The Terror Attack in France

The Terror Attack in France July 15, 2016

I don’t normally post two items in a day, but this is a special circumstance.

I am of course utterly horrified at last night’s appalling terror attack in France. It made such a personal impact because the specific method is one I have discussed through the years. Just last week, I published an article for the American Conservative, warning of the danger of terror attacks by lone terrorists in cars or vehicles. Actually with the prospect of U.S. attacks in mind, I wrote,

So far, the most striking thing about these lone wolf vehicular attacks is just how relatively small the casualties have been, but that could change very easily. It would be easy to imagine drivers choosing denser crowds, during busy shopping seasons or major sporting events. In this scenario, long lines of fans or shoppers or travelers represent a target rich environment. On such occasions, a determined driver not afraid of being killed could easily claim twenty or more fatalities.

Whatever else we might say about limiting access to firearms (even assault rifles), such a policy of itself would do nothing whatever to prevent these kinds of low-tech violence. The solution lies in efficient forms of intelligence gathering, monitoring and surveillance, combined with psychological profiling. The danger with such methods is that they will not pick up every potential assailant, while running a serious risk of producing lots of false positives, aggressive blowhards who in reality will never commit a crime. Just how to walk that particular tightrope, between effective prevention and respecting rights to free speech, is going to offer a major challenge to law enforcement agencies of all kinds.

And yet again, it would be very useful if our political leaders felt able to speak the name of the actual cause for which all those murderous guns and knives and cars are being deployed. Perhaps that is too much to hope.

I dearly wish I had been wrong.

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