Battling terrorism: How do we win?

Lionel von Frederick Rawlins is a University of Phoenix instructor in criminal justice and an anti-terrorism consultant for the U.S. military

As the nation winds up the war in the Middle East, officials at home are preparing for a possible terror attack in middle America. Although there is obvious concern about another large-scale attack, such as the one that occurred on September 11, 2001, the odds are greater that we could see smaller, more targeted terrorist strikes—in the form of suicide bombings.

We don’t usually ponder the dangers of a dark movie theater, crowded supermarket or packed city bus—all viable targets for a suicide bomber. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has said that suicide bombs are “inevitable” in the United States. It’s not a question of if we’ll be targeted, but of when.

Law-enforcement officers are learning that suicide bombers can be anyone—not just those of Middle Eastern descent. In my criminal-justice class at the University of Phoenix, I show my students, current and future law-enforcement officers, a picture of a crowded public square. Then, I ask them to pick out the suicide bomber in the group of people. They almost always select the wrong person because of the stereotypes that exist in our culture.

Just like our law-enforcement officers, we all need to be more alert and vigilant during these uncertain times. By acting on tips and intelligence, Israel sometimes has been able to stop suicide bombers during the planning process. That same strategy can work in the United States.

Is there suspicious activity in your neighborhood? How about the people you interact with on a daily basis? Timothy McVeigh’s odd behavior was observed by dozens of people before the Oklahoma City bombing but was reported by no one. There are signs of impending attacks, and the public needs to practice vigilance and report suspicious activities.

Although we will never be able to prevent all terrorist activity, we can certainly minimize the danger and refuse to be intimidated. Our lives will never be the same because of September 11, but we still can live fully American lives. If we refuse to fear terrorism, then terrorists will lose.