Headlines scream of the dead and the dying in Madrid and we try to wrap our minds and emotions around the devastation and fathom man's inhumanity to man. Then we look for political answers. The answers are elusive because we have a new kind of enemy.
Not so long ago, technology ushered in what we thought was a different kind of warfare, offering an impersonal distance between the killer and the killed. No longer would the man with the rifle have to look his enemy in the eye before drawing a bead, or thrusting the saber into his heart.
With the invention of the cannon, the airplane and the big bomb, the enemy was farther and farther away until finally he became an impersonal, inanimate speck on the horizon. He could be annihilated without human emotion.
But terrorism breeds a different animal, one that slithers among those he hates, willing to blow himself up in plane, car, bus or subway. He only wants to takes innocent life, including women and children, with him. He defines humanity down in the expectation that his evil will compel cowardice in those who - unlike him - love life and liberty.
Terrorists are life-haters who think they will score a triumph of the will because they are willing to lose everything. Their death wish has replaced the life wish of ordinary humans. Their handlers operate from a political strategy to weaken the West and its allies, to undercut democracy by exploiting the fault lines of European vulnerability.
William Shawcross, who became an unrelenting critic of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger after American troops went into Cambodia in pursuit of the Viet Cong in 1970, writes a brilliant defense of Tony Blair and George W. Bush for going into Iraq in pursuit of Saddam Hussein. In his new book, "Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe and the War in Iraq," he argues that the threat of Saddam was both formidable and inevitable and to have left him in power would have been "immoral and dangerous."