The recent killing of four unarmed Marines and one Navy reservist by an Islamic radical in Chattanooga, Tenn., has raised many questions.

Why aren’t military “soft targets” — such as armories, reserve and National Guard terminals and recruiting centers — better protected from avowed enemies? How come this guy wasn’t identified sooner and stopped from his cowardly act? And, is this representative of a much larger problem?

Let’s tackle the protection of soft targets first. The media have focused on a directive put in place by the first President George Bush that restricts the military, with the exception of security (police) forces, from carrying weapons on military installations.

But when I was in the military (1960-1980), similar restrictions had been in place for decades at every post I was assigned to — so, this isn’t a new policy.

Blaming modern politicians doesn’t really pass the smell test.

During the 1970s and in the years following, terrorist attacks were routinely waged against military installations, killing unarmed soldiers, sailors and airmen. The list of attacks, maiming injuries and deaths is overwhelming when considered in its totality.

Should the military be armed while service members are in their garrisons? Not arming trained and properly screened military members is a huge error in judgment, considering the attack by another Islamic militant a couple of years ago at Fort Hood, Texas. It’s a harsh world today and an unarmed military is vulnerable to soft target attacks.

So what’s the most effective way to protect these soft targets quickly and efficiently? They’re located in communities all over the country.

As a short-term fix, the Defense Department could immediately fund local law enforcement agencies and task them with providing armed security when armed military security forces are not on duty. Local agencies know who their problem people are, they’re trained to identify threatening behavior and they could react quickly to any threat.

Then they could move to the larger issue of developing policies to allow selected military members to carry firearms while not in combat.

How come the Chattanooga killer wasn’t identified and the threat removed before he acted? Well, that’s a complex issue with many explanations.  You’ll recall that Congress recently enacted legislation prohibiting “spying” on users of electronic communications unless the agencies involved petitioned a court for a warrant. This hampered the ability to ferret out people like the guy in Tennessee.

While the Islamic State (ISIS) is a major issue on the national front, and it appears to be using electronic media to recruit and empower ignorant followers in sufficient numbers to cause us to worry, they are only the tip of the iceberg. This group has no soul and has killed hundreds of thousands of people in several countries in the name of some sort of tortured satanic following.

You have to wonder about the sanity of a terrorist group and their followers who believe that committing these atrocities will lead them to the Promised Land. These are crimes that all legitimate religious groups condemn in their teachings.

ISIS must be dealt with; however, our current government doesn’t appear to want to admit there is even a problem.

Some commentators advocate a total eradication of ISIS — much easier said than done. Logistically and strategically, it may be impossible to eliminate every radical extremist from the face of the earth because, as one group is stopped, two more will pop up, and they may be much more sinister.

Are the killings in Chattanooga representative of a much larger problem in the United States? While this coward was able to kill five innocent military personnel, scores of people are being murdered every day in domestic disputes, gang wars, drive-by shootings and by errant crossfire. Five more people were killed in Louisiana just last week.

Many cities, particularly those governed by liberal politicians, such as Baltimore and New York, have issued orders to their police officers to stop proactive law enforcement practices, such as questioning known criminals they spot on the street. These policies have caused a dramatic increase in, not only street crimes like dope dealing, armed robbery and burglaries, but also in assaults and murders.

By not allowing police officers to take positive actions to protect innocent citizens, these politicians have aided criminals and allowed them to flourish.

I would agree that separating legitimate crime detection from simple snooping for either political or personal reasons is hard to define from a policy perspective. We have seen many abuses in the last few years simply because the folks being targeted held a different political view than those in power.

But to just give up and allow crooks to roam freely isn’t an option, is it?

We also have seen successes as many terrorist plots have been stopped by aggressive law enforcement efforts. So, there has to be a balance that we can all agree on, and that will both prevent situations that lead to murders and protect the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens.

Can police prevent shootings like the one in Chattanooga? They could, but it will take a strong political will to make it happen.

In the meantime, we will continue to experience out-of-control crime and murder rates while terrorist groups continue attacking the United States.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at news@noozhawk.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.