We’re in middle of fourth-generation war

Thank God the authorities didn’t drop the ball on Indiana teenager Akram Musleh the way they did on Orlando mass-murdering terrorist Omar Mateen.

The Brownsburg teen sought to join ISIS, federal court documents say, hoping to travel overseas to join the terrorism group as a fighter. He first came to the FBI’s attention in 2013, when agents spoke to him after he posted videos of terrorist leaders. They arrested him as he was trying to leave the country and charged him with “material support of terrorism.”

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release, so that’s at least one potential terrorist who is now much less of a threat. If only the FBI had been as diligent with Mateen after he came up on its radar.

Musleh and Mateen were both recruits in what writer-historian William S. Lind calls “fourth-generation” warfare, a conflict characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and villains.

“We’re not fighting armies,” University of Tennessee law professor Harlan Reynolds writes in USA Today. “We’re not fighting guerrillas. We’re not even fighting traditional terrorists. Instead, we’re fighting an opponent who turns apparently law-abiding citizens … into killers without anyone noticing. They’re not actually ‘lone wolf’ terrorists; they’re more like human drones, attacking distant targets on command without warning.”

And with so many of these shooters, including the ones in San Bernardino and Fort Hood, there are signs. In San Bernardino, neighbors were said to be afraid to call police because they didn’t want to be regarded as racists. Some of the Fort Hood shooter’s classmates saw him as an Islamist-spouting ticking time bomb, but the Army was too politically correct to do anything about it.

Yes, we need to be more effective in fighting terrorists on their home turf. The weaker we make them, the less able they will be to recruit.

But they are recruiting here now. They have brought the war to us, and we cannot ignore it. If we see something, we really do need to say something.

And the authorities must pay attention and act on the information, the way they did with Musleh but did not with Mateen. The American people must insist on it.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.