(Photo: Michel Euler/Associated Press)
In 2010, a letter was sent from Osama bin Laden to an associate in Yemen that sought to remind him of al Qaeda's mission. "We need to extend and develop our operations in America and not keep it limited to blowing up airplanes,” he wrote. The letter was found among the documents uncovered in the wake of the Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan which killed Osama bin Laden. Anyone with a lick of common sense can figure out that, as CNN's Kimberly Dozier said just a little while ago, it takes maybe a day's worth of training and a decent knowledge of TV cop shows to learn how to walk into a building and shoot it up. Compare this with the complexity, timing and planning required to pull off the 9/11 attacks. What happened on 9/11 was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, but what's happening right now in Paris and what's gone on there for most of the week is the kind of thing almost anyone can do. It's the kind of thing that's easy to imagine happening over and over again simply because of the ease required to pull it off.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo and everything that's followed wasn't just an avenging of the prophet and a knife through the heart of the freedoms Western countries cherish, it was also a recruiting tool. A brutal attack that involves nothing more than a small, self-contained cell armed with automatic weapons can draw just as much media attention as a spectacular large-scale assault that leaves thousands dead and the entire free world reeling. Strike at the right target, kill enough people, hold an area hostage and the point will be made perfectly and it will seem like a revolutionary act by the misguided and disaffected looking for a purpose. To those who believe they're somehow oppressed, even within some of the wealthiest countries in the world, a successful rampage with a couple of guns will be proof that victory is both achievable and within their reach.
The Tsarnaev brothers who allegedly detonated homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon two years ago understood this and despite their young age they may have understood something else as well, something al Qaeda operatives in Yemen no doubt understood about the Kouachi brothers in France: siblings or family members working in tandem make a harder target to track by intelligence because excessive communication between them isn't anything out of the ordinary. The Tsarnaevs reportedly became radicalized by listening to the preachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Muslim cleric who drove operations in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and who was ultimately killed in a U.S. drone strike. Only one of the brothers was on the FBI's radar and that's because he tried joining the jihad overseas. Both the Kouachis were known to French intelligence, but there was never enough evidence to keep a case open on them.
What these four men had in common, though, besides being brothers, is that they were all young people meandering through life who were finding success elusive. They came from immigrant families, they were angry and they were easy marks to radicalize. A cult of idiots willing to idolize the Tsarnaevs quickly sprung up and the same is sure to happen in the wake of the Paris attacks which will add up to more problems for intelligence officials trying to now track hundreds and even thousands of small targets as opposed to pulling at the threads of one large plot. We've already witnessed the insanity of Westerners attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and take up the fight against infidels; what's made this such a nightmare for Europe and even the United States is that these homegrown soldiers have Western passports and can travel easily and freely within our borders.
Think about that: a few radicals with standing as citizens no different than most of our population, able to move quietly throughout our neighborhoods and who can cause death and chaos with little more than a few guns. That's all it takes. In just the past couple of months it's happened in Ottawa and Sydney. Last year it was a single attack on a soldier in London. This is the new face of terror. It's the face of those already in our midst and who can kill in the name of radical Islam as easily as a common criminal knocks over a bank. This is our future. It's trying to kill a hydra on our own soil.