Thursday, July 14, 2005

First London Lessons / Comment & analysis / Comment - Engage Muslim support or lose the war on terror

It still much too early to draw any definitive lessons from the terrorist attack that struck London. We do not know enough about the background, the plan and the perpetrators.

One possible conclusion is that the attack was a failure from the viw of the attacker. More than 50 people lost their lives, but this is a far cry from either New York in 2001 or Madrid in 2004.

Financial markets hardly registred the event. London life goes on as before. The world has adjusted to a new normality, which regrettably includes these sorts of attacks.

The September 11 attack in 2001 against New York and Washingon was probably more succesful than its planners had anticipated. Although one of the aircrafts failed to reach its designated target in Washington - either the White House or the Capitol - this was ambly compensated for by the physical collapse of the World Trade Center in New York, which could hardly have been anticipated.

But this attack against London in fact achieved very little. It was a coordinated strike along the Madrid model against innocent humans where they are mostly found - on trains, buses and in subways - but it failed to paralyze the city or the nation to any significant extent.

Londoners had seen terrorism before, and to some extent they were even anticipating it.

So, the first preliminary conclusions concerns the diminishing effectiveness and the diminishing returns on these attacks, without in any way diminishing the magnitude of the threat they represent.

If this - in the context of things - is slightly reassuring, the second conclusion is far less so.

For the first time we see suicide bombers appearing in Europe, and these seems not to be coming from somewhere else, but from these countries themselves. The hearth of the threat is in Europe itself.

We'll learn much more in due time. But the one reassuring and the one disturbing preliminary conclusion still merits and rather profound debate on where we are heading.

The contribution of Anatol Lieven in the Financial Times yesterday is an important part of that debate.