Last month in France, one person was beheaded and two people seriously injured in an attack at a U.S.-owned gas factory near Lyon. The suspect, apprehended by the police, has ties to Muslim fundamental Salafists. There were Islamist flags and writings found at the scene of the incident.

According to CNN, the suspect "was recognized as a delivery employee" at the factory who was trying to open canisters of dangerous materials. French President François Hollande called the episode "a pure terrorist attack." Although there has been heightened security since the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the suspect was under surveillance, he hadn't any prior history of terrorist activity. In fact, an intelligence report opened on this attacker in 2006 was not renewed in 2008.


The Islamist responsible for the attack attached Arabic scripture to the severed head of a company executive and placed the head on the gates of the factory. There wasn't any question of the motive: A desire to blow up the company's gas tanks, causing massive damage and death.

What this incident demonstrates is that the enemy — the terrorists with bloodthirsty aims — is within the walls of Western civilization. The war has been brought to France, Germany, the United States and wherever people adhere to principles of liberty. It is also clear that terrorism awaits its day. Sleepers working as delivery men or cab drivers are in our midst, waiting for the right moment to attack. Fear cannot be the Western response, but vigilance is the need.

Interpol or FBI agents to review every record. Choices must be made, and, very often, a terrorist is lost in the interstices of recordkeeping. That apparently was the issue in the latest attack.

While there is a need to maintain civil liberties as a foundational principle of Western societies, the threat of terrorism suggests surveillance is critical. Those who would behead us are not interested in the niceties of constitutional government. Maintaining a balance between liberty and security can be a juggling act, but one that must be considered every day of contemporary life.

One can never be sure when an attack will occur, but on the basis of recent evidence, there is near certainty one will occur. The question is: Can we forestall attacks, restrict their numbers — dare I say, prevent them? Most nations, including France, are in a quandary. They know what is coming, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of threats.

Terrorism has many faces, from Jihadist-Salafism to al Qaeda, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the al-Nusra Front, from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to Hezbollah. Although tactics may vary, all are concerned with the global caliphate, the imposition of sharia, jihad as a violent means to achieve their ends and the destruction of all the foundational institutions in the West.

While it has been said many times before, I believe it is worth repeating: The war with militant Islam is here on the shores of the U.S, in the interior of France and wherever one can still breathe the air of freedom. We, those in the West, must define this evil clearly, we must develop a cohesive strategy to defeat it and we must pursue this goal with all the vigor we can muster. To do any less is to deny the reality; to develop a view of the world that relies on wishful thinking.

France is going through a painful learning process. With somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of France's 5 million to 8 million Muslims sympathetic to extremism, there is a formidable army ready at any moment to attack national assets and the free people. For Hollande and his associates, the only matter that counts is whether they are ready for this army of extremists.

London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.