Mark Twain once said the history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. So, when I heard about the Russian flight blown up over the Sinai, I immediately thought of Pan Am 103. Blow up over Scotland by Libyan bombers in 1988; I had friends who knew people killed on that flight. One acquaintance lost his son.
I suspect it will take less time to find out the perpetrators of this travesty thanks, in part, to the 21st century level of electronic surveillance available and the inability of people to stay off their 21st century cell phones. All evidence points to a group of Islamic State terrorists from the Sinai. In 1988, the identification of the Libyans took a lot longer and involved some great Scots police work and an inch-by-inch ground search – finally turning up a small piece of a circuit board that set off the bomb.
So what lessons are we to take from this most recent bombing? First of all, no matter what kind of physical and electronic security you introduce, there is no such thing as 100 percent security. People have decried the security at Sharm El Sheikh as they decried the security in Frankfurt for Pan Am 103. Granted in both cases, the security was not good. But as the IRA terrorist once said, you have to be right every time and we only have to be right once.
Second, for now, this attack does not appear to be a function of cyber. It is an old fashioned mass murder committed though the timing on any device; likely as simple as an alarm clock or, possibly, a cell phone. For those of us who live in cyber world, this provides little comfort. It is only a matter of time until the Internet of Things into which we are hurdling is used to cause mass murder. Let this event over Egypt not turn our eyes away from that ugly, soon to be, fact.
And, finally, the loss of the Russian plane is a reminder that we are in a long, dirty struggle with Islamic radicalism. Make no mistake that what happened in Egypt can and will be exported by “foreign fighters” returning to the West or “wannabes” here as well. History will rhyme and we need to gird ourselves for it.