“Before 9/11, absolutely, there were concerns about terrorism; but the world fundamentally changed.” -Richard Fadden
On the morning of December 2nd 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire in a business park in San Bernardino, California (Nagourney, 2015). Farook and Malik, both American citizens, were inspired by the messages of ISIL and took it upon themselves to carry out this attack which left fourteen people dead and another seventeen wounded (Nagourney, 2015). In the years following we would see similar attacks carried out in Paris, Normandy, Nice, Brussels, and Orlando. These attacks represent the latest type of terror threat faced by the United States, the “lone wolf” and the “sleeper cell.” Both operate within the boundaries of a nation and present a new type of policy challenge. This challenge has emerged mainly due to the United States’ response to terrorism over the past decade. As we continue to close in on the enemy’s territory abroad, the more desperate they become to instill fear into the citizens of western nations. These attacks once again demonstrates the paradox of responding to terrorism, mainly that terror and the United States’ response to it are in a constant state of change. As terrorists develop new tactics the United States will have to develop new strategies, which the terrorists will eventually adapt to, necessitating another change.
In the early 1990’s the United States characterized terrorism as a crime meant to be handled by a law enforcement agency. The FBI demonstrated this when they were able to arrest and send both McVeigh and ‘93 World Trade Center bomber to jail. However, just as this policy was becoming effective, the nature of the threat evolved and al Qaeda gained a major victory with the embassy bombings, USS Cole bombing, and the attacks of September 11th. The United States once again adapted and fundamentally changed the way we respond to terror; some of these policies were effective and some were not. Regardless of the effectiveness of these policies, they precipitated another evolution in the nature of the threat. The United States now faces two very different kinds of terror threats: a state-like terrorist stronghold and the invisible plotter. Regardless of the policies adopted to take on this new threat only one thing is certain, the nature of the threat will once again change. The threat of terrorism is an ever-evolving one and our policies must reflect this.
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