BREMMER: The Right Response to Terror

BREMMER: The Right Response to Terror

There's a lot we still don't know about yesterday's terrorist attack in London. As of this writing, it appears that one person carried it out. That person, killed during the attack, appears to be a UK citizen that MI5 has monitored in the past. Seven arrests have reportedly been made, but we can't assess the guilt or innocence of those in custody. If they were involved, we don't know whether they were passively complicit or active accomplices.

Let's move to the bigger picture. French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has already said the London attack demonstrates that France needs to expel radicalized foreigners, among other things. In the US, Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka says the attacks underline the very real threat to the US. Donald Trump Jr provoked a disgusted reaction in Britain with criticism that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had suggested terrorism is “part of living in a big city” with out-of-context comments he made several months ago.

This should be all the evidence we need, if any were needed, that populists and xenophobes on both sides of the Atlantic will try to use this and future terrorist attacks to advance their arguments. And it will dominate news cycles. But the attacker in this case, as in the Orlando nightclub attack, was not an immigrant or refugee. He was a British citizen, according to Prime Minister Theresa May. ISIS has claimed credit for the attack, of course, but early assessment from UK officials suggests he was “inspired by international terrorism” rather than a foot soldier acting on orders from Syria, Iraq, or anywhere else.

No, we shouldn't accept terrorist attacks as inevitable. I'm not aware that any serious person has suggested that. But Sadiq Khan is right that life in a big city requires preparation for potential attacks. Law enforcement can't prevent every attack by every emotionally unstable person “inspired” by someone else's acts of carnage. It's not hard to use a vehicle, a knife, or a gun to hurt people, and the police can't be everywhere.

The wisest response is to ensure that counter-terrorism officials and law enforcement work together to the best of their abilities to adapt their tools to meet evolving threats. As citizens, the best we can do is to remain vigilant as we expect our leaders to meet these challenges with ideas designed to enhance our safety without throwing our principles in the garbage.

In the meantime, the British have it right: Keep calm and carry on.

Read more from Ian Bremmer and the Eurasia Group team at Eurasia Live.