After yesterday's suicide attack in Glasgow there will undoubtedly be, as there is, instant reaction and analysis in the Sunday press. However, it is not today that matters but the next and the next. After any attack there is always an instant and for the most part consensual outrage, but, if past history is to go by it will be the analysis on Monday and Tuesday where the consensus will begin to break down in the commentary.
It was already starting to happen yesterday on the BBC prior to the Glasgow incident. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has happily shared a platform with an Islamist extremist and bizarrely called him a moderate voice, was on the Today programme saying, predictably, that it was all because of Iraq and unemployment.
The problem of course with this analysis, is that it implies that if you solve unemployment amongst young Muslims and you pull out of Iraq it will all just go away. The doublethink required to hold this position ignores suicide attacks that happened prior to Iraq. In those cases the argument is shifted to Afghanistan, or the Palestinian issue, and crucially in all cases the blame of the attacks does not lie with the perpetrators but with the West.
Our actions, you see, make them do it, don't you understand? This can actually be quite an appealing argument the first time it is presented to anyone. Much as the first time you read a Robert Fisk article you might be forgiven for thinking its argument was sound and concise. However, the problem comes when you realise the shifting nature of the argument as each of the previous ones no longer applies.
Hence we go from 9/11 being America's fault because of troop presence in Saudi Arabia and support for Israel; the next attack is because of Afghanistan; and the next is because of Iraq, so on and so forth. The sophists and unthinking side of this argument will always, without hesitation, find a reason that attacks are of our own making, and every time they do it, at the core will be a self-loathing of Western values. A postmodern position that says that our values are not worth anymore than the medievalist values of the perpetrators of the attacks.
Some people have never liked the language of the "war on terror" and consider that to be part of the problem too. We are not at war they say. Or we cannot have war with a concept. However, in both cases the mistake is to think of war in the literal militaristic sense. We are at war, but it is an ideological one. A battle of ideas that is little different to the one that stemmed from 1917 to 1990. The only difference this time is that it is not an internal battle of the Enlightenment. That battle was rational actor against rational actor where death was not considered as an end in itself. Hence mutually assured destruction (MAD) was, in its own bizarre way, a guarantor of it not tipping over the edge.
Now though it is a battle of the Enlightenment against, as a friend once said to me, Endarkenment, and this time the other side isn't rational. It thinks nothing of its own death in achieving its ends. It's also acutely aware that the dominance of Western self-loathing is our greatest weakness. Is our way of life under threat? No. Our number is too great for that to seriously happen in any immediate sense. But does the other side want to fundamentally change our society, our way of life, and our values? Undoubtedly.
As long as we continue to see attacks as merely reactions to our own actions (thereby "our" fault), then the potential of our society changing more in line with their thinking grows ever greater.