The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo raises a question in my mind and in many other minds. This was an isolated attack, á la a number of other isolated attacks. However, this attack also was associated in time with the murder of a woman cop on the south side of Paris and the murders of four citizens in a Jewish bakery in eastern Paris: these ancillary(?) attacks went in while French police and security units were occupied with the hunt for and capture of the Charlie Hebdo butchers.
I wonder, then, whether al Qaeda (I discount ISIS in this, for now; they seem to be focused on Syria, Iraq, and Jordan) is changing their tactics away from the larger, but harder to execute, attacks like blowing up an embassy or flying airliners into economically and militarily important facilities.
I wonder whether al Qaeda is moving toward smaller, easier to execute, coordinated “lone wolf” attacks whose purpose isn’t to stress police forces with a major one-off, but to try to overwhelm them with more, and simultaneous, attacks than a police force can handle.
Following its inability to cow the West with large, splashily destructive attacks, I wonder whether al Qaeda is moving its attacks on Western civilization toward lots of these smaller, coordinated attacks in a different effort to demonstrate our inability to protect ourselves, the impotence of our police forces, and ultimately to using that version of fear to break apart our various national societies.
I see this, though, as both a greater danger and an admission of defeat. They can’t beat us in the terrorist version of pitched battles, so they’re moving toward this. Many of these will succeed (Charlie Hebdo), but the damage done will be small in each case (if tragic for the victims). They can succeed overall, though, only if we give in to the fear. They can succeed overall only if we citizens choose not to be actively vigilant, keeping in mind that when seconds count, and the terrorists are coming, the police are (only) minutes away.
Armed, confident, and alert. They can’t beat us.