Update: Orlando Shooter Did Have an Expressed Goal

A couple days ago I published a post asking what the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooter’s goal was. In it I mentioned that as far as we knew he made no demands during his 911 calls to the police. As it turns out he did.

According to a recently released excerpt from his 911 call by the FBI, Mateen stated that he was killing Pulse patrons to compel the US to cease its military campaigns in Iraq and Syria. He went on to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.

I still find Mateen’s methods curious, despite knowing his motive. The US is hardly a state that gives into terrorists’ demands. In fact, I can recall only one time in the US’s history that a terrorist organization’s actions compelled the US to withdraw from an occupied or war torn country. In 1983 Hezbollah allegedly suicide bombed the US marine barracks in Beirut, killing 305 American and French soldiers. The US responded by packing up and leaving Lebanon forever. This would be an incredibly successful terrorist attack against the US if it were not for the fact that Hezbollah was attacking a legitimate target (a military post). In other words, the Beirut barracks bombing was an act of war—not a terrorist attack. Regardless of what we call it, however, it took an act of armed conflict against two militaries to achieve such success. Proving to military brass that they are vulnerable and will suffer if they do not high tail it and run is how to achieve your goals—not attacking the military’s constituency.

Mateen walked into a gay nightclub and killed innocent civilians that had nothing to do with military campaigns in Iraq and Syria. All that Mateen proved was that civilians are vulnerable to attack—something the military is aware of. The military is also aware that its sole responsibility is to defend the US from enemies, foreign and domestic. Mateen therefore proved that the US military has to do more, not less; otherwise it breaks its oath to the American people.

I’m not trying to make an argument for or against military action in the Middle East. Rather, my argument is that, despite Mateen having an explicit political goal in mind, which I was not aware of in my previous post, Mateen was an idiot because his only success is to compel the US military to do the exact opposite of what he wanted.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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