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Should Citizens Have to Fight Terrorists Themselves?

Illustrative picture. 2nd Lt Kaitlin Daddona drills with her boxing training partner on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (Photo: US Air Force/Senior Airman Michael Reeves.)
Second Lt Kaitlin Daddona drills with her boxing training partner on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (Illustrative photo: US Air Force/Senior Airman Michael Reeves.)

Police in New South Wales, Australia, warned nightclubs, restaurants, shopping centers and sports grounds they need to train staff to confront possible terrorists. Specifically “front of house” staff such a bartenders, cleaners and waiters need to know what to do if a terrorist strikes.

The advisory came ahead of planned celebrations for New Years Eve and in light of the arrest of Somali-Australian Ali Khalif Shire on suspicion of planning an ISIS-inspired attack. He is charged with attempting to obtain a semi-automatic rifle with intent to shoot innocent partygoers in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

“Frontline staff need to understand the plans (for a possible attack),” Senior Sergeant Rob Fleischer said, according to The Daily Mail. “A lot of times, it’s not going to be us (police) who are going to be dealing with the first five minutes. The first five minutes is front of house staff.”

Those staff need to be trained in how to react and how to help patrons escape, police said.

Those receiving training should include “ushers, people who take money at checkouts, cleaners, security … there’s a whole range,” Inspector Peter Aitken clarified.

It has not been reported if the police intend to provide such training or if individual establishments will be expected to conduct it on their own.

Other options like deploying extra police to the streets are unlikely to significantly reduce police response time. France, for example, deployed 10,000 soldiers to the streets in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that killed 17 people in January 2015. In May of that year, President Francois Hollande announced 7,000 of those soldiers would remain permanently.

Yet there are a vast number of potential “soft targets” in any given city — pizza parlors, nightclubs, bars, cafes. It is ludicrously impractical for police or even the army to have an armed guard at every door. The numbers of servicemen required and the cost of deploying them are simply prohibitive.

The solution proposed by New South Wales police is also the preferred solution of military analyst William Lind, who laid out his position in a 2015 piece for the American Conservative titled “The Logic of a Modern Militia.”

Noting that the modern national security state is failing to defeat non-state insurgents around the world, he advocates that people need to look to their own defenses.

In a world where the state no longer has a monopoly on war, we must return to a pre-state world where every able male is a warrior,” he writes.

“Unlike our colonial militias, however, these new militiamen would have neither weapons nor organization. Rather, they would take a pledge that whenever they encounter a “lone shooter,” they will stop him using whatever they have at hand: throwing rocks or chairs, tackling him, beating him unconscious, running over him with their car. If they happen to be armed, fine; if not, they attack anyway.”

This is already the reality in Israel. As Haaretz reported in 2015, when stabbing attacks were taking place several times a week in Jerusalem and other major cities. “When confronted with an attack, bystanders are left to subdue the assailant using whatever objects are handy until police can reach the scene.” Israeli civilians successfully subdued terrorists with, among other things, nunchucks, a selfie stick and a pizza tray.

One real estate agent heard screams from outside, grabbed an umbrella from the corner of his office and smashed the terrorist with it until the umbrella, in his words “pretty much broke apart and disintegrated.”

In Sunday’s terror attack in Israel, citizens tackled a terrorist who had just stabbed a security guard and pinned him down until the police arrived seconds later.

Ideally, ordinary working people should not have to act as first responders during high-pressure counter-terror situations. However, the reality is that they often will be. Therefore they should at least be trained to be ready for it.

 

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Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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