago, but utterly lacks the strength necessary to secure and occupy a region the size of Texas.

Yes, we still maintain powerful air and naval assets in the region, such as the 6th Fleet in Bahrain. From here, you will see many of the air strikes originating. But the problem we are seeing, is that there simply isn’t enough power being delivered by the air strikes to have a meaningful effect. While we might be able to “hunt down” forces in dramatic bombing missions, it is obvious to most that this effort isn’t winning any territory on the ground front.

Instead, what we are seeing from our allies on the ground, is that the attacks against ISIL are having only marginal gains. The overriding US strategy is to bomb jihadist forces using fighter, bomber, and UAV, and weaken them, paving the way for allies to overrun them on the ground. Where this strategy fails is that the US airstrikes in Syria have been shown to be based on startlingly little intelligence. Often, the strikes do little more than send the fighters cowering during the bombardment, only to return once it is over. Secondly, the largest single flaw in the plan is a lack of supporting fighters on the ground who are able to take the regions. Examples include Kurdish forces who, while excellent fighters when fighting for their own lands, have no vested interest in conquering lands that are not home to Kurdish people, and therefore, not worth the risk of Kurdish soldiers. In Southern Syria, it is worse as the rebels we are supporting number only a few tens of thousands, at the most. They are, however, fighting against not only the Islamic State, but also the sitting dictator of Syria, and now also being bombed by Russia. The Iraqi army, for that matter, has show virtually no initiative in even attempting to retake the lands lost to ISIL for purely ethnic reasons, which explains why the Iraqi military is unable to handle fighting ISIS without US intervention. For that reason, the statement during the president’s speech that “…we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground, so that we take away their safe havens,” is based either on optimistic deception, or denial based myth.

Furthermore, the bombings themselves aren’t even providing much gain in the actual killing of insurgent forces.

“The air attacks to date have been what can only be called anemic,” says David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

Deptula, who directed the air campaigns in the first Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan, says it is not possible to defeat the Islamic State by flying what’s been an average of little more than a dozen airstrikes a day.

“The administration’s incomplete strategy places U.S. commanders in an untenable situation,” he says. “It’s not unlike the failed strategy that was employed in Vietnam.”

For a point of reference, the Iraq War 2003-2011 averaged closer to thirty strikes a day and the Gulf War more than a thousand over its short duration.

The current air campaign drew fire as well at a hearing last month on Capitol Hill.

“Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends,” said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, the Arizona Republican who himself flew combat missions in Vietnam. “That suggests we are not winning, and when you’re not winning in war, you are losing.”

What many believe, instead of attempting to destroy ISIL, the administration is instead attempting to use it as a weapon. The strikes by American forces have been primarily centered on some of the insurgent assets, but mostly in areas where ISIL is in direct conflict with Syrian rebels we are allied with. There, they are attempting to funnel ISIL away from the rebels, but leave them to fight Bashar al-Assad‘s government. In this way, they do not achieve the strategic victory of defeating either, but are having the effect of hardening ISIL against our tactics and strategies, while they continue to grow. The biggest problem with this strategy, however, isn’t that ISIL is learning to defend themselves from the bombings, but that Russia (a close ally of Assad, along with Iranian supporters) is currently engaged in campaigns to destroy both ISIL and the rebels we have been arming and training. Worse than this, the Russians are working a lot harder at this than we are.
This outlines why many analysts agree that bombing alone cannot defeat ISIL on the ground, in spite of the enormous and never-ending steady stream of smart bombs against a hardening target. To better understand that cost I would suggest learning how much one airstrike can cost.
Add to this the impact of sequestration on federal agencies. For the military overall, the funding available to maintain the forces has been reduced by over one hundred billion dollars. This has manifested itself in the form of over seventy-thousand troops leaving or being forced out of the service.  It takes the form of hiring freezes and promotion ceilings for American servicemen, forcing many of our best and most experienced warfighters out of the service in search for a productive and meaningful career. In total the sequestration has left us more than 70,000 less troops than in 2011 before the start of the President’s second term. The cutbacks against the United States military have been called for repeatedly, to the point of ad absurdum, to where now we have the United States army is at its smallest since 1940, and the Navy since 1915. U.S. Military Personnel 1954-2014: The Numbers

In the meantime, our allies are facing greater and greater pressure militarily from overseas from sources like the Islamic jihadists, Russia in Eastern Europe, and China in the South China Sea. Several member nations of the Arab League have even allied together to form Joint Military Force to provide for their own independent interests, further exacerbating the conflicts in the Middle East. The net effect of the United States’ regression toward isolationism, is that the world has become a much more hostile place, where our enemies can no longer rely on us for aid, and are looking elsewhere for support. This has not only left us less secure, but decreased the security of billions of people.

Having said all of this, it brings about the question of a land invasion into the country, which many Americans don’t even realize, isn’t even possible. We’ve reached the point where we shouldn’t be asking if we should deploy boots on the ground, but rather, “is the deployment of ground forces even possible?” To do so would require months of logistical support and maneuvering of forces to the region to reach invasion strength, more than enough time for the Islamic State forces to become aware of what is happening, hide among the civilian population or even return to their respective homelands, continuing the global jihad elsewhere. Perhaps this helps explain why has ISIl still has not been defeated even after a year. Ultimately, the question of “removing the Islamic State” has been lost from us entirely in anywhere close to the near term. Perhaps this, more so than any sort of ideological reason or because of fear of “another long and drawn out war” is why the President so strongly advocated against the option to send in American ground forces. My greatest concern is that that simply isn’t an option anymore.

  • Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.
There is a great deal wrong with the third points. To begin with, it mentions working with allies on goals of cutting off ISIL’s financing, but in July, it was shown that Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’ linked through ISIL’s discounted oil sales. I’ll continue that we are failing the intelligence war when it was only discovered through a raid last year how the organization was set up in the first place. More than that, evidence collected by Kyle Murao in Where is ISIL getting their ammunition? has shown that there is little stopping the Islamic State from utilizing black market resources and its vast wealth of independently earned (looted/ransomed/taxed) wealth to procure from virtually any source on the planet. The table below demonstrates forensic evidence of brass casings found on an Islamic State battlefield and where the casings originated. The findings are unsettling.

Along with this, the President mentions that recruitment efforts are being weakened, which, according to all current evidence, is also failing. In Europe there is already a large movement in place where recruiters for the Islamic state are being made to attempt to convert Europeans to Islam, and to convert the local Islamic population to the Wahhabi doctrine, which is the branch of Islam most responsible for the current era of terror we are now experiencing. There, established Islamic “preachers” and recruiters already in Europe, such as Pierre Vogel AKA Abu Hamza, are transitioning young and easily influenced Muslims into fanatical jihadists.

Abu Hamza, born a German named Pierre Vogel in 1978, is a very popular Islamist preacher in Germany. The former professional boxer became Muslim in 2001 and is now among the most influential German representatives of Saudi-originated Wahhabi fundamentalism, which masquerades as “Salafism.”

In Europe, ministries such as Vogel’s are considered “cool” by the native born Muslim youth, which sees thousands flocking to his influence and to that of his Lieutenants. From there, many face the sorts of extremist conversions that taken place disturbing fast, outlined more in detail here. Under leadership and direction, such as that offered by Muslim preachers like Vogel, these fanaticized young Muslims find their to the Middle East, where they are radicalized in militants. From there, they fight for the Islamic State and with no ties to the local “kuffar,” or “unbelievers” have been found guilty of many of the most egregious acts of criminal barbarism. There, they either die in service to the Islamic State or return home to conduct acts of terror in the name of the state. This can be seen in the famed former German rapper Dennis Cuspert, who operated under the pseudonym Abu Talha al-Almani. Cuspert converted to Islam in prison and went on to command a German speaking infantry unit in Aleppo after serving as a recruiter for the Islamic State in Germany. He was killed in an American airstrike, but had he lived, he may have found his way back to Germany, not unlike those who planned and executed the Charlie Hebdo massacre early in 2015.
What is most disappointing, is that even though this is well known, there is no good work being done other than an internet information campaign to stem the Islamic fanatization in Europe and the tide of foreign fighters into the Middle East.

Having exhausted all points on the image of Syria that the president is trying to communicate, I’ll move on to a few other items that need to be addressed.

  • “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a suspected terrorist to buy a gun?

Among the proposed solutions that the president offered was yet another implication that stricter gun regulations would have, in any way, affected the outcome of this event. One phrase he used repeatedly was the term “Common Sense” legislation. I dislike phrases such as “common sense” initiatives, as well as other like, “the right side of history” or, “it’s what the terrorists want”. They imply a certain unquestionable infallibility, without providing either context or evidence to support the claim. With the example of common sense initiatives in gun-control, the language communicates that the policies are logical to the point that anyone who would disagree is not just of a differing opinion, one with rational speculation and concerns, but are in fact, irrational and lacking in some necessary degree of basic human intellect. It is a dehumanizing and divisive phrase, designed to belittle opponents without giving credit or concern for their individual value or point of view, something the President of the United States should never do, and particularly when his nation is suffering a time of crisis.On the points in particular on gun-control, as I have elluded to, it is not a lack of common sense which has brought opposition to the current policies in debate, but rational concerns behind key failures in their policies. Narrowing the focus, the policy of not allowing gun purchasing by people on the “No Fly List” sounds like a reasonable, common sense proposal. The President even went so far as to ask “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a suspected terrorist to buy a gun?” I’m not sure I have ever met or heard of anyone who wants to allow terrorists to buy gun, so it seems like an odd to frame the argument like that… since literally no one has advocated it. In fact, the majority of those standing in the way of the “No Fly Rule” are the same who have been the most supportive of more thorough investigations for the individuals whom the president called “suspected terrorists.” They, for example, would be the first to ask why anyone considered a suspected terrorist is allowed to walk free and unadulterated by law enforcement, in the first place.

The failure here doesn’t lie in the intent, but in it’s execution. There are numerous problems inherent to the “No Fly” list that have been well documented. Among these is the drastic increase in the number of people added onto the list over the last seven years, far exceeding the last presidency.  According to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, in October 2008 the No Fly list contained only 2,500 names, with an additional 16,000 “selectees” who “represent a less specific security threat and receive extra scrutiny, but are allowed to fly.” Since then, that number has grown to over 47,000 people by 2013 with another 468,749 watch-list nominations. Some have called into the question how easy it is for an innocent person to be placed on the list and how arduous it can be to rectify yourself in getting your name off the “No Fly” terrorist watch list. Along with this, several people have been detained for “false positives”, including a United States Marine returning from Iraq, an ACLU lawyer (big mistake), a one year old girl, and a guy whose only crime was having the same name as a terrorist who went to Guantanamo Bay. Scores of other false positives exist. Together with all the other problems associated with the No Fly list, it was obvious to some that it was too broken of a system to merit being tied to something as foundational to the American identity as the 2nd Amendment. Second, this methodology, had it been in place, would not even have caught most of the mass shooters responsible for terrorist events already, such as the Boston Bombers. It isn’t that anyone wants to put guns in the hands of terrorists, but this is a broken system that won’t be fixed by adding more broken elements to it.

A second proposal made by the president was to make it harder to access the types of high power weapons these two terrorists used. While I will agree that if these weapons did not exist, no one would be shot by them, simply banning them nationally or even their sale is not a rational approach to solving the issue of mass shootings. For instance, it is widely known that California has some of the tightest restrictions on guns. Social media is has made arguments based on the numerous statistics statics supporting a push for more gun regulation, theoretically as a solution to this sort of crime. These statistics, however, don’t change the truth that California has already adopted President Obama’s gun control wish list, which includes the common sense initiatives such as “universal” background checks, registration, waiting periods, gun bans, magazine bans and an expansion of prohibited gun categories, I can’t really fathom. No combination of these laws, however, prevented this act of domestic terror from taking place. Furthermore, evidence has shown that further expansion of gun regulation, such as that which the President has recently proposed, would not have even had an effect on preventing this case.

Requiring background checks for all weapons sales might not have had any effect on Wednesday’s shootings in San Bernardino in which at least 14 people were killed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters, legally purchased two of the weapons at a gun shop in Corona. Two others were legally purchased and given to him by a friend, federal officials said Thursday.”

Yet even more, the vast majority of the guns used in the most recent shooting sprees were made through legal weapons purchases including background checks. This serves to support many gun owner rights advocates who have stated that outlawing the weapons will not affect the actions of the criminals who take note of the laws only so far as to subvert them, but will inhibit only those actions of law abiding citizens.
To answer the main question of “what are some of the major takeaways of President Obama’s Oval Office Address on meeting the threat posed by terrorism” there are a few.
  • The publically communicated policy for Syria hasn’t changed, in that it still relies on US bombing campaigns that have proven not to work.
  • Key allies in the region form a major leg of the operation, but have thus far failed to make significant gains on Iraqi and Syrian soil, in spite of coalition support.
  • There is still no plan (nor capability) to launch ground forces.
  • While there has been a significant number of major terror plots prevented, there is very little that can be done to prevent the “self-radicalized” native born extremist.
  • The only viable plan for this includes placing many people suspected of being somewhat involved in terrorism on a list which forbids them from purchasing weapons.
  • The only other viable plan involves creating gun control regulations, which would have had no impact on cases like this, but that hypothetically would prevent a portion of them in the future.
  • There was also a note on stronger screenings for those entering the United States without a visa. For the life of me, that sounds like an illegal immigrant, something the president has ardently fought up to this point, but at this point, now seems to be a “common sense” initiative.
In closing, however, I would like to make note one thing I am thankful for that the president did. I would like to reiterate that I am thankful that the president spoke when he did. People were scared. They don’t know how to rationalize their fear with a realistic knowledge of the risk they are under. When terrorism strikes in the United States, they don’t have that understanding of how very safe and secure the vast majority of them are. During the day, I am a teacher, and today I taught a class of seventh graders. They know that I am a Marine who served in Iraq when they were little, and that I write in the evenings and am very knowledgeable about these sorts of events. They had many questions, and were scared. For that, I was angry, but also very glad that I could help ease their fears with an understanding of the dangers they actually face and the safeguards which will ensure their security. So, too, did the president. He did that for everyone who doesn’t know enough about the events. He helped a scared nation get moving again, and for that at least, I am thankful.

Thanks for reading!

This is a post presented for the Quora blog The Defense Quorum and Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you enjoyed this post and would like to support me in writing more like it, please visit: Support Jon Davis.

What are some of the major takeaways of President Obama’s Oval Office Address on meeting the threat posed by terrorism (December 2015)?

What are some famous controversial photos that maybe shouldn’t have been taken?

The pictures of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib is a large prison in Iraq. During the time of the Iraq War, it became a housing facility for American prisoners of war, as well as maintaining its role as a prison in an attempt to maintain order in the country following the collapse of the Hussein regime. Housed there were convicted terrorists, murderers, robbers, and rapists, but it was the US Army staff which brought the prison its most infamy.

Early in the Iraq war, soldiers of the 320th Military Police Battalion, an Army reserve unit far from the front lines of the conflict took over command of the facility. Prior to their arrival acts of barbarity by Iraqi prison officials was not uncommon. It was, in fact, a practice in Middle Eastern society prior to the American’s intervention to take pictures of people in humiliating situations, and to release the photos as a means of shame and humiliation to force coercion. In tribal societies, this works well and it was something the Hussein regime had long practiced. Having an image of a woman, in this case a woman holding a leashed naked Iraqi, I should add, greatly increased the value of the for such a work. Culturally, a women was of an inferior status, so to be depicted in such a demeaning manner by ta women was particularly offensive to Arab Muslims.

When the Americans took over, they were advised to continue the practice. Abuses under the American Army command included being forced to pose nude in demeaning positions, evidence of violence, inducing fear with military working dogs, and mocking poses with female guards. These practices, however, go against the law of war and several levels of military law and justice, as well as standing against many treaties, so when leaders in the prison took the advice to continue the status quo for the Hussein regime, they did so without good judgement or the legal leg to support their actions. This is why investigations for the prison were already underway before news of them began to circulate with international media, which had mostly been tipped off by these very same investigations.

Following the investigation, members of the 320th Military Police Battalion was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse. The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, these soldiers were convicted in courts-martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialists Charles Graner and Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten and three years in prison, respectively. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer of all detention facilities in Iraq, was reprimanded and demoted to the rank of colonel.

In April of 2004, information about the goings on at the prison began to become public, following earlier stories by the Associated Press. When the news broke, it detailed images of prisoner abuse at the prison not long after the war began.

After the pictures were released, the conversation about the war collapsed. In spite of the Army’s clear message through the imprisonment of the offending Army personnel, and the demotion of one of their Generals, the story that was told by the pictures was that this was acceptable practices for the United States military. This was detrimental to the war effort in that it unfairly misrepresented the rest of the military, myself included, in our efforts to help Iraq stabilize following the removal of the Iraqi Saddamist regime. It was never viewed as a rogue act of an undisciplined and reckless unit, but as representative of the entire United States military, and, to quote a commentor below, “…but it showed the true face of USA…” This radical hyperbole defined the war for many people even today, but the story the pictures told, rather than the truth, dramatically changed the ground war.

The United States military could not really advocate itself as a force for good when this event existed. It cast a very bright light on the decisions of an extremely small group of people in the military. Within the Iraqi population, it made a sound argument that this sort of behavior was the way of the new imperial dictator, and fed propaganda against the American occupation and populist government.  The pictures generated hatred and animosity as the images touched on very deep cultural sensitivities, beyond the obvious human reactions to them. This escalated insurgency activity and fed the increasing terror campaign for three more years before the “Surge” of 2007. In the United States, the event fed the anti-war rhetoric, silencing many supporters of the conflict and empowering those who were never behind the war in the first place with new evidence to support their views. After quickly toppling the government under Saddam Hussein and breaking grounds towards a stable and free government, the legacy of the American involvement in the country was forever damaged by Abu Gharib.

This was a tragedy on many levels. First, the actions of a very few marred the image of the United States’ mission and the conduct of its servicemen. The Marines have a saying, “No greater friend; no worse enemy.” This led many potential allies to think not in the terms of no greater friend, but that the Americans are simply an enemy to be feared. Resistance from that point on, was assured based on these pictures alone. Further, it painted the entire conflict as one of cruelty, forever ignoring the extreme effort that American and coalition forces went to minimize harm to civilians and attempt to rebuild the Iraqi way of life. And even furthermore, painted the hyperbolic assumption that all Americans were really like this.

Second, it was  a tragedy of justice in that it made it impossible to accurately judge who the just were. I will remind readers that the photos are of not just political prisoners of war, and certainly not of poor innocent Iraqis, but of convicted criminals under Iraqi courts. Some were guilty of war crimes under Saddam and some after the war began in 2003. Others were convicted murders, rapists, and all manner of citizens harmful to their own people. In truth, being tied to a leash and paraded around in some humiliating fashion was a far lighter offense than those suffered by many of their victims. You won’t find much remorse from me in the way they were treated, other than that the Americans were obligated by treaty not to participate in such acts. That said, even if these were the vilest of men, that message never got through. When they were masked, their identity was hidden along with all of their individual crimes. When their clothes or uniforms were removed, you remove their allegiances, in some cases to the criminal organizations that committed acts of terror and treason against the Iraqi people.

People can hate a face of a known killer, and they can hate anyone who wears a certain uniform. They couldn’t identify with a murderer, but to them, this was just another defenseless man. There was nothing that stopped them from identifying with just a naked man. Once you look at the picture, you only see illogical cruelty; there is never a question why did that person get into prison in the first place. The pictures didn’t capture their own atrocities, but clearly communicated human suffering they experienced at the hands of people who obligated to at least protect them, be it justified on any level or not. When we no longer saw them as criminals of the most terrible nature, we only saw people, or in this case, martyrs of the American war machine. Quick to forget who these men were and what they did, it was easy to look to those others pictured, cavalier and in American military uniforms as the unjust. I’m not saying that what the American soldiers tasked with overseeing the Abu Gharib prison did was morally justifiable. I’m just not very sorry for the individuals pictured. What I am sorry for is that the stupid actions of the soldiers caused anyone who saw them, both American or Iraqi, to forgive the evils of the men pictured for the story that was immortalized in their imagery.

The seminal tragedy in this is that it made sound the argument that the Americans should not have been in the war, and were incompetent to see it through. It increased pressure to forcing them out of the country long before Iraq was ready for them to leave. In this way, it opened the door to the premature departure of American forces, therefore leaving the door open to terrorists and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to invade and conquer vast swaths of Iraqi territory and empowering them to spread terror throughout not only the Middle East, but also throughout the world into the rest of Asia, Africa, and even Europe. I’d like to hear rational arguments, not for whether or not we should have been in Iraq, but that the world is a better place now that we have given in to emotions and retreated from the region. Having said this, it isn’t just that these pictures should not have been taken. The event they recorded never should have happened. At the bare minimum, they cost the American and coalition forces years on top of the conflict. They fed emotional reactionaries into fleeing the nation with no reasonable objectives adequately met, and worst of all, led to point where far more evil crimes are being committed today.


Thanks for reading. Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here:Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.

Will Terrorists ever use Drones?

Absolutely.

I was doing research for a book I am writing on the future of war, and I explored this topic. Since using drones to commit terrorist actions hasn’t really been a thing yet, (Criminals yes. Terrorists, not quite) I decided my best place to research would be to drive down to a local remote controlled hobby shop near where I used to live and just ask a few questions. I had to introduce myself as an old Marine and Sci-Fiction writer before asking any of my other questions, because leading off with, “I’m interested in knowing how I could make a flying bomb.” would have probably not gone over so well. What the guy said amazed and terrified me, more so, his assistant who quickly developed a new respect for his nerdy boss.

What the conversation left me with was a firm understanding that terror drones will be a part of the future of warfare that the military is, unfortunately, going to have just as many problems with as we give to the bad guys. Here are a few of the key take aways that I have developed from the conversation with my friend at the hobby shop and my own experiences in Iraq fighting a counter-insurgency war.

We are taking about VBIEDs – Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices which, during my day, meant car bombs that were either parked or driven to places where they were used. In the future, we might start seeing these things in the air. A few things need to be kept in mind though when thinking about VBIEDs or IEDs of any kind.

1) Payload

The most important element for a terrorist weapon is the devastation it can inflict. During the Iraq War, that devastation was massive. That’s because the terrorists had access for much of the war to unused artillery rounds taken from Saddam’s Iraqi Army after the fall of his regime.

I’ve seen more Humvees leveled by these things than I care to remember. They are seriously massive communicators of destruction, but also, serious limiters of capabilities if we are talking about drones.  Those things weigh around 40 to 80 lbs. Yes, it would be terrifying if one of those dropped from the sky (they are artillery shells after all), but there is no practical way for most drones available today that are terrorists (I’ll get to that in a minute) to carry something like that. Take Amazon’s plan to start droning things all over major cities. They are limited by weight because those adorable little propellers are not going to be able to carry something as massive as an IKEA bookshelf (between 40 to 80 lbs).

That means that the weapons are going to have to evolve, or at least become more potent. They aren’t going to be able to carry massive bombs capable of doling out huge earth shattering explosions. They are going to need to carry smaller explosives. That doesn’t mean they will be less deadly. No, in the future it might be possible to load up pipe bombs, smaller IEDs, loaded with shrapnel in the form of screws, bolts, nails. This weapon doesn’t level buildings or destroy armored vehicles like the above option did, but it has the ability to brutally maim people who are close enough to the blast, making them visual advocates and symbols for the depravity of the terrorists for years to come. Drones carrying these could fly it directly into a crowded restaurant, through the window of a politician’s office, or even over the stands of a crowd at a sports stadium.

2) Cost

Cost is king for weapons manufacturing, as with anything. Terrorists aren’t going to have the multimillion funds that first world nations do to produce highly sophisticated weapons like the Reaper or Global Hawk drones used by the Americans, nor will they have their $80,000 Hellfire missile. Terrorists run on shoestring budgets and they’ve done quite well at it.

Part of my conversation with the hobby shop guy dealt with cost. I had a design for a terror drone and he made me realize just how bad an idea it might be. For example, for the situation above that required a pipe bomb in a stadium, you would need at least a few thousand dollars to make such a weapon. That sounds like nothing compared to the costs of creating the F-35 Strike Fighter, but when you think about the volume that terrorists need to create the terror effect they desire, those costs are extremely prohibitive. Take the below for example. These are estimates on the number of rocket attacks which were delivered from the Hamas terrorist organization.

It can be a lot. Below is Iraq. Terrorists are featured in red.

As I said, when you deal with high volume operations, unit costs can be prohibitive. In the Hamas/Israel example, one of the most used rocket designs, the Qassam, can be built for as little as $800 American. Considering what that can do with it’s 9 pound warhead over a 17 mile range, that’s a pretty good deal.

But to produce a drone, like what we think of as drones that can carry the kinds of warheads we are talking about will be much more. Some tech analysts have stated that the Prime Air drone (Amazon) could run as much as $50,000 a piece to deliver a 5 lbs “package” to anywhere within 10 miles (in under 30 minutes though!). That is way too much for a sensible terrorist to ever consider paying, especially when you consider that if those things are near enough to the ground, they are getting shot down by everything from surface to air missiles to slingshots.

What my colleague instead suggested would be something akin to balsa wood gliders. Balsa wood is an incredibly light and cheap material used for toy planes and RC hobbyists. Taken from the hands of children and old men, though, these tools could be used to some devastating effect. They are made of cheap materials which are widely available. You can even buy them in kits. Once they reach altitude, they don’t have to use the engine for guidance and can glide silently to their terminal destination. And lastly, they are small, made of light materials, and slow moving. I am not an expert on radar, but that scary. It sort of sounds like a large bird.

I’ll provide this as a proof of concept. Note that the vast majority of the cost of this plane goes into its aesthetics and ensuring it can be recovered, both unnecessary for a suicide drone. It’s also important to know that the RC – Remote Controlled – element isn’t necessary. All flight paths can be programmed into modern systems.

3) Complexity

One of the things that has prevented more people from suffering the threat of terrorism is the complexity involved in various systems. Bombs are pretty complicated to build and not just anyone can make one. Since, historically, terrorists have had two main pools of recruiting to choose from, fanatics and the unemployed, rocket scientists have not been easy for the average terrorist leader to come by. Most of the time, a few key bomb masters, such as an Algerian chemistry student who joined against the French forces in the Algerian War, are the leaders of the munitions manufacturing process. When they are killed, they take with them large amounts of the enemy’s capability to do harm. If they don’t leave quality apprentices, then the movement may have been ended with the death of only one man. Usually, those individuals who carry on in the master’s footsteps are less capable in most regards.

Take colloquially, the example of Jesse Pinkman.

In the show Breaking Bad, a brilliant chemist, Walter White teams up with scumbag degenerate methhead Jessie Pinkman in a scheme to cook meth. In the early part of the show, it is comical to see how inept Jessie actually is at the science of cooking. Walter bestows his knowledge and by the time that the series ends, Jessie is an expert of cooking meth as good as Walter’s.

There is a point to be made here, though. Even at the end of the show, Jessie isn’t as good at cooking than his teacher Walter. Even after a year of intensive training, he is only an expert of cooking Walter’s way. He will forever lack Walter’s exercise in the science of chemistry which would allow Walter to produce many, many other kinds of recipes, if he chose. Jessie may know the way he was taught, but could never produce alternative products or where he wasn’t allowed to use quality materials and processes similar to his teacher’s. He can’t improvise like Walter could.

Wow, that was tangential example, but it serves the point that complexity in operations is an extremely limiting factor. You take the few evil geniuses out, then their apprentices are left without the ability to improvise on parts, resources, implementation, or usage because they came into the act of making bombs as a terrorist who only cares about killing and not as a lifelong scientist who then joined a terrorist operation.

Now let’s take that bomb and stick it in a drone. The first obvious problem is that you are going to need people who can build and service drones, something very few people know how to do yet. The information is out there and growing in the RC communities, but it still isn’t a respected art form in the terrorist world. So let’s say we take out a few of the engineers who know how to make the birds fly. That will be a setback for them. Let’s say instead, we take out the guy who knows how to program them on their automated missions. That’s a major setback. Let’s say we take out the guy who knows how to build the warheads. That’s a huge setback because now the other two are demoted down to nerdy RC enthusiasts. Now, let’s say that they have all these geniuses rolled up into one. How replaceable is that guy? How long before he can pass off what he knows? How hard would it be to disrupt the communication networks he possesses? How devastating would killing that one guy  be? Would his people be able to adapt?

Depending on the complexity, not often, but in some cases, yeah. In the case of the Amazon Death Drone, no. What happens if the terrorists are cut off from making the engines that powers the propellers? What happens if the application they use to pilot the drone is brought down? What if the chemical they use to either fuel the thing or build the bombs gets internationally outlawed or embargoed? As I said, will they be able to adapt, or a better question, how many compromises will these people be able to make before the weapon is no longer lethal?

The fact is, terrorists have to keep weapons system as simple as possible or they can’t replicate their processes. For a terrorist organization to work, it can’t revolve around the genius of a few masterminds. It needs to be weapons that can be produced by many people, even those with very little education. Pinkman could keep a drone program up for a while, but eventually, he wouldn’t be able to adapt to circumstances and changes in the environment in the way that Walter White would.

Sorry, I spent way too long making that point. There are, however, alternatives that are simpler than what we normally think of as drones. These methods already have abundant supplies and designs in existence for the would be terrorist to experiment with and provide the flexibility he needs to do terrible things. The hobby shop guy I talked to was really adamant about the balsa wood, enough I realized he’s thought of this before.

What do I see happening?

I hypothesize for my story that weapons like the one pictured above, (yep) may be loaded with apps created with the purpose of using GPS enabled phones to autonomously steer planes like this. Being that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is actually funding efforts to make software programming something that is super simple for everyone, this feat might actually not be as complex as think. Thanks DARPA. Once in flight these planes, perhaps a few hundred dollars a piece up to the point, might be capable of being loaded with small pipe bombs or, more practically, napalm. Napalm is any chemical that has two qualities, it is very sticky and it will burn a long time. Napalm is also extremely cheap, made from readily available materials anywhere, and easy to use. There are even recipes all over the internet that will make you sad about humanity. Being that the plane itself becomes part of the warhead using napalm, it will literally be a weapon raining fire from the sky. En masse, that can be a weapon that is devastating, cheap, and easy to use.

Oh, and if you were keeping track, the military definition for this a cruise missile, but thanks to the advances in modern military technology, available to just about anyone for only $500. Enjoy the future.


Curious about that story? Get started here: What is the future of war? for more like this, make sure to follow my blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life

Do cheap, readily available civilian drones potentially pose a new and unique threat in terms of terrorism?

Will ISIS attack the United States?

I’ll be straight to the point. Yes, but not in the way you’re probably thinking.

The group we call ISIS will never have a force capable of achieving some sort of international campaign to conquer the United States. Some World War II pitched battle, land exchange style of warfare isn’t going to happen. They way they have been fighting in the Middle East won’t do anything for them abroad. They were barely able to achieve significant gains in Syria and Iraq, owing those victories more to the filling of a vacuum caused by incompetence in the Iraqi military and governance and the Syrians engaged in a state of civil war than to their own military competence. To expect them to expand a great deal beyond their current borders militarily is far reaching, at best.

What is more likely is something like what we saw in France with Charlie Hebdo. Individuals who have fanatical ties and may have been radicalized by direct intervention overseas (such as with the three shooters in France) are also a major threat. Individuals who have actually made a presence in those theaters are a different sort of monster when they return. This is why when people leave the United States presumably to join the Islamic State, they are watched extremely closely by the various intelligence agencies.

The threat of a second 9/11 event is also a legitimate concern. It’s important to remember that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are much, much more advanced and well organized an organization than was the Mujaheddin of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. From that came Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda was able to complete the 9/11 operation with only a total annual budget of $30 million for all international operations. To put that to scale, according to Al Araby Al Jadeed, ISIL’s budget now stands at $2bn with a surplus of $250m. I’m not technically saying that another 9/11 is on its way. Islamic law actually does have rules about this which even ISIL must obey to maintain legitimacy with their followers. While terrorist attacks are obviously allowable by such groups, there does need to be an official declaration of war for it to be legal, such as what occurred in Bin Laden’s Fatwa and subsequent declaration in 1996. That I know of, no such official declaration has been made by the Islamic State. To do so would bring about the immediate retaliatory strike which would be nothing less than an existential threat to the Islamic State’s ability to survive as a land empire. That said, right now, it really doesn’t behoove them to declare war on the United States and it would be an even worse strategy to dedicate a massive force to an operation such as a second 9/11, invoking the historical wrath of the US. That also isn’t to say such a thing is impossible. There is a legal loophole that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s declaration of war may still be legally valid as, by many interpretations, ISIL is an offshoot of the Al Qaeda that existed in 1996.

What is much more likely, though are attacks like what we saw at the Sydney Lindt Chocolate shooting in Australia late last year where a single gunman attacked the store and took hostages and to pull it even closer to home, the Oklahoma beheading in September of last year. Charlie Hebdo in January and the more recent shooting in Denmark also fall into this category. These events were carried out by individual Islamic fundamentalists, inspired by Islamist fundamentalist principles. They are often dismissed as “Lone Gunmen” or simply “Random Fanatics” by media at large, with their ties to fundamentalist Islamic factions and ideology underplayed. Often they are dismissed by the general public as being the work of the mentally unstable and no real connection to Islam, or sometimes rather, no connection to “real Islam”. Symanantics not withstanding, this is a pernicious viewpoint to take, as it is not always the case and rarely the whole truth. Events like these are praised by the Islamic State who has often directly asked sympathizers to conduct such terrorist attacks everywhere. A new poll recently showed that as many as 11% of Muslims in the areas of the Middle East may be sympathetic to Islamic State views. Knowing this, we have to be concerned if the idea that “only a few deranged fanatics” aren’t actually an indicator of a much larger problem.

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, based in Doha, Qatar, surveyed the opinions in the Arab world in relation to IS and the international coalition against it. Their findings were published on November 11.

Findings from telephone interviews with 5,100 respondents in seven Arab countries (Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and “Palestine”) and in Syrian refugee camps located in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey show that 85 percent of Arabs hold negative views of IS, to varying degrees. This compares to only 11 percent of the Arab public whose views towards the group were either “Positive” or “Positive to some extent.”

The Islamic diaspora is estimated to consist of more than 1.3 billion souls. While I don’t want to raise flags, 10%, or even 1% of such a massive population that is sympathetic to the cause of the Islamic State is alarming. Though potential fanatics are possible in any community, they are not evenly distributed. Some Mosques may be places of concern and may even function to funnel support toward IS or spread their ideas, but the majority are still benign in nature in regard to this question. As always, we must not underscore the majority of Muslims who do not support violent interpretations of the doctrine, for they are also victims in this. They will face the suspicion and fear of those who are legitimately concerned by these trends in the years to come until they have purged support for IS from their own communities.

Having said all this, the “Lone Gunman” style of attack, as displayed in Oklahoma, Sydney, Paris, and now Denmark will likely become not just more likely, but the norm in not just the United States, but across Europe and everywhere else where Islamic fighters feel conflict, as well.


Thanks for reading. This is a post presented by the Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to support the author, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.