The car bomb discovered in Times Square over the weekend wasn't that sophisticated. It consisted of propane tanks, containers of gasoline, and some fertilizer (a non-combustible kind). Indeed, law-enforcement officials and news organizations referred to it as "crude," "amateurish," and "simple." On our air yesterday, a listener called it "juvenile."
Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Jonathan Stevenson, a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College, argue that we shouldn't dismiss the potential dangerousness of improvised explosive devices (IED).
In an opinion piece, published in The Washington Post, they argue that we may see more IEDs here, in the United States, since they've proven to be effective elsewhere — in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in parts of Europe.
"The incident marks the domestic introduction of familiar terrorist techniques that may be harder to thwart than those to which the U.S. homeland security apparatus became attuned after Sept. 11," they write.
Why? Part of the reason is that IEDs are not easy to detect. Until a vigilant vendor heard noises and saw smoke emanating from the Nissan Pathfinder on Saturday night, the vehicle didn't attract much attention.
These days, vehicle-borne IEDs are suited to urban spaces, in which cars are commonplace and inconspicuous and dense populations mean relatively high numbers of casualties. These points would not be lost on jihadist leaders and aspiring acolytes, who tend to be students of their craft.