When IRA terrorists came within seconds of killing Margaret Thatcher with a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton back in 1984, they addressed their failure with an ominous message: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”
Yesterday, when an Islamist who had pledged allegiance to ISIS plowed a rental truck into dozens of bicyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, a similar message was clearly conveyed: New York City’s luck had finally run out.
Although there had been attempts—a truck bomb that failed to detonate in Times Square, a plot to set off explosives in the subway system—terrorists had not successfully carried out an attack in New York since the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. That’s a remarkable record, considering that New York has always been the jihadis’ number one target, and stands as a testament to the tireless work of the FBI and the NYPD, whose constant vigilance has been key to preventing disaster.
There is, however, only so much that can humanly be done—so it was inevitable that at some point, someone would succeed in unleashing death and destruction on the streets of New York once again. This time, eight people have been killed—all because they chose to be out on those streets, enjoying a beautiful day with friends and family, when evil happened upon them. It’s the same horror we saw unfolding in London not so long ago, and in Berlin before that, and in Nice before that. Even the method was the same—a truck used to run people down. Decidedly low-tech, the crudity of the attack was matched only by its effectiveness.
And therein lies the real terror.
How can authorities prevent anybody from renting a large vehicle and doing this? The brutal truth is that they can’t. That’s why ISIS encourages those it inspires to carry out such attacks. They’re easy and unpredictable—certainly not as spectacular as a 9/11, but they also don’t require any planning, funding or expertise to carry off. Literally anyone can do it, and it only seems as if more and more are.
So again, what can be done?
Sayfullo Saipov, the man who carried out yesterday’s murder spree, was originally from Uzbekistan, and was here on a “diversity visa” he won in a lottery. Lucky him—but not so much for his victims. Maybe we can start there, and ask ourselves how wise it is to give a random visa to someone from a part of the world filled with people who hate America.
That alone won’t prevent all terrorism, but at least it’ll be less likely.