A 29-year-old man driving a rental truck plowed down people on a Manhattan bike path Tuesday in what authorities described as a terrorist attack that killed eight and injured 11 before the suspect was shot and arrested by police.
A sunny fall day along the Hudson River erupted in chaos just around the time students were getting out from nearby Stuyvesant High School, when a rented Home Depot truck turned on to the bike path along the West Side Highway. . . . According to a video from the scene, the man then jumped out of the wrecked vehicle brandishing what appeared to be handguns. Some witnesses said he shouted “Allahu akbar’’ meaning “God is great’’ in Arabic.
The alleged driver is a green-card holder, not a refugee. He originally came from Uzbekistan, not one of the countries covered by President Trump’s ill-conceived travel ban. This is not the first time we have noted that Trump’s purported actions to keep the United States “safe” are at best useless and at worst offensive to communities and countries whose help we need to combat self-radicalized terrorists as well as more sophisticated plotters.
But, in fairness, even when we take reasonable, effective actions against Islamist terrorism, we do not guarantee that these incidents will stop. We are defeating the Islamic State and destroying its caliphate, and yet Islamist fundamentalism may still inspire murderous rampages. We can authorize and reauthorize National Security Agency surveillance programs, but a single killer need not communicate with anyone overseas to launch a plot. We can interdict money flowing to terrorism, but all this attack cost was the rental fee for a truck.
The Post quotes Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, as saying: “We have to expect that as the capital of the caliphate has now fallen, there are going to be increasing efforts to show that they remain dangerous and lethal, and to expand the virtual caliphate. But at this point, we don’t know whether this was an ISIS-directed attack or merely someone acting out of radical inspiration.”
So what do we do? Do we learn to “live with” these low-level attacks? Let’s begin with what we should not do — demonize an entire religion, assail our own democratic institutions, demean our intelligence community or politicize every corner of government. Stop attacking localities as alleged “sanctuary cities” (whatever those are) when they put a premium on cooperating with local communities. (In other words, local and state authorities should be entrusted to set priorities and to encourage reporting of suspicious activity from every community.)
Beyond that, we should continue to do the big things (destroy the Islamic State’s territorial haven) and the not-so-big-but-critically-important things (more extensive use of barriers, improved police relations with Muslim communities). We control what we can, and we understand that we cannot eliminate every threat, of every size, of every origin. That is how Israel has survived since its inception; that is how we address ordinary, domestic crime.
This should not be confused with complacency or fatalism. To the contrary, we should remain determined to do whatever is in our power to halt the scourge of Islamist terrorism, but in doing so, we should stop doing silly, time-wasting, counterproductive things for political reasons. We should stop stoke fear of our fellow Americans and of foreigners. Focus on what’s doable and avoid idiotic stunts that make us no safer and that do great damage to the fabric of our democracy. In short, stop Trump from being Trump.