LONDON - I arrived in this city the morning after the bombings. I didn't come here to do any reporting, but when a city is attacked in such a way, every stroll amounts to newsgathering. All in all, the city was pleasantly empty and the people didn't seem particularly terrorized. Then again, the fact that the city was pleasantly empty was perhaps the best proof that the "7/7" murderers had some of their intended effect. This was a Friday in a normally bustling city, and many Londoners simply opted to wait until Monday before trying the bus or subway again.
Obviously, modern terrorism is a psychological weapon more than an overtly military one. Its aim is to persuade civilian populations to surrender where military forces never would.
And, alas, it often works. Europe has become steadily more pro-Palestinian in no small part because of Palestinian terrorism. The French abandoned Algeria because of terrorism. The IRA has had mixed success from terrorism. And of course the most strikingly successful terrorist attack in recent years was the Madrid bombing, which - with the help of some political incompetence - resulted in the Spanish withdrawal from Iraq.
And here in the United Kingdom, there are those who believe Tony Blair should have followed Spain's lead into similar retreat. George Galloway, the British MP who has been embroiled in the UN oil-for-food scandal, immediately called on the British to follow Spain's example and respond to the bombings by immediately pulling all of its troops out of "harm's way" in Iraq. It was unclear whether he thought Tony Blair should bend over and let Osama Bin Laden smack him with a paddle while the prime minister shouted, "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"
The peculiar irony of the British left's position is that they are so keen to "blame the victim" - normally a major left-wing no-no. Gary Younge, a writer for the execrably anti-American newspaper The Guardian, proclaimed that the attacks were a direct result of the war in Iraq and that they never would have happened otherwise. The war, Younge writes, "diverted our attention and resources from the very people we should have been fighting - al-Qaida."
Of course, the same Mr. Younge believed that the invasion of Afghanistan was unjustified, and after the 9/11 attacks he wrote eloquently about why so many Arabs, Muslims and anti-American Europeans had legitimate reasons to cheer.
In their caricatured asininity, Young and Galloway are extreme examples of a more widespread mindset that assumes that America (along with its British and other allies) is the problem. And if we would just stop bothering the beehive, the bees would just stop stinging us.
This is nonsense. Everything we've learned about the jihadis in recent years points to the fact that they are more like killer bees than conventional ones. They spread. They're aggressive. And the seek to replace the traditional population wherever they appear.
Regardless, the real danger isn't from a tiny rabble of jihadi useful idiots, but from the great mass of the British public. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, The Independent ran a splashy front page story on the "backlash" against Muslims. The worst assaults on London since the Blitz, and the "backlash" amounted to little more than a broken window and a man getting roughed up in a pub. One has to wonder how many more pub beatings took place that same weekend because some idiot said something unkind about Manchester United.
The scandal wasn't that there was a "backlash" against the Muslim community. It is that there wasn't more of a backlash within the Muslim community. We now know that the attackers were British born and raised Muslims. Yet there's precious little evidence that the Muslim community is eager to turn on the enemy within with any admirable enthusiasm. And there are even fewer signs that the British media has any interest in contributing to a "climate" that would encourage such a development.
This is a recipe for unmitigated disaster. Obviously, it makes terrorism more likely. And it also makes precisely the sort of climate the press and moderate Muslims fear most. If normal Muslims can't be counted on to turn on terrorists in their midst, how can a nation avoid taking measures that will seem unfair to normal Muslims? Already nine out of 10 Brits support sweeping new powers for the police. If jihadis can hide among the larger Muslim population, it's obvious that the larger Muslim population will come under greater scrutiny. The logic of the cancer cell kicks in, and even more young Muslims feel "oppressed" and the number of jihadis will grow.
But even if the number doesn't grow, the danger is already enormous. The official number of British Muslims is 1.6 million, though most observers say it's closer to 2 million or so. The "official" guess at how many of these Muslims are jihadis is 16,000, based on the assumption that no more than 1 percent could be extremists.
This, of course, could be wishful thinking. And wishful thinking is the enemy's greatest asset.