The London bombings shocked the world – perhaps more than they shocked most Londoners. It is not as if Londoners are not worried about terrorism on their front door – they are. Rather, it is that we’ve seen it before. The IRA frequently bombed London and security alerts, when everybody was asked to vacate a train or a bus were not uncommon.
What is difference is the nature of the enemy. The IRA might have hated the British government, but they didn’t hate the British people. Generally there was a warning – allowing for people to be evacuated. The current enemy doesn’t care if people die – in fact, the higher the body count the better. After all, most will be infidels – perhaps a few Zionists (aka Jews) will die which makes it even better. And any followers of Allah will have achieved martyrdom, whether they liked it or not – whether they leave grieving spouses and orphans. And if they did not want to die a martyr’s death then they were not true followers of Islam and so deserved to die as heretics.
It is easy to dehumanise the perpetrators of such terrorism – to say that they are inhuman, animals, beasts and so on. However this makes us like the enemy – as it is only be defining another human being as “non-human” or sub-human that such atrocities can occur. And yes – the enemy does view everybody else as not equivalent to their elevated “holy” status. We are infidels, monkeys, doomed – so it is valid to help us on our way.
So, defeating such an enemy has to be two-fold: intelligence to catch and lock away the terrorists accompanied by actions to ensure that their communities are educated in human values. And their communities also include those in the Middle-East that allow crimes like Darfur to continue, or the dehumanisation of women (as in Saudia where women are banned from many things men expect – driving cars for instance), and the lack of choice of all the peoples. Democracy will help – but education is also needed. So that all see our shared humanity and stop defining people as “the other”.
As for Intelligence – which will be one focus of this blog in future. The IRA once said that the UK government needed to be lucky 100% of the time, while they only needed luck once! The same applies today. The London bombings were an intelligence failure in that the terrorists were not stopped. But in reality, to be 100% successful would have had other consequences – as to ensure 100% intelligence would have meant that we would be living in a police state without any of the freedoms we value, and which were attacked so wickedly on Thursday, 7th July.
The same applies for competitive intelligence – you cannot get 100% intelligence without an unreasonably high cost. Which is why companies and organisations need to have contingencies for when the unthinkable does occur. Contingency planning should be part of CI – as you cannot predict when something will happen with total confidence. Frederick the Great once said: It is pardonable to be defeated, but never to be surprised. The aim of intelligence should be to anticipate and not be surprised when something happens – even if it was not possible to prevent.
This was London on July 7th, 2005. Londoners were not surprised – what happened was expected. We did not know when, how or where. But we did know what we would do straight afterwards – and that is what we did. Which is why the stock market recovered so quickly, and everybody was back at work on Monday.