In my last column for Crush The Street, I declared that we need to get serious about terrorism. But later, I gave the heinous attack that happened at a Naval base in Pensacola some thought. This was no terrorist strike. After all, the shooter was a Saudi air force lieutenant. As such, this was an act of war.

Not only that, if this attack involved different circumstances, no one would question my assessment. That’s especially the case for any member (let alone an officer) of any country’s air force. An act of war doesn’t have to involve an overly coordinated action. It could be one act, such as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that triggered World War I.

Moreover, fighter pilots clearly understand the concept of rules of engagement (ROE). During the Cold War and over recent years, various countries will deliberately violate other nations’ airspace to gather intelligence; typically, this entails understanding a potential combatant’s response time. And thankfully, these incidents usually occur without incident.

However, one wrong move could be interpreted as an act of war. Therefore, pilots constantly review ROE prior to undertaking missions. They know that an authorized aggressive action can send nations into war. Therefore, even through “trolling” maneuvers in the air, everyone is on their best behavior.

Considering this, the shooter knew exactly the implications of his actions. Yet he went ahead. Why?


An Act of War Goes Unpunished

In a more rationale time, Saudi Arabia would not have existed at this moment. Public outrage would have forced the President to open the military’s floodgates of all-consuming destructive weaponry. The perpetrator’s home country would have turned into a parking lot paved with blood.

While that might sound macabre, that’s the only way to guarantee freedom and protection from a fascistic ideology. Recall that in World War II, the Allied forces didn’t leave vestiges of Nazism remaining to rise again. Instead, that short-lived empire was, for the most part, vanquished.

Today, Nazis are relegated to the pages of history.

But that’s not the case with religious fanaticism. Since the earliest days of the U.S. when it fought the Barbary Wars to the present War on Terror, Americans have faced the horrors of Islamic terrorism and brutality, valiantly combating it from godforsaken villages to major metropolises.

Yet even our military servicemembers and the broader law enforcement apparatus cannot sustain this war without addressing root causes. Essentially, the fanatics who wage terrorism and acts of war know nothing else but violence.

You want peace? The U.S. must respond to any terrorism or act of war with extreme brutality. Then and only then will fanatics understand the cost of their fanaticism. But without a crippling punishment for these crimes against humanity, these horrific attacks will only continue.