I have written a piece on every major terrorist event in America for the past five years. Tragically, it is almost as if I can reuse much of what I said in my past posts. Usually the articles conclude with something along the lines of – “carry your gun everywhere regardless of the rules, keep your level of alertness high, and always remember that we live in a time of war.”
Still very valid advice but this attack, while brilliant as well as it was evil, was not anticipated. Who would have thought of such a thing?! And that is in part why it was so successful. We said the same when a terrorist drove a truck into a crowd in Nice, France and killed masses of people crowded together. We said the same thing in Mumbai…and what seemed like a lifetime ago in September of 2001. But evil is clever and resourceful, and we must anticipate its moves lest we fall to its plans.
I will divide this piece into the motivations of the bad guy, his tactics and strategy (from what we know), the reason his attack was so devastating, and suggestions for prevention of such a thing happening again.
These events are committed by two types of people. They could be “crazy people” - a broad category I use for emotionally, psychologically disturbed folks in need of medication and confinement. Or they could be “terrorists” – anyone carrying out violence in the name of religion, politics, or both. The last group are perfectly sane, just evil. And the last group need not have any ties to any foreign groups to be thus categorized. Thus Micah Johnson, Omar Mateen, and Timothy McVeigh are all categorized as terrorists.
The attacks carried out by crazy people tend toward poor planning, undisciplined actions, and haphazard execution. And it is quite clear within the first few hours that the shooter is emotionally unstable. It is interesting to note that, more often than not, the crazy guys are captured, the terrorists are killed or kill themselves.
Paddock was not a Dylan Roof, an Adam Lanza, or a Robert Lewis Dear. Paddock shows to have led a successful life, financially at least, and there has been no evidence to portray him as the “crazy old white Trump supporter that snapped”. And if that had been the case, you know the media would have been ablaze with the story. The story of Paddock is unclear and I suspect there is a great deal that the authorities know that they are not saying. We will know more since it is impossible to hold information secret in this day and age. But truth be told, Paddock’s motivations are only an interesting study after the fact, and totally irrelevant during the attack.
He was not a crazy guy, he was very good at selecting target, planning his attack, and carrying it out. More, we do not know yet.
He chose an elevated firing point, and targeted a venue of masses targets in a confined open air location that was secured from unauthorized entry and had limited egress. Shooting fish in a barrel is an apt if untasteful analogy. He chose an interesting weapon modification for the task. One which I have seen and deemed a silly shooting range toy, not having considered Paddock’s application. He likely studied some long range sniping books, analyzed the distances involved as well as the changes in where to hold to work around the effects of gravity on the bullets from the elevated firing position. And most interesting, and something rarely seen in other events, he set out security for his location in the form of remote cameras in the hallway leading to his room. If he was a CIA sniper in a Jason Bourne movie, firing on a mass of terrorists partying, we might be celebrating his ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Certainly this is difficult to defend against. One of my good friends in the counter-terrorist business was commenting with me that none of us would likely hit this guy some 300 yards away, in the dark, even if we could see where he was shooting from. He is right. But there is one way to win a fight that is unwinnable. According to Sun Tsu, the solution is not to fight that battle. More on this in a moment.
The talk of prevention usually follows within 24 hours because that is the sort of country we are. We like to assign blame on the biggest easiest target. And invariably the talk of heightened security and banning certain guns and all of the sorts of things that follow these events. So lets look at all that has been suggested without any emotions shall we?
Banning guns – well that has been tried in 1994 and it failed. But lets say that somehow a bill saying that one could not buy or possess any semi automatic rifle, or that one could not buy ammunition, or whatever else Nancy Pelosi manages to say in one of her rare moments of lucidity. Such a law would be impossible to enforce. Thanks to Barak Obama, Americans have more guns in private hands now that at any other time in history. A swipe of a pen on a piece of paper is not going to make them disappear, nor will it be possible to collect them all. So that sort of rhetoric is a waste of time and resources as nothing will be affected.
A few cases to show the futility of these laws –
November 2015 – Paris, France: The terrorist attackers killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre. Another 413 people were injured.
January 2015 – Charly Hebdo Offices: Terrorists killed 17 people and wounded 22, including civilians and police officers.
I have been to France and have shot with members of their military and police forces. France has laws so strict that they make Nancy Pelosi’s nethers tremble in glee. Even the passing thought of a firearm is prohibited, yet all of these events were carried out by those who simply chose to not obey the laws that prevented able bodied French civilians from fighting back.
But we all know that the magical disappearance of all firearms from the hands of Americans would not stop evil from evolving. And look at these numbers!
July 2016 – Nice, France: On the evening of 14 July 2016, a 19 ton cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian motivated by terror ideology. Shall we pass laws against trucks, and knives as well?
Increasing Security At Hotels: This one had me shaking my head. As one who traveled extensively some years ago, and still does on occasion, the notion of having TSA type security at hotels is not only impossible to implement, but would increase the cost of lodging considerably. Imagine your $200 per night stay was now $500 and you had to plan your return for the night some two hours early. People simply would refuse and find alternative lodging options. If they do implement such a thing AirBnB would instantly increase profits and hotels would go the way of Blockbuster Video.
Yet the American mind wants solutions and blame placed. I can’t help with the latter, although I suspect there will be more to Mr. Paddock and his Philippines connection as well as his political positions revealed soon enough either officially or unofficially. But the former is easy.
The solution is to accept that we live in a time of war. We have enemies in the Islamic Terror groups, we have enemies in the rising indigenous communist militants such as Antifas, and we have enemies of happenstance, otherwise known as crazy people with violent minds. Accepting that reality is half the battle because then most of us would not elect to attend an open air concert inside a fenced area with large building looming over us that may contain snipers.
And we would not go out into a public place unarmed. While the presence of a pistol would not have changed anything in Las Vegas, it most certainly would have in San Bernardino, Orlando, Fort Hood, Nice, the Bataclan, and elsewhere. The solution to rifle fire from an elevated position some 300 yards away is simple – don’t be in the kill zone in the first place.
Don’t want to live like that? Alright, you don’t have to, but don’t expect the rest of us to go along with your naive world view. We live and are living in a time of war, and we are fighting a defensive war with many enemies that are able to choose when and where they will strike.
Comport yourself accordingly.