The poison arrow

I pull out my bow and arrow. I crouch. And I enter the ruin.

After getting past the floor that drops onto long metal spikes and the gas chamber, I enter the room. She hasn’t heard me yet. This is good because I need the time to get into position.

I lace my arrow with the most powerful poison I have and take aim. The arrow sails through the air and strikes her in the back. A scream of rage. She spots me and starts to chase.​

I run. Back out of the room. Through the gas chambers. Avoiding the false floor. Towards the door and the daylight outside.

Enough time has passed now. She will be weak.

I turn, draw my sword. After several parries and blows, she is dead.

I played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion a lot when I was younger. Umbra was a particularly strong character and she had a powerful set of armour that I coveted. This is how I killed her.

The attacks in Paris a few weeks ago bore a striking resemblance to the strategy I used to finish off Umbra.

The initial arrow was not what caused the damage. It was the poison the arrow carried. In Paris, the bombs and the shootings and the deaths weren’t the main objectives. They were actions intended to unleash a reaction.

John Robb, author of Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalisation, makes this point:

“The effectiveness of blood and guts terrorism isn’t found in the physical and psychological damage it does. 
It’s found in the reaction it provokes.
With this in mind, will the Paris attacks provoke a reaction that makes them effective?
I think so.”

And this effectiveness is measured across the years, not just in the immediate period after the attacks. Robert Greene, author of The 33 Strategies of War, says:

“Terrorists quite often have a large goal, but they know that the chances of reaching it in one blow are fairly negligible. They just do what they can to start off their chain reaction. Their enemy is the status quo, and their success can be measured by the impact of their actions as it plays out over the years.”

9/11 claimed more lives than the 2,977 people that died that day. Every soldier and every civilian who has been killed in the Iraq war can be counted as a victim of that same attack as well.

A terrorists strike twice. First, physically, with their attack. And then psychologically, with the fear and panic and reaction they provoke.

Greene goes on to say:

“In the aftermath of a terrorist blow, what is most essential is stopping the psychological ripple effect. And the effort here must begin with the leaders of the country or group under attack.”

The impact of the recent attacks will not be fully comprehended for years, decades. But with the escalation of the fight against ISIS and an increasing sense of outrage around the world, we can be sure that many more lives will be lost in the pursuit of worldwide tolerance.