In the aftermath of the horrendous attack in London at the weekend, is it even possible to talk anymore about a world without walls? In the light of such brutality, shouldn't we be talking about more, and stronger, defences against the kind of hate-filled violence that sees other human beings simply as targets to be mown down or stabbed?
Of course, it is right that investigations are held to ensure that lessons can be learnt for the future. It is right that the full strength of intelligence agencies and the police service be directed towards finding all those who helped to plan and carry out this attack. And politicians who have had responsibility in the present and past for security must be held accountable for decisions taking around funding and recruitment.
But I am reminded of a speech that President Bill Clinton gave just a few months after the devastation of 9/11 in which he outlined a vision for life in the 21st century. He had spent his own presidency in the final decade of the 20th calling on leaders to build a bridge to the new century but was, of course, unaware of how this new century would open with such carnage. In the light of the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he said these words:
[We] have also seen a dramatic rise in identity politics littered in race, religion, tribe, and ethnicity, in ways that have very negative manifestations in people who basically don’t buy the idea that we can build a common future based on our common humanity. And since we have built a world without walls, we can’t claim
the benefits that we have enjoyed so richly without some greater exposure and vulnerability to all those burdens.
So in a profound sense, September the 11th was the dark side of this new age of globalization and all of its benefits. We have to decide what to do about it. Of course, at least I believe the answer is, of course, we should do whatever we can to destroy the Al Qaida network …. We should cooperate with others in the fight against terrorism around the world, in whatever ways are appropriate and possible. Because it’s a global threat, invulnerability is global. But I do not believe that a law enforcement and military strategy alone is sufficient … simply because I don’t want you to have to substitute the walls that we have torn down for barbed wire. I don’t want you to have to wonder every time you get on an airplane. And I don’t want the world we live in to change the character of our country, by having people dominated by fear of today, fear of tomorrow, and fear of each other. And if you don’t want that, then we have to say, ‘Okay, what kind of world do we want to live in? How are we going to achieve it?’