Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York was carried out by a 29-year-old man who rented a Home Depot truck and drove it onto a bike path. Such forms of attack are extremely simple to carry out. They need no planning, no coordination with a central organization and are not difficult to obtain equipment.
They are therefore impossible to completely stop with security measures alone.
Counter-extremism organization the Quilliam Foundation said of the attack:
“This unfortunate incident once again highlights the importance of focusing resources on deradicalization work and implementing a better strategy to prevent extremism, as incidents of this nature are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for security services to predict and stop.”
New York is not unguarded. Entering the United States requires extensive security checks. Immigration from countries like Uzbekistan (the nationality of the terrorist) is complex and requires background checks.
Not only that, but once an attack is underway there are armed police everywhere. In this case, the terrorist was shot very promptly at the scene by a nearby uniformed officer.
The FBI and CIA carry out extensive surveillance operations around the world. They monitor correspondence, tap phone conversations and pay informants. They have spies inside foreign governments and inside terrorist organizations. They have reconnaissance satellites in space.
America’s security services work tirelessly to protect the country from every conceivable foe, and most of the time they succeed. The United States government spends over $16 billion annually to counter terrorism. They can even use drones to kill any designated target pretty much anywhere in the world.
But with all this technology and money, they cannot read people’s minds and cannot prevent someone from just deciding to run people over with a truck.
People decide to carry out attacks like that in the name of an ideology. An ideology they find powerful enough to die for it. All the security in the world cannot prevent individuals who believe in something from acting in the name of that belief: That killing random civilians will trigger the war between Muslims and the West that they crave and enable them to usher in a totalitarian caliphate.
They will always find new ways to attack and new ways to hide because it simply isn’t possible to eliminate every potential avenue of terror.
The only way to end radical Islamic terrorism once and for all is to discredit the ideology which fuels it.