At least six people were wounded early on Thursday in a car bombing near a…
(CNN)The attacks Tuesday morning on the airport and a subway station in Brussels were highly probable, and at the same time almost impossible to disrupt. That oxymoron is what makes this wave of terrorism the most dangerous in history, and so different from even the days of al Qaeda.
As I wrote last week, the arrest on Friday of Paris terrorism suspect Salah Abdeslam was never going to be the end of the fight. Indeed, it could possibly be the beginning of a new wave from ISIS.
Because Abdeslam was captured alive, European authorities were likely going to be able to get him to speak and perhaps reveal details about the network that had aided him in the Paris attacks last year and that let him remain in hiding for months after. And even absent any willingness to speak on his part, Belgian officials would have been more than willing to make it appear as if he were cooperating. Indeed, as early as last weekend, Belgian officials were saying that Abdeslam was “collaborating,” a word that makes it sound like he was more than happy to turn over information.
Those in his network, or those who support ISIS, were likely to feel the pressure and launch attacks if they had the opportunity. So why, many are asking, wasn’t Brussels ready for another attack?
Basically, no country is ever completely ready.
Security has three fundamental attributes in any open society: minimizing risk, maximizing defenses, and maintaining freedom. Officials minimize the risk by sharing intelligence, infiltrating terrorist groups and trying to disrupt them. They maximize defenses by deploying more police and counterterrorism officials, managing borders, and hardening targets as much as practicable.
The challenge is always the third variable. Open societies that rely on the flow of people and goods, that are plugged into the global market and engaged with the world, can’t possibly harden every place where people gather.