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.