Attack and Defense
Thoughts on a 10/7 style attack on America

So I just finished Kurt Schlichter’s new novel, The Attack.  It’s a fictionalized account of an October 7 style attack that takes place on a large scale in the United States.  It’s also a warning.

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In essence, Iranian terror experts use America’s open southern border to slip in thousands of Islamist fanatics, sleeper cells who are primed to attack specified targets on command.  The terrorists don’t know their targets until the last minute, when they get guns, ammunition, and directions.  They also don’t know that they’re part of a massive effort.  This means that if they turn, or are caught, as a few do or are, they can’t give anything away.  They have minimal training, basically how to lay low, and to shoot guns and throw grenades.  They’re also equipped with web-linked cameras to stream their attacks, and the atrocities – rape, torture, etc. – that they perpetrate on their victims.  Also meth to pump them up for the attacks.

When the day comes, they attack public places, schools, the Atlanta Zoo, and so on.   The next day, with the overstretched police trying to protect public places and ordering people to shelter in their homes, they go after suburban neighborhoods, again placing torture, rape, and dismemberment videos online.  On the third day, the remaining terrorists attack infrastructure targets – substation transformers, oil refineries, etc.

The result is a six-figure civilian casualty list, massive economic disruption, and political turmoil.  The terrorists’ goal of cowing the United States into isolationism fails, however, in dramatic fashion.   The entire novel is written as an oral history from numerous viewpoints, including the terrorists and their leftist American sympathizers.

It’s a gripping story, and an unfortunately plausible cautionary tale.  How likely is it to happen?

Probably the biggest impediment to something like this happening in America is the aftermath of the 10/7 attacks on Israel.  Atrocities didn’t cow the Israelis, but angered them. Other nations, even many of those that the Palestinians of Hamas generally looked to for support, turned against them.  Hamas leaders are being targeted and killed, Hamas backers know they aren’t safe, and the Israelis simply continue to grind away, four months after the attacks happened.

And everyone knows that the consequences of an attack on the United States would likely be worse.

Or maybe not.  Our current president is senile and inept, our vice president is just inept – though neither Kamala nor Biden is named in the book, Schlichter’s version of Harris’s response to the attacks is picture perfect, an incomprehensible word salad that causes Americans to lose faith in her entirely.  The President and VP wind up being replaced by the unnamed Speaker of the House, who brings the hammer down.  (I was at a luncheon Friday with Speaker Mike Johnson and didn’t get to speak to him – we had to leave early – but I was going to tell him that his role in the line of succession is probably more important for the remainder of this year than it usually would be.  I did notice that there was a lot more security than I had seen at similar events in the past).

Okay, I said it was a cautionary tale, but once cautioned, what should we do?

Obviously, getting control of the border is important.  You can’t control a border so tightly that some people won’t slip through – even the North Korean border is slightly permeable.  But you can put a stop to thousands of military-age young men passing through every day, which is what is happening now.

You could do better with intelligence, but I confess I mostly despair at that.  Our intelligence agencies seem highly inept at preventing such things (and that includes domestic intelligence agencies like the FBI, whose field agents trying to run down Moussaoui before 9/11 speculated that Osama bin Laden must have had a mole inside FBI headquarters).  Leaking things (often false) to the press to affect domestic politics seems to be their true forte.

Hardening targets would help.  As I’ve written before, the only people who are always on the scene at an accident or mass shooting or whatever are the people who are already there when it happens.  Schlichter’s book includes a number of times where armed civilians blunt an attack, both in public and in homes.  A civilian or two with handguns can’t stop a group of men armed with long guns, but they can slow, distract, and inflict enough casualties to mess things up.  (Jeff Cooper said that one man with a handgun can wreck a rifle squad; certainly if the man is Jeff Cooper!)  But it’s math:  If you go house to house and one of you gets shot every time, you’ll run out of terrorists long before you run out of houses.

And, of course, some neighborhoods are better armed than that.  My neighbor’s gun safe makes mine look tiny, and we’re pretty well equipped here at Stately InstaPundit Manor.  I can have a handgun anywhere in my house in under seconds, and an AR-15 type rifle with a full mag in under a minute.  If a bunch of terrorists started breaking my door down I’d probably die, but they’d know they’d been in a fight.  And there are a lot of people like that in my neighborhood.  We saw in Israel that places where people fought back – like Kibbutz Kerem Shalom – did much better:   ‘Although most of the Kibbutzim in the western Negev were woefully unprepared for a mass Hamas attack and paid a heavy price in civilian casualties, there was one Kibbutz where Hamas did not succeed in conquering the Kibbutz, did not take captives and did not cause any civilian casualties.”  That’s even though the army took six hours to show up.

And of course, we need to harden infrastructure.  There’s been some realization of that, but you can kill a substation transformer with a bullet, and most of them aren’t protected at all.  (I notice that they’ve put up brick walls around some of them in Knoxville that are close to the Interstate, though I’m not sure if that’s for security or for aesthetics.)  Refineries and pipelines and communications facilities and fiber optic cables are all vulnerable.  You can do something about that, and also do things to ensure redundancy and quicker recovery.  And drone defense is something that really needs to be put into place, given the rise of cheap hardware-store level attack drones in Ukraine and the Mideast.

Finally, of course, the main way to harden against attacks is with deterrence.  Terrorists may be willing or even eager to die, but the people who back them usually aren’t.  An administration that looks ready to retaliate brutally and disproportionately is likely to be much more of a deterrent.  Osama bin Laden’s comments about the “strong horse” remain apt, even if he’s now fish food.

Well, we don’t have that today!  Maybe we will next time, maybe we won’t.  But on this, at least, the voters have a choice.  We’ll see what they do with it.