March 23, 2016,
Prior to ISIS, Islamist terror operated mostly in team plots.
The ISIS has inspired more attacks than it has planned or carried out.
It is extremely difficult to stop lone-wolf terrorists. Once they are into the act, then the damage might be controlled but it is almost impossible to prevent the act from occurring itself.
With the rise of ISIS and its approach to terrorism, is the world staring at a defeat to Islamist terror? A precise answer to that cannot be given in simple “yes” or “no”.
Prior to ISIS, Islamist terror operated mostly in team plots. A plan would be hatched, team assembled, materials procured, instructions given and so on. In all of this, information would be exchanged. One person would pass on some information to the other.
This gave the intelligence and security agencies the chance to intercept it and prevent the plot from coming into effect.
However, in 2016, in the time of ISIS terror, you have what are called ‘lone wolf’ terrorists. These are people inspired by the ISIS/Islamist ideology and who in a fit of devotion commit themselves to terror. The most notorious example of this from recent times was the San Bernandino attack in US in late 2015, where a couple, Syed Rizwan Farooq and Tafsheen Malik, attacked a healthcare event with assault rifles.
No ‘mastermind’ hatched the plot. Nobody recruited them. The act wasn’t a part of a terror plot of any outfit. This couple had been consuming radical Islamist teachings over the years and the indoctrination culminated in the San Bernandino attack.
How are the security forces supposed to prevent such tragedies? At what point can they possibly intercept information? In the San Bernandino case, it was still a couple operating. So there were still two people and the possibility of information being sent from one to the other existed. What of individual jihadis bent on doing something for the ummah? How is the state supposed to read the minds of people?
And it is no secret that the ISIS has inspired more attacks than it has planned or carried out. There is no dearth of jihadi material on the web and even so, the ISIS has done a professional job at propaganda.
That leaves us with a dangerous conclusion and some uncomfortable questions.
The conclusion is that it is extremely difficult to stop lone wolf terrorists. Once they are into the act, then the damage might be controlled but it is almost impossible to prevent the act from occurring itself. In that sense, yes, the world does seem to be looking at a defeat to Islamist terror simply because we know that the next lone wolf act of jihadi terror is unlikely to be prevented.
But prevented they must be. And that brings us to the uncomfortable questions part. By now you would have realised that the intelligence apparatus required to prevent lone wolf jihad is not possible in a world where political correctness has been stretched to absurdity. In the near future, states would be forced to choose between political correctness and the security of its citizens.
And if they choose national security, that itself would be taken up by ISIS propagandists as yet another instance of the state discriminating against Islam and Muslims.
So, attacks cannot be stopped. And there’s no ‘correct’ answer to the question about how they can.
If one of the aims of Islamist jihadis was to make the rest of the world feel helpless, they’ve more or less succeeded at it.