If you are a terrorist never bring a knife, even a big knife, to a gun fight.
Sorry, it is Monty Python time again. On this occasion season 1 episode 4: “Owl stretching time” (don’t ask). The skit in question was entitled “Self-defence against fresh fruit” and features John Cleese as a drill sergeant teaching recruits how to handle attackers wielding fruit. Eric Idle challenges that he wants to learn how to defend against enemies with ‘pointed sticks’. Cleese’s response is worth repeating in toto:
Ooh, ooh, ooh; we want to learn how to defend ourselves against pointed sticks, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you, eh? Well, let me tell you something, my lad! When you’re walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after YOU with a bunch of loganberries, don’t come cryin’ to me!
It is an old saying that when you are preparing for battle you need to bring the right equipment for the right enemy for the right circumstances. Failing to do so can have the wrong results. Just ask the French army at Agincourt in 1415 where their crossbows are believed to have been not as effective as English longbows.
Terrorism is by definition asymmetric warfare. Terrorists seldom, if ever, have the firepower or weaponry of the states they are trying to hassle or unseat. So they usually always have to rely on surprise (e.g. by attacking unsuspecting civilians) for any success.
Sometimes, however, they get it wrong.
On this day in 2018 Indonesian anti-terrorism officers shot dead three suspected Islamic terrorists in the central Java city of Yogyakarta. The suspects were armed with “sharp weapons and a firearm.” Two officers suffered arm wounds and police seized four machetes and a revolver.
The terrorists were believed to be members of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a loose grouping of hundreds of Islamic State sympathizers that is on a U.S. State Department terrorist list. Indonesia has faced a surge in homegrown Islamist militancy in recent years.
Lesson to terrorists: choose wisely. Maybe plan next time to charge at the police with a handful of raspberries.