Many in the media are arguing there is nothing more to the Major Hasan mass murder than derangement and the various personal “issues” that “set him off.”
But there are two considerations that argue against such an interpretation. First, we look for patterns in all cases of individuals’ shooting others on a mass scale. Hasan gave every indication that he was channeling his own personal sense of frustration into a larger Islamic writ against the West — as have some 20 other killers since 9/11 who have shot, stabbed, or run over innocents at malls, airline counters, military facilities, and Jewish-affiliated centers.
If we once focused on postal conditions and security at post-office installations when workers (between 1986 and 1997) snapped under the thematic pretense of job stress, and if we investigated the nexus of video games, drugs, cults, and counter-culture alienation when suburban youths went on shooting sprees, then it seems legitimate to look for commonalities when someone self-identifies as a rather radical Muslim and shouts “Allahu Akbar!” as he fires — in the same manner that the mad driver in North Carolina, or the killer in Seattle, or the homicidal driver in San Francisco afterwards said they were acting out of Islamic religious fervor against Jews or Westerners.
Second, if we counted up the number of “lone wolf” incidents and added it to the number of Islamist terrorist plots that have been foiled since 9/11, we would arrive at more than 40 incidents of terrorist killings or efforts to kill on a wide scale. If anyone could find a comparable series of anti-abortion terrorist acts, backlash attacks on Muslims, anti-Semitic attacks perpetrated by non-Muslims, Jewish attacks on Middle Easterners, or radical environmentalist killings, then one could argue that the public was unduly focusing on Islam.
It seems, instead, that about every three to four months, either a single Muslim male will shoot or run over somebody and tie the violence to some sort of jihadist theme, or a group of Muslim males will be caught trying to blow up something or shoot someone, usually on a mass scale.
The general conclusions I would draw, based on the statements of the authorities, those in the military, the media, and the general public, are something like the following:
(1) Most people do not wish to be smeared as bigots, racists, or anti-Muslim, and therefore they will resist suggesting that such violence fits a pattern involving radical Islamic hatred.
(2) Most people assume either that the authorities will break up the plot before it reaches 9/11 proportions, or that the lone-wolf attacker will kill someone else far away, and therefore conclude that they are safe enough and it is a tolerable problem.
(3) Most also accept that (a) most Muslims in the U.S. are not violent, and therefore (b) we have no way in a free society to pick out in advance possible bad actors, and (c) the most likely preemptive strategies — screening imams, infiltrating “charities,” monitoring hate literature, reporting radicals at work, and screening web postings — are all fraught with civil-liberties and political-correctness land mines, and are as likely to boomerang on the authorities or well-intended citizens as they are to produce firm evidence that deters an Islamist killer before he acts.
Bottom line: The society at large, driven by the sermonizing of its elites, has come to an unstated conclusion that, unfortunately, a few Americans will have to be sacrificed from time to time, for the larger goal of establishing the fact that Americans in no way think Muslims are any more likely than any others to commit either random or premeditated terrorist violence. I think that is the initial lesson of Fort Hood. (I remember something similar from the 1980s and 1990s, when we accepted that to be a diplomat or a soldier stationed in the Middle East or Africa or anywhere in the Muslim world meant that there was some chance that your barracks, camp, hotel, embassy, or ship would be attacked — and very little chance that the U.S. government would do much in response other than launch an occasional ineffectual cruise missile or offer a bombastic “this will not stand” speech.)
If the lone-wolf incidents start happening ten times a year, rather than three or four, and if one or two terrorist plots succeed and result in several hundred killed, then attitudes may change (at least for a while).