ALMOST 16 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks launched America and its allies – including Australia – into the long and bloody international battle referred to in the West as the War on Terror.
Largely because the West has a huge advantage when it comes to military power, the various Islamic groups waging jihad have made civilian attacks – by definition, acts of terrorism – their signature calling cards.
They have also succeeded in radicalising worrying numbers of westerners, who have gone on to carry out atrocious acts of mass violence, either as agents of various radical Islamic groups, or as “lone wolves” inspired to kill on their own accounts.
At the time of writing, it is still too early to be definitive about the tragic events that transpired at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Monday night, British time, or early on Tuesday morning in Australia. But by Tuesday afternoon, British police were describing the tragedy – which killed at least 22 people and injured at least 59 more – as the work of a suicide bomber, who died at the scene after detonating an improvised explosive device.
With condolences pouring in from around the globe, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other politicians suspended campaigning for the United Kingdom general election, scheduled for Thursday, June 8.
Recent history has shown that even if a radical group of some description does not claim responsibility for Manchester, authorities will be able to use a combination of modern forensic methods and painstaking intelligence gathering to quite quickly hone in on the person or people responsible.
Far harder is the task of preventing further attacks, and far harder, again, is the search for a successful mixture of military and diplomatic means that can somehow bring this lumbering battle – this clash of perhaps ultimately incompatible ideologies – to some sort of detente, if not an honourable end. Those with sympathies towards our foes will point to the numbers of civilian casualties killed or wounded by Allied forces abroad, and as a people, we should always examine our motives when we partake in war. But Western ideology does not tell individuals to strap massive loads of explosives to their backs, and to wade into a crowd of teenagers, intent on causing as much death and disaster as possible.
To all in Manchester, Australia’s thoughts are with you.