The horror and undeniable cruelty of the Madrid bombings are taking time to sink in. Is it because we have become immune since 9/11 to scenes of chaos associated with hate-driven political terrorism? I don’t want to know whether we are becoming immune to the television images.
What may be the lessons from the latest outrage?
Is it that governments and peoples should fear the wrath of so-called theocrats who would enslave women, stone gays and render ineffectual any semblance of liberal democracy? Should we shape our international policies, our defence stance or alter our values to take into account the hatred and unbridled violence of a few?
Spain is in mourning. Yet it is the very picture of a progressive liberal democratic society, re-fashioned after decades of fascist rule by anti-communist Franco and his cronies. No massive human rights problems, a successful war against separatist regional terrorists, a society that promotes the social values of the united Europe so many of the Left applaud.
Yet is was a target for hate.
A Socialist government is in the making.
What does modern socialism mean to those that recognise the sterility of the Stalin excesses and the abject failure of planned economies in this globalised world? It should mean a social democratic regime prepared to do what is needed to fight the medieval intolerance of those prepared to make everyday citizens pay for alleged crimes.
This is not, I hope and pray, a war based on a clash of civilisations or creeds or race. This should be a struggle between modern international liberalism, with its focus on human rights, and despotic fanaticism of the most extreme kind.
Playing a role in the war against terror is no different to merely being a liberal democratic society. The fanatics appear to hate us for who we are not what we do.
The real question for the Left is not how we destroy the Bush/Howard/Blair neo-cons. This is a convenient smokescreen for those seeking power or a change of policy. The more troubling and challenging question is how do we in the West, from left to right on the old spectrum, respond to a threat to our very existence?
Do we kowtow to terrorism from this source, fuelled by poorly structured religious arguments, or do we make a concerted effort to defeat a threat to liberalism. If the Left make common cause with the Right on this campaign, they will no doubt have ample opportunity of winning the peace afterwards.
Conservatives like myself, liberals, progressive environmentalists and old style social democrats have one thing in common: a belief in a secular liberal democratic state underpinned by emerging global human rights standards. This is too precious a modern achievement to be lost by infighting or appeasement of aggressors.
The war on Terror is just too important to lose whilst we debate the high moral ground.