“Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”
By what appears to be a stroke of good fortune, today’s attempted bombings in London did not result as intended in the massacre of innocents that occurred two weeks ago today. It brings to mind to the IRA statement quoted above that was issued after the 1984 Brighton bombing that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher narrowly survived but which killed five and wounded scores of others.
At this moment, very preliminary reports suggest that faulty explosive devices–made up of the same homemade material as used in the 7/7 bombings–failed to detonate as planned. This was not a case of a message being sent but rather a technical glitch that by great good fortune thwarted the murderers. And it is in any case quite out of character for the jihadists operating under the banner of al Qaeda to send calibrated signals with a view to a negotiated settlement of outstanding grievances. As one of their confederates put it, “We don’t fight so that you negotiate with us. We are fighting to eliminate you.”
But good luck–and the superbly professional response of the security and emergency services after the fact–is not a policy that the U.K. (or the U.S.) can rely on to thwart attacks now in train. It is an urgent necessity both for the U.S. and the U.K. to rethink the conventional wisdom that has blinded the civilized world to the nature of the threat it faces. In the forthcoming issue of National Review, John O’Sullivan lays out the existential challenges facing Britain in the wake of the 7/7 attacks:
To ameliorate and eventually solve such a… problem means dealing simultaneously with several deeply-rooted component ones: getting better intelligence on the terrorist networks in place in order to disrupt them; deporting known Muslim extremists already here; controlling and ultimately reducing immigration; replacing a failed multiculturalism with a common British culture and identity that encompasses immigrant identities as the American identity once did; and above all encouraging British Muslims to embrace Britishness as their principal political identity and thus to reject the Islamist vision of a world-wide caliphate. To achieve even one of these aims will be difficult. For instance, deporting known extremists would probably require either withdrawing Britain from international conventions on torture and asylum (extremely difficult) or getting the international community to re-write them (impossible.) To achieve all of them will be a heroic task.
All of these admittedly formidable challenges are at least more readily admissible in the wake of today’s attacks. Denial is no longer an acceptable response to organized violence against the British (and American) way of life. As comrade Trotsky put it to liberals convinced that warfare was a thing of the past: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
–John F. Cullinan formerly served as a senior foreign-policy adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops, focusing on international law, international religious freedom, and human rights.