Vehicle terror attacks - Europe at danger?
Why is Europe facing a wave of terrorist attacks while ISIS's power has been constantly diminished ? Why are they using cars ? Are those attacks always perpetrated by terrorists ?
If you were on holidays like me and didn't watch the news, your reaction after turning on your TV might have been "What the f***". In the space of just a few days, Barcelona, Cambrils, Charlottesville, Marseille, Paris (its suburb) and Helsinki have been striked with attacks using cars. Didn't think 2017 could be as bad as 2016.
Are those even terrorist attacks ?
First off, let's not get mixed up. There has been such a big mediatization of terrorism and ISIS (not saying it wasn't needed, just pointed that out) that you'd tend to think all of those attacks were perpetrated by terrorists. However, according to the governments of those cities and their police, all of the attackers were not terrorists. Although they look very similar on the surface, acts of crime and acts of terrorism are, in theory, very different. But how do we differentiate them ?
The definition of an act of terrorism varies depending on what country you're talking about but they all basically give you a same idea: an act of terrorism is an act of violence against a person or even an object which has a much broader intended audience than its victims and that has an ideological motive. On the other hand, an act of crime would usually serve a personal motive and not have an intended audience. The attacks that recently happened in Marseille, Paris's suburb (a small village called Sept-Sorts) and Helsinki are not terrorist attacks but attacks perpetrated by people that have "mental issues". Therefore they were qualified as criminal attacks. Problem is, doesn't a terrorist have mental issues too ?
This is where it could get a bit more complicated. Indeed the line between an act of terrorism and an act of crime is getting blurry, and judging someone for an act of crime is completely different than for an act of terrorism. For now, we could say that a terrorist is a criminal too, but that a criminal isn't in most cases a terrorist.
Anyway, what's up with cars ?
Terrorist attack or not, we keep hearing about people using cars to ram into a crowd. It's not new, and isn't what terrorists have used the most up to today, but it has definitely become more frequent. A quarter of the 28 terrorist attacks that happened in Europe in 2017 used this technique, so it's normal that we get concerned.
Should we get scared of this new way of killing people ? I have a mixed feeling about the answer, and yes I'm implying that this might not be as bad as we think.
But let's start with why this could be dangerous. First, how do you even protect yourself from a car chasing you at a 100 miles an hour ? Answer is: you can't... This type of attack seems difficult for the police to prevent since they do not require any illegal material and that at the end of the day putting posts all over the sidewalks and always having the police around probably isn't a world you'd want to live in. Second, those attacks could happen anywhere at any moment, and there's no way of really predicting them. Furthermore there have been rising ideas that closing borders, punishing radicalized people and protecting ourselves from future attacks just by increasing the police's power won't help. The French government has therefore tried to implement a center of "de-radicalization" for radicalized french people, which on the surface looks like a good idea: In addition to protecting ourselves from attacks we should prevent our people to even think of committing an attack. However, this center has in fact completely failed to accomplish its goal since its members had to be volunteers and not have ever done any acts of crime.
But stop stressing out, the fact that terrorists are now using vehicles instead of bombs could be a sign of loss of power. This form of attack was often designated as "low-cost", they usually kill less people than bombs but are cheaper. We already know ISIS has been loosing a lot of its territory, so them resulting to that type of attack could just emphasize the fact that they pretty much don't have the time nor the money anymore to bring people to their territory to form them, set a plan and then send them back to Europe. (Side note 1: closing the borders probably wouldn't change anything, some of those terrorists have a european passeport. Side note 2: this doesn't apply for Barcelona's attack which was organized). The number of terror attacks that have happened lately might have scared you, and it's exactly how those attackers would want you to feel. Remember those attacks are low-cost. This could just be a sign that this is the end for them, and that using cars is their last option. Don't get scared, don't get angry, that's exactly what they need to survive.