Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Spree Killers

 I'd lost track of the whole point of the war.
I'd reached a point where I felt that
no ideal was worth the death of one more man
--Ernie Pyle 

Like most Americans, I had been swept up
in the adventure, without ever quite shucking my unease
at what we were doing there 
--In the Company of Soldiers, Rick Atkinson

International terrorism historically has caused the deaths of about 35 U.S. citizens annually; peak years have been the exceptions, with events like Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie) and the events of 9-11-01.

The number 35 is not terrifying when contemplating garden variety criminality, both domestic and foreign.  We get terrified when a "spree killer" unleashes his fire here in the States, and somehow that fear becomes commingled with the nebulous fear we feel at the hands of would-be terrorists.  However, the damage even they may commit is also limited in scope.

Spree killers are not terrorists; they are not "sleepers" and they are not symbolic individuals.  Whether they commit their monstrosities in Norway, Tasmania, Scotland or England, they are simply craven criminals -- possibly insane -- and they continue to get newsprint due to the unpredictable and lurid nature of their crimes.  Still, though discrete events, they are a greater threat than al-Qaeda or its affiliates.

The Billions and Trillions of dollars spent by the United States for defense, intelligence and domestic security cannot defend us from the fanciful doomsday fantasies of the troubled criminal.  What can we do to protect ourselves?  What is realistic and achievable?

A terrorist is preferable to our spree killers because their attacks are more subject to intelligence and police activities which may neutralize their potential operations.  Single, unbalanced spree killers produce less indicators (though they also can be identified before they unleash their destruction; we simply tend to ignore them as they are "one of us".)

Terrorism is hyped while the killers walk amongst us, and not just in the grandiose form of the Batman killer.  This suggests that our society is every bit as dysfunctional as those that produce terrorists.  While not in favor of censorship, there is a correlation between media saturation and the activities of spree and serial killers.

Certainly there is nothing pretty about the latest spree of note at the Batman Dark Night premiere in Aurora, Colorado, but the perpetrator (James Holmes) was soon in lock down, and will most likely never have the opportunity to commit another such outrage.

While terrorists may use spree killing ( see Lod or Rome Airports) and may even utilize serial killing as a a tactic, this is most often in Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) scenarios in which the terrorist group has transitioned into a higher order insurgency; it is not vice versa.

Spree and serial killers are not terrorists.


Blogger FDChief said...

"This suggests that our society is every bit as dysfunctional as those that produce terrorists."

My thought would be that if you look at it from the point of operational capabilities producing "terrorists" is actually a pretty rational approach to fighting an immense conventionally-strong superpower.

They cost next to nothing, their losses are shruggable (what's one dead rat to the pack?), and they produce a huge social hydrostatic shock beyond the actual wound they produce. Look at how successful the 19 boxcutter guys were on 9/11? With stone-age tools they have managed to turn the U.S. loose in SW Asia, producing the exact furor they desired, they've provoked a massive increase in spending and in the U.S. surveillance state...

Dysfunctional? I dunno...seems like a pretty slick op to me.

Monday, October 8, 2012 at 4:27:00 PM GMT-5  

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