The Manchester Arena seats 21,000 people and is home to sporting events, concerts, and other spectacles that gather large amounts of people into an enclosed space. As such, it has defensive security measures in place including guards and metal detectors. To defeat these precautions, a 22 year old suicide bomber who was known to the British security services simply waited outside the arena where he managed to murder 22 innocent people and maim dozens more.
The Saint Petersburg subway had even less security when a suicide bomber killed over a dozen people on April 3, 2017. Pedestrians in Nice had no safeguards when a terrorist was able to kill 86 people last July with nothing more sophisticated that a rental truck and a drivers license. Spectacular explosions or mass casualty terrorist attacks are carried out in Western cities a few times a year, with many more lower level attacks (stabbings, beheadings, shootings, hit and run car attacks, etc) interspersed in between.
A massive terrorist attack such as 9/11 or the African embassy bombings take years to plan, require tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, a complex organizational structure, and frequent travel, all of which provides us with opportunities to prevent them – and despite out best efforts they sometimes get through. The current wave of radical Islamic terrorism often involves a lone individual getting radicalized online until he suddenly decides to grab a knife, a gun, or a car and kill some infidels. This requires little preparation and provides little warning.
It is a sad fact of our current life that these low level attacks will continue. They are nearly impossible to detect and stop beforehand. If a lone wolf terrorist decides he wants to kill some crusaders in the next town over, there is little a free society can do to intercept him.
But nor should we simply accept terrorism as a way of life and resign ourselves to frequent attacks. If we cannot stop a terrorist between radicalization and his attack, we need to prevent his radicalization.
Once again, as a free society we cannot control what websites people visit or monitor who everyone speaks to. If we are to stop the radicalization, if we are to stop the terrorist attacks, it must be done overseas. It must be done in the Middle East. The only way to stop a self-radicalized lone wolf attacker in America, Britain, France, or any other Western city is to wipe out the death cult masquerading as a religion at its source. Tear it up root and branch.
But doing this would cost us – a lot. It would cost us significant amounts of money, American lives, and prestige while the world hates us for protecting them. It would require leadership and a society willing to sacrifice. So we won’t do it – for now. We will sit back and accept frequent terrorism as a way of life while our security forces play whack-a-mole, until one day there is another attack so devastating it spurs us to action. And when that day comes, we will curse ourselves for not having taken action sooner.