The Corner

National Security & Defense

Is the Vehicle Assault the New Signature Terror Attack?

Today’s attack outside Parliament marks merely the latest in an increasingly long line of mass-casualty vehicle assaults. Terrorists are discovering that there is a weapon easier to obtain and use than bombs or even guns — the car in their driveway. It requires no special training to use, no background check to obtain, and it’s virtually impossible to stop unless the driver decides to drive into a solid object or decides to get out of the car. Even a man with a gun is easier to stop or kill than a man behind the wheel of a moving car. 

One of our under-appreciated advantages in the war against jihadists is that our terrorists enemies have often suffered not from a lack of imagination but rather from an excess of imagination. They’ve wanted to stage the grand, dramatic attack. Detonating bombs, hijacking planes, gunning down crowds of people — those are the kinds of attacks they imagine and plan for. The grander the attack, the greater the impact if it succeeds. But it’s also true that the large-scale attacks are more difficult to execute and easier to stop. There are good reasons why America hasn’t suffered from another large-scale terror attack since 9/11, and it’s not that terrorists aren’t trying. We’ve gotten lucky, yes, but it’s hard to hijack or bring down airliners. It’s hard to blow up embassies or try to sink ships. 

It’s not hard to get in a car, turn the ignition, and drive into a crowd of people. 

This is why the virus of jihad can’t be permitted to spread. This is why ISIS has to be crushed. This is why we have to be careful about who enters our country. Though spontaneous religious combustion can and does happen, it’s more often the case that terrorists work with or are inspired by existing jihadists and jihadist organizations. Thanks to brilliant reporting from the New York Times’s Rukmini Callimachi, we now know that multiple “lone wolf” attacks were in fact directed and enabled by ISIS operatives abroad. The business of terror frequently (but not always, of course) requires two parties — the willing jihadist at home and the enabling jihadist abroad. Thus it’s vital to attack the problem in both places, and that urgency only increases as terrorists refine their tactics. 

There are fewer potential bombmakers than their are potential gunmen. There are fewer potential gunmen than there are potential drivers. When it comes to vehicle attacks, the math does not work in our favor. 

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