London Bombing

A few thoughts about the attacks in London this morning:

  • After September 11, people in every part of the world observed a moment of silence. After the March 11 attacks in Spain, there was no such response in solidarity in the United States, even though per capita the impact on the country was similar. Although the sheer death toll in London may not be the same order of magnitude, it is the worst attack against people in that country in half a century.

    There should be some gesture that people around the world can join to indicate their opposition to any sort of indiscriminate attack on civilians, regardless of their politics otherwise. The overwhelming majority of people who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also vehemently oppose violent retribution, and there should be a way to make that clear. Moreover, the United States is not the only country that deserves the sympathy of the world after tragedy—the whole world should stand together no matter who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

  • Do people really believe that the goal of the terrorists is to destroy our freedom? Or that they hate our way of life? (E.g, Tony Blair’s remarks). I’d be interested to know the origin of this theme—at some point, the cold war anti-Soviet rhetoric was somehow adapted to the war on terror.

    I don’t think there’s any credible evidence that the terrorists want to impose a militant repressive fundamentalist Islamic regime on the United States or the Western World. They don’t care whether American women are forced to cover their faces in public. They don’t really care about “our most deeply held beliefs.” My understanding is that they are concerned almost exclusively with the United States and Western presence in the Islamic world. If anyone has evidence to the contrary (e.g., samples of terrorist propaganda), I’d be interested to see it.

    Whether there ought to be militant repressive fundamentalist regimes in the Islamic world is a separate question—but if that’s what this is about, let’s at least say it.

  • In the United States, security was immediately increased after the bombings, although apparently only for mass transit systems. Is there really any reason to think an attack is more likely on mass transit in the United States now, a few hours after the London bombings, rather than a week from now, or two months from now, or against a bridge or a mall rather than a subway or a bus? Are the authorities afraid of “copycat” attacks, or attacks planned in coordination with the original attacks? If the former, is it really plausible that the copycats would be able to get their acts together in just a few hours? If the latter, why would the attackers design their attack so that the authorities had notice and time to prepare for them? It seems to be that now is probably the safest time to take a subway in the United States or really anywhere else in the world.

    I’m sure there is a brief period of time—say a few minutes after an initial attack—when extremely heightened security measures might accomplish something. For example, the time between the two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center, or the several bombs on the London underground. But after that, doesn’t the chance of another identical attack just go back to complete random chance?

    Similarly, there are concerns that tourism to England is going to take a huge hit from this event. But why should we expect the next attack to be in England? Given one dot, you can draw a line in any direction you want. First, Spain; then, England; next, — France? Norway? Back to Spain? Las Vegas?

    It seems to me that we need some kind of analysis—and intelligence—that isn’t founded on an expectation that the next attack will be identical to the last one. Otherwise, we’re just “doing something” because “something is better than nothing,” which isn’t necessarily true.


  1. tapeworm Jan 28

    “First, Spain; then, England; next, — France?”

    nope: Italy for sure!

  2. Ari Pollak Jan 28

    “it is the worst attack against people in that country in half a century.”

    not unless you count Scotland as being in the same country.

  3. karl Jan 28

    report from a rural mid-west town 80 miles east of chicago:

    yes, people do believe that terrorists hate freedom. (and so do activist judges).

  4. Kai Hendry Jan 28

    Good post.

    It really strikes my nerves when Tony Blair claims the terriorist hate freedom and want to destroy our way of life. Honestly. :(

  5. Anonymous Jan 28

    Increased mass-transit security after the London bombings

  6. Anonymous Jan 28

    “After September 11, people in every part of the world observed a moment of silence. After the March 11 attacks in Spain, there was no such response in solidarity in the United States, even though per capita the impact on the country was similar. Although the sheer death toll in London may not be the same order of magnitude, it is the worst attack against people in that country in half a century.”

    So your position is that international response to terrorist attacks, in terms of compassion or showing of solidarity, should be a function of number of lives lost/population of the country in which the attack occurred? It seems like you want to work in some weighting factor based on prior attacks in the country as well. I’m curious about how exactly you want to do this. Clearly you seem to think that 3/11/2004 Spain and 7/7/2005 London should be on the list for internation outpouring of sympathy. How about the ferry attack in the Philippines, or the hostage taking in Beslan, or the 11/2003 Istanbul bombings? You don’t seem to have mentioned these, or hundreds of other terrorist attacks, in your blog. Maybe because they didn’t occur in Western Europe? Is there some other reason?

  7. Adam Rosi-Kessel Jan 28

    I’m not sure who posted the previous comment, but the writer seems to completely misunderstand my position. I didn’t mean to imply at all that there should be some “weighting” for each attack; but rather to point out the inconsistency of the whole world mourning one attack on the United States, while there is virtually no widespread observance of sympathy in the U.S. after attacks on the people of other countries. Certainly there are official expressions of sympathy (I believe Bush attended some ceremony in Spain after 3/11/04) but that is qualitatively different from mass observance. I point out the London bombings because they just happened, and the Spanish ones because I wrote about it at the time, but if there was anything in my blog entry to suggest that some attacks are more worthy than others, I certainly didn’t mean that.

  8. Cleo Jan 28

    Your comments are interesting but not entirely thought out. You seem to take offense or imply the U.S is wrong in that there was no national moment of silence for Madrid or now London. However, the ananymous writer has a point – you make no mention of Bali, the Russian school slaughter, the Phillippines or numerous other terrorists attacks (many or all of which were carried out by militant, fanatical islamists – but terrorism is terrosrism, whatever the basis for the attack). Perhaps you are right, that we should have moments of silence for each and every attack, but you should not limit your analysis to just Western Europe. Also, you do not mention that there were non-verbal gestures of solidarity. The US flew the Union Jack over the State Department (at half mast) following the London bombings. I must confess, I do not recall what if anything, that was done for Bali, Madrid, etc. However, the real issue is not whether we carry out a moment of silence, it is what useful, concrete actions are we taking? Are we reaching out to other Muslims, to build bridges of peaceful friendship – to educate about the differences and similarities that we all share. Have we donated to the victims? Are people still traveling to these countries, to boost tourism and show the terrorists we shall not be cowed? I hope so.

    You pick on Tony Blair as misidentifying the driving force behind the perpetrators, and you may be correct; but your analysis of the root of the attacks is not entirely correct either, based on my readings. The terrorists want the West out of Saudi Arabia (and presumably the entore Middle East) BECAUSE of our way of life, our values and the choices/freedoms we have available to us. So, indirectly, our way of life is the reason we are being attacked. If our countries were militant Islamist countries, then we are unilkely to be the targets we are today. I agree with you that it appears the terrorists would be happy to have a West/East divide, and not care a whit for what WE do on our side of the border, but their goals are completely unrealistic. The West-East connection cannot end, economically, politically or otherwise. The cultures are tied by history, education, fuel, trade (other than oil), military needs and migration of peoples form both sides of the divide to the other’s countries.

    I hope every day that people could focus on what is positive about others, even if they are different, and not hate. Hate is the root of evil and the failure to speak out or take action against it is the fuel that hate needs to grow and dominate. Education and reaching out to others goes a long way to forging peace.

Leave a Reply

(Markdown Syntax Permitted)