Over the past week, President Bush has been hammering home the point that the message of the London bombing is, “The best way to defend America is to stay on the offense.”
One can debate that point. In many cases, he could be right. But that hardly seems to be the message of last week’s events.
If anything, we’ve learned in no uncertain terms that the murderous, cultish disease of terrorism can quickly and effectively spread among those who live among us. The germ does not need to be nurtured in a petri dish or a cultural vacuum.
This is remarkable. When Hitler first started his proganda war against the Jews, Germans and other Europeans questioned his ideology because they had friends and neighbors who were Jews. That’s why ghettoization was a necessary part of the plan. Hitler needed to get the Jews (and the reality) out of the line of vision of those he sought to brainwash.
Extending from this historical model, it sort of makes sense that bin Laden and others have been able to convince young, frustrated and repressed males that America and the Jews are the cause of all their problems.
But these global cells are something entirely different and are in many ways a lot more scary. The wildly false and ultimately (and often literally) self-destructive indoctrination is working even when the targets of that messaging live among their potential victims.
There is no cave to smoke out and no bunker to bust.
The challenge in the coming years is to figure out some way (in between the bombing runs that are hard for anyone to argue against at times like these) to address and begin to treat this social psychosis that is being absorbed into a generation of young Muslim males.
It will be anything but easy. But really, there is no other viable solution.
Of course, keeping terror networks on the run is a good thing. Hitting them hard is mandatory. There is evidence that the monster has become headless – in Iraq, an Egyptian envoy was killed on the same day as the bombings which makes no sense if there was some broad coordination. I’m willing to believe that we have some elements of Al Qaeda on the run. And I certainly believe that there is no option but to stay the course in Iraq at this point.
But none of this will address the one element that we cannot seem to come close to getting a grip on: The madness.