The coordinated attack on Israel on October 7 has undoubtedly caused many of you to think about something like that happening here. Trust me when I say you are in good company. How likely is it, and how would we react if it happened? Those are the questions I intend to discuss.
Where I’m Coming From
After spending 12 years in the military, I spent 15 years doing international private security work in most of the hot spots around the world, including Israel and the West Bank. Consequently, my outlook is about as pessimistic or realistic, depending on your perspective as you can get.
I have seen and responded firsthand to terrorist incidents that included attacks on hotels, suicide bombings, riots, abductions, and ambushes. Blown-out windows and bullet holes in a hotel lobby are a chilling sight. I have seen how easily the perpetrators of those attacks were able to get past whatever security was in place. It’s frightening just how easy it can be.
The World Situation
We are in an especially risky period right now. The bad actors are coordinating worldwide. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran together. Iran probably assisted Hamas and Hezbollah in attacking Israel. All three countries are providing material and moral support to Russia.
This sets the stage for other attacks, either as coordinated events or as coincidental opportunities. If China wanted to invade Taiwan, now would be a good time. US ammunition stockpiles are low, and our military is in disarray. That’s not through any fault of the troops but because of poor leadership at the higher military and political levels.
If China decided to move on Taiwan, North Korea couldn’t pick a better time to invade South Korea. Those events happening simultaneously would overload the US’s ability to respond. The resources of various “good guys” governments are also thin. Europe is largely a paper tiger. Britain cannot even put aircraft on their two aircraft carriers and has only 165 combat jets of all types overall.
Here on the home front, there are, without a doubt, sleeper terrorist cells in the US. Besides the formal potential terrorists, there are plenty of either immigrant or home-grown extremists who would take the opportunity to act on their own. We all know how copycat active shooters are influenced by events.
By acting while all the international turmoil is going on, these people could do a lot of damage.
What Would an Attack Look Like?
A massive terrorist attack on the US would not be the same as the one on Israel. For one thing, there wouldn’t be thousands of rockets being fired across the border at us. Any attack wouldn’t be that coordinated and would not have the resources to do that. There very likely could be drone attacks on specific targets, but the numbers would probably be reasonably small.
Attacks would be very likely to include mass shootings, suicide bombers, possibly car bombs, and vehicle attacks driven into crowds of people. There could also be attacks, both cyber and physical, on infrastructure. The power grid is especially vulnerable. Cyber attacks on government networks, healthcare facilities, transportation networks, and financial systems would also cause widespread disruptions.
How Vulnerable Are We as Individuals?
We would like to think we, as citizens, are better prepared for an attack than people in other countries. Certainly, a greater percentage of Americans are armed than Israelis. Despite being under the constant threat of violence from Arab extremists, Israelis have no Constitutional right to own firearms to protect themselves—something the Israeli government is regretting and rethinking.
But most of us who are gun enthusiasts tend to overestimate just how well-armed we are. As of 2020, Gallup Polls reports that 32% of adults report they own a gun, and 44% of all households have a gun in them. That number has likely increased with the continual trend of first-time gun owners over the past few years. It also doesn’t reflect the people who refused to admit they own a gun because they don’t trust the people asking the questions.
But 32% is not everybody. Further, that number includes people who own a hunting rifle or shotgun and people who own a handgun but aren’t trained and don’t carry it daily. The vast majority of people in the main population centers of large cities, where terrorist attacks are most likely, don’t own guns and can’t carry them easily because of restrictive laws.
Even among people who have conservative and patriotic views, we are not all that ready. I live in a very conservative rural area. American flags fly in front of the houses, and we only vote for Republican state representatives. Our county is a designated 2A sanctuary county where the sheriff says they will not enforce the few restrictive state gun laws we have. I would be surprised if you could find one house in 10 that does not have a gun.
But even most of these folks are not truly prepared. Many of my neighbors own a hunting rifle or shotgun and maybe have a handgun and half a box of shells sitting around. They are not trained or prepared to deal with a home invasion, let alone an active shooter or terrorist attack.
As for the larger question of attacks on infrastructure or social events, recent history has demonstrated that we have practically no defense. The United States is an open society. Anyone can get in a car or on a bus and travel anywhere in the country carrying whatever they want to. There is no concern with having travel papers or negotiating checkpoints conducting random searches. And that is how it should be. The last thing any of us want is to live in a repressive police state. I am not willing to trade freedom for security.
But that also means we are more on our own to watch for and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are up to the task or not.
What Can We Do?
We as individuals do not have the resources of the FBI or DHS, nor can we rely on them to protect us. Just as we cannot rely on the police to protect us from criminals, we must look out for ourselves. There are things we can do. We are not helpless. Much of what we can do are the things we should already be doing anyway.
- Practice good, solid situational awareness whenever you leave the house. Learn to look for signs of potential criminal or terrorist activity. Be observant.
- If you are like me, you don’t let fear dictate your actions but always think hard about attending events where there are large gatherings of people. Always have a plan for how you will respond if something happens while you are there. Be alert and realize that anything can happen.
- Get training so you are ready to respond to a life-threatening event.
- Always be armed with the largest handgun you can practically carry and conceal when out of your home. Unless the situation doesn’t permit it, carry something with good ammo capacity that you can reach out beyond seven yards with.
- Be prepared at home with at least three months of supplies (food, medical, sanitation, emergency gear/supplies for chemical or radioactive emergencies), and be sure everyone in your household is trained.
- Be prepared to survive without electricity or infrastructure in the event of a terrorist attack, EMP, or nuclear attack.
It Isn’t Paranoia If They’re Really Out to Get You
In June 2004, a woman named Annie Jacobson and her family were on a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. She observed what she thought was suspicious behavior on the part of several Muslim-looking passengers and warned the cabin crew.
The Department of Homeland Security was notified and investigated. They found that the passengers she reported were Syrians who were conducting a dry run for a terror attack. Eight of the 12 people in the group had already been flagged for criminal or suspicious behavior. The situation at our border has only deteriorated since then.
I am not advocating that you be paranoid or become a vigilante. What I am advising is that you recognize that the world is not necessarily a safe place anymore. There are lots of good people in the world, but there are also some very bad ones who see murder and terror as a way to achieve their ideological goals. If we didn’t realize that before, the events in Israel should have opened our eyes. Ultimately, we are all responsible for protecting ourselves and our loved ones.