And so it starts. The news that suicide bombers have attacked the military base at Shabqadar, northern Pakistan, sounds a chilling note. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attacks, committed in retaliation for the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Security experts and politicians warned that it would be so. It is, we are told, inevitable that similar atrocities will be attempted closer to home. There will also be concern that this may aggravate the already strained relations between the US and Pakistan, which would only strengthen the terrorists.
Perhaps Bin Laden has become a more potent force since his death. The sight of a squalid man sitting in exile watching videos of his bygone glories was almost pitiful. But the idea of the jihadist martyr is eternal, a murderous rallying call that sounds down the ages: a perverse history that bin Laden adopted for his own ends.
The challenge for the West and its allies in the Islamic world is to kill that idea. (Last week’s issue of the Spectator addressed the issue in depth.) There are a number of ways this might be achieved: from direct intervention to spreading human rights and economic opportunity through the agents of soft power. However, the most effective immediate argument would appear to be that 80 innocent Muslims have been murdered by two callous fundamentalists. In the words of the Associated Press of Pakistan, that’s 80 martyrs to the cause of peace.