The New York Truck Attack was perpetuated by a man who rented a truck with the expressed purpose of killing people in the name of the Islamic State. Terrorism is violence intentionally directed at a civilian population. It is violence that has been designed by individuals, groups of individuals, or governments to force a particular ideology or policy onto a targeted population. The New York Truck Attack is, therefore, an act of terrorism. It is one of a growing list of terrorist attacks that have taken place inside the United States. The style of this high-profile attack, however, makes it particularly alarming.
Even if the rampage had simply been a violent crime motivated by any number of things or it had been conducted by a non-immigrant, police would be obliged to minimize the possibilities of such attacks. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the terrorist attack and utilization of a widely available ‘weapon,’ i.e. a truck, makes it very difficult to stop these kind of terrorist attacks. If terrorist groups can commit a number of these small-scale terrorist attacks on random targets, their collective impact on a population can be far more devastating than that of a large-scale attack terrorist on a high-profile target. It is, after all, the potential to be a victim that makes terrorism so frightening to most people.
With that in mind, the police can attempt to prevent suspicious individuals from acquiring makeshift weapons, but people can always steal what they cannot rent or buy. The police can also try to safeguard pedestrians from wayward vehicles, which should always be a goal of transportation officials, and other violent attacks. The problem is that the world cannot be freed of all its hazards. Not only would this be cost prohibitive, it is not practical. Like accidents and violent crimes, there will always be a possibility of terrorism happening, which is more likely with this kind of terrorism even though the impact is smaller.
When Al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11th 2001, their actions were far more than just simple acts of terrorism. Al Qaeda with Osama Bin Laden at the helm and the many the organizations waving its banner sought legitimate power in the Middle East. The Muslim world has never been unified under one cause or dogma. Al Qaeda wanted to create a united ideological front against the West. Mistakes made during the US-led “War on Terror,” i.e. the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War, did much to help establish the credibly of Al Qaeda as an actual power in the eyes of many Middle Easterners. At the same time, the core Al Qaeda group catered to political considerations and concerned itself with diplomacy, thereby acting like a legitimate government.
Consequently, Al Qaeda tended to chose dramatic, "deserving" targets. As the group evolved, it largely played the role of a paramilitary force in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In terms of terrorist acts, Al Qaeda also tried to minimize collateral damage by justifying civilian deaths and limiting the number of Western attacks to well-planned, high-profile scenarios with a high probability of success. In other words, the leadership of Al Qaeda was trying to act more like a formal power fighting a war than a cohort of violent criminals with a political message. In many respects, this had helped restrain Al Qaeda from engaging in one random terrorist attack after another. It also helped minimize the number and types of terrorist attacks experienced by Westerners.
In 2010, Americans started to realize that a new kind of terrorist attack would originate from places like Yemen with the . The problem with Yemeni terrorists was that they were willing to indiscriminately launch poorly planned attacks with easily constructed explosives. Small-scale terrorist attacks like the New York Truck Attack can easily test and overwhelm the capacity of national security officials to defend against terrorism. Unfortunately, this means the likelihoods of experiencing a terrorist attacks has risen. It also means Americans and other Westerners can expect terrorism to become as normalized as other types of violent crime.
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