The sickening horror faced by the Bastille Day holiday crowd in Nice as a terrorist killed 84 and injured hundreds, is becoming a familiar feature of life in Europe and the United States. And it is all the more horrible for that.
The driver, eventually shot to death by police, was identified as a Tunisian-born resident of Nice named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old petty thief evidently inspired by radical Islamic calls for individual jihad to use the truck as a murder weapon, as recommended by an al-Qaida publication.
In the end it matters little whether he held allegiance to the Islamic State, since he was accomplishing its ends, like Omar Mateen, who killed 49 and wounded 53 with his guns last month at an Orlando nightclub.
These events are growing in number and should force a reconsideration of Western strategy for dealing with ISIS and the associated chaos in the Middle East.
To some extent, the incident in Nice exhibits the limits of self-defense measures. Nice has been at the center of French efforts in recent years to identify radicals and stop the spread of radicalization among its large Muslim population. But Bouhlel was not on their watch list, nor on the one kept by U.S. intelligence, according to early reports.
It should be of real concern that a few experts apparently have already written off the Nice slaughter as the kind of lone-wolf attack the world is going to have to live with.
Other experts rightly continue to urge stronger measures against ISIS in order to deliver the jihadist movement a decisive military defeat and reduce the incentives for such attacks.
Data on radical Islamic attacks over the past 15 years suggest that terror attacks subsided during the height of the Iraq war and rose again after the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011.
The first reaction of the Obama administration to the rise of ISIS was dismissive. Mr. Obama called it the “JV” compared to al-Qaida in January 2014. But in 2015 the attacks by ISIS tripled and are on a path to double again this year, while the rise of other terror attacks has also risen sharply.
An individual inspired to hatred of the West by al-Qaida, ISIS or other jihadist propaganda has now shown that he can use an ordinary tool of civilized life to create havoc. He is likely to have copycats as long as the sources of hatred continue to exist in safe havens.
On our Commentary page, Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky cites a variety of recommendations made by French intelligence experts to reduce the threat of terrorism.
Western governments have to improve the quality of actions that devastate the enemy’s capacity to commit terrorism.
This war isn’t close to being over. And it can’t be won with half measures against heartless murderers.