Why Terrorist Attacks Are So Rare
Peter Bergen says government crackdowns since the Oklahoma City and 9/11 attacks have made getting bomb making materials harder.
In my morning posting “Keep Calm and Carry On,” I observed regarding the apparent terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, “while these attacks are thankfully rare, I can’t for the life of me figure out why” because “It’s simply impossible to protect all of our schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and other places where hundreds and even thousands of people gather on a daily basis.”
CNN’s Peter Bergen offers an explanation:
Almost overnight, the Oklahoma City attacks destroyed the scant credibility of the type of right-wing militia groups that McVeigh had associated with.
The feds also began to pay considerable attention to anyone purchasing large amounts of fertilizer of the kind that was used to construct the Oklahoma City truck bomb.
After 9/11 there was a rapid increase in the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, which are made up of multiple law enforcement agencies working together to ferret out suspected terrorist activity.
And following the 9/11 attacks, far more businesses started reporting to law enforcement suspicious purchases of any kind of material that could be used for bomb-making.
As a result, since 9/11 bomb plots that have simply fizzled out have overwhelmingly been the rule.
This credits government action in preventing crazies from getting the necessary materials rather than a lack of crazies. And that’s a completely plausible explanation for a relative decline in these attempts since 9/11 and OKC. But it’s noteworthy that, even before those attacks, they were pretty rare. Which leads me to think that there just aren’t that many people who simultaneously harbor a strong desire to kill large numbers of their fellow man and possess the skills to actually carry out the act.
UPDATE: Sean Paul Kelley points out via Twitter that my last sentence isn’t quite right: Some non-terrorists who want to effect mass killing “buy guns and go on a shooting rampage instead.” Indeed, unless you’re awfully good at it–in which case your results can be spectacular–you’re less likely to kill a lot of people with explosives than with a surprise gun attack.