First, let us look at the nature of recent terrorist attacks. Wikipedia has a list of all "Islamist" terrorist attacks going back to November 11, 1982. The most recent in the US is the San Bernardino shooting, which claimed the lives of 14 Americans at a holiday party on December 2. On November 13, 137 people were killed and 368 wounded in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris. These two attacks are the ones that were prominently featured in the news media here in the U.S. Between those two dates there were 17 other terrorist attacks in various parts of the world.
These attacks include:
- Nov. 17: A Malaysian national is beheaded by Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Philippines. This is a Filipino terrorist group.
- Nov 17: A suicide attack at a market in Yola, Nigeria, killed more than 30 people. This group is made up of mostly Nigerian nationals. They're black. The group claims allegiance to ISIL.
- Nov 20: Bamko Hotel Attack , Bamko, Mali. 19 dead. The african Islamist group Al-Mourabitoun is believed to be responsible. They have ties to Al-Qaeda.
Each of these attacks were carried out by "Islamists" that were not from the middle east and that don't look like middle easterners. This brings us to the first tactical problem: How do you tell if someone is a Muslim? Muslims live in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and several sub-saharan African countries. On the other hand, one of the oldest Christian churches is headquarterd in Syria - they look middle-eastern.
Looking at the perpetrators of the San Bernardino and Paris, and even the Boston Marathon and September 11 attackks:
- San Bernardino: Syed Farook was American born U.S. citizen, his wife Tashfeen Malik was a Pakistani born immigrant that had been in the US for more than a year. FBI Director James Comey called the couple "homegrown violent extremists."
- Paris: All of the known perpetrators were European Union citizens citizens. One attacker passed through Leros, Turkey with Syrian refugees, another may have. The rest appear to have been in place for some time, and some were known to French authorities as terrorists.
- Los Angles International Airport: Perpetrator was Egyptian, and had been in the U.S. since 1992, 10 years before the attack, arriving as a tourist, but then claimed political asylum.
- New York Police Axe Attack: Attacker was U.S. born and a U.S. Navy veteran with no links to any organized terror group.
- Curtis Culwell Center Attack: Both attackers and their one accomplice were born and raised in the United States.
- Boston Marathon: The Tsarnaev family immigrated to the U.S. in 2002.
- Fort Hood: Attacker was a U.S. Army psychiatrist, and born in the United States. Authorities were aware of suspicious emails and increasing radicalization for several years.
- Little Rock Recruiting Office: Attacker was born Carlos Leon Bledsoe in the U.S. He converted to Islam, and visited Yemen in 2007
- September 11 Attacks: Planning for the attack began in 1996. The hijackers arrived in the U.S. in 2000, the last in December.
This list contains all of the attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11/2001 contained in the Wikipedia list.
The point I'm, making here is that the terrorists for each of these attacks were in place long before the attacks occurred. Several of them were American citizens. Others had been in country for 10 or more years. Most of them are known to have visited some of the hotbeds of terrorism: Yemen Syria, Bosnia, etc. Some of them had fallen under suspicion of authorities. From a tactical point of view, shutting down Muslim travel to the United States is shutting the barn door after the terrorists are already in place. It may prevent a few terrorists from entering the country, but it does nothing to stop attacks from people that are already here.
To be effective, we need tactics that recognize that the attackers are most likely already here. These tactics will require tracking suspected terrorists and acting on that intel. It will require us to modify our domestic security to make attacks difficult to carry out and easy to defend against. part of making them easy to defend against will mean having armed citizens that have been trained to deal with the threat. (That's the "well regulated" part of the Second Amendment... In the New York Police Axe attack, the officers killed a civilian bystander with friendly fire while taking out the perpetrator.)
Who would be in the best position to observe and provide intel about potential terrorists among the Muslim population? Well, that would probably be friendly members of the local Muslim population. A story in the new today reported that local Muslim groups raised $136,000 to help the victims of San Bernardino; there are friendly Muslims out there. It is to our tactical advantage to keep them friendly.
Meanwhile, it is believed that there are 30,000 European, U.S. (15), Canadian (130) Asian, Australian (120), and Russian (2400) nationals (a total of 81 countries, with the majority coming from Tunisia, at 6000) swelling the ranks of ISIS in Syria. They are now returning and pose a tremendous threat From a tactical point of view we need to do two things:
- Figure out why these people are hooking up with ISIS and take measures to counter the attraction; identify traits in the people that are attracted to the ISIS cause
- Find a way to recognize them when they go so we know who they are, and contain them when they come back.
Whether we look at this from a strategic or a tactical point of view, there is no advantage in restricting Muslim travel to the U.S., and it is in our interest to avoid demonizing all of Islam. It is to our advantage to do everything we can, within reason, to counter the demonizing of us that the other side is doing, rather than give them additional material to build that up with.