Lone wolf: A person who prepares and carries out violent acts of a terrorist nature without material assistance and no input from a command structure.
The attacks in recent months by terrorists purporting to be Islamist militants have shocked the world. They have made people ask how and why these events are happening and what can be done to stop them. And as I type this, I wonder what the possibility of such events happening in New Zealand are?
New Zealand has been for the most part removed from the so called “War on Terrorism”, in that it has little in the way of strategic interests in the Middle East. Because most New Zealanders do not support the American-led military operations that happen there from time to time, we are not perceived as being of significance to Daesh and other Middle East militant groups. This is despite New Zealand having military advisors in Iraq and the New Zealand Government of Prime Minister John Key being of the belief that contributing militarily to the war is the best New Zealand can do.
However, Daesh has taken notice. In a video aimed at intimidating New Zealand into withdrawing its military advisors. So too, have critics who claim that New Zealand needs to change its de facto Silver Fern flag because it somehow looks too similar to that of Daesh. Flags and videos aside though, New Zealand is generally well respected in the Middle East as being a nation that stays neutral on the Israel/Palestine question. People who have moved here have done so because of the stability of the Government, the opportunities to raise families and find work and etch out a respectable living.
Whilst much of the world concentrates on the war in Syria and the conflict with Daesh, it is important to note that not all terrorism stems from the actions of militant groups. Sometimes disaffected individuals who feel that they have been wronged by society and/or the Government and want some sort of retribution can cause as much damage as formally organized militant groups such as Daesh. The attacks are difficult to spot and often the threat is only identified after it has already become reality.
Lone wolf terrorism has been a significant part of overall terrorist activity around the world in the last several years. One notable example is the Florida night club attack in June 2016 where a lone gun man purportedly inspired by Daesh opened fire killing 49 people. Another example Nice, France, attack in July 2016 involved a truck being driven by a man with links to Daesh into a crowd of people watching Bastille Day celebrations, killing 84 people.
Whilst the extreme types of attacks that have affected Europe and the United States do not seem so likely here, we should be cautious. New Zealand has a lot to lose in terms of its international image. Being small and isolated has worked well for us so far, but should not be considered a fool proof guarantee of our security in the future. Our society has done as well as it has by showing tolerance to diversity and by integrating refugees and asylum seekers into the New Zealand way of life. That should continue if it can be done sustainably. When the influx is no longer sustainable and the quality of life that makes this such a cool country to call home becomes diluted, resentment will start to build towards new comers. And that is where things can become dangerous.