After the Fort Hood shooting, there’s a lot of news and speculation about whether this was a jihadist attack against American troops. Anytime there’s a mass murder like this, we try to break it down into some simple explanation. The simplest, though, is that we live in a crazy world where lots of crazy stuff happens. For as long as we have the ability to destroy each other (which will be forever), people will always destroy each other, and there will never be a good reason.
Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration – i there probably are some political lessons; unfortunately they are unlikely to be the ones we actually learn. It’s looking more likely that this man was motivated, at least in part, by an extreme and twisted of Islam. Does that tell us that we should be wary of Muslims in the military? Not really. It tells us that a certain type of person – extreme Muslims that are psychiatrists for PTSD veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, that hold and share extremist and anti-American beliefs (as has been reported about the Ft. Hood killer), and that are on the verge of being shipped off to war -those types of people should probably be booted from the military and monitored closely.
Was this just a “random psychopath”, or do we have ways of identifying such people? Are more Muslims in the military likely to share his views? Are we at risk of non-Muslims conducting similar attacks? (Timothy McVeigh was an ex-military, anti-federalist type of extremist that would have found himself at home with the Tea Partiers of today). Are there ways that military bases can be made safer?
These are fair questions. Avoiding the Islam angle entirely is not the answer, as it almost certainly played a role. Overplaying it is not either, for this is more than just a crazy guy; he appears to have had concerning motivations, but it is almost certainly not part of an organized conspiracy. It’s more likely someone that thought he was playing his part for a bigger cause, but doing so independently, and doing so out of a combination of extremism and desperation.