There is a depressing sense that yesterday's "shocking" events simply represent what now passes for normality. Professional commitments had me working yesterday from 7am without time to check the news. It was 10am when my phone started buzzing with Facebook notifications to the effect that certain friends of mine were "safe" in Brussels. Just a few months ago, such notifications would have baffled me and I'd have gone straight onto a news site to find out what was going on. Not this time. "Oh", I thought, "another one". It's a sign of the times that I intuitively knew what had happened. Only a full three quarters of an hour later, my prep complete and my appointment fifteen minutes away, did I finally go to the BBC News site to find out about the airport bombing. It was early evening before I learned of the metro bomb. After the Paris attacks, Tricolour watermarks appeared over people's Facebook and Twitter profile pictures but I have seen no Belgian equivalents in the last 24 hours. Truly, these events have become mundane. What's more, the pattern of responses from the top brass of politics, culture and media, together with their volunteer, auxiliary troops on social media, has become even more mundane and predictable. It almost seems as if there is no need to listen to speeches or to read articles anymore. Their content can simply be guessed from the identity of the author.
Firstly, we hear statements of solidarity with the victims and those living at the centre of the latest atrocity (currently Brussels), and pious commitments to fight the terrorists. The following, from Hillary Clinton, is a more or less typical example of the oeuvre: "This is a time to re-affirm our solidarity with our European friends and allies, individually and through NATO." However, listening to the likes of Clinton (or Obama, Cameron, Merkel or Hollande) feels like swimming through an ocean of red herrings. Beyond doing nothing and mouthing bromides, what are their solutions? The standard policy of western leaders in recent years has been to use direct or indirect military intervention to destabilise or depose secular dictators like Assad in Syria, Gaddafi in Libya or Mubarak in Egypt, only to find afterwards that these were the only forces capable of keeping Al Qaeda and Daesh-type extremist forces in check. Compared to more of the same (and nothing else is offered), doing nothing seems like the least worst option.
Secondly, we are told that, whatever we do, we must not question the holy grail of mass third world immigration and are admonished that the latest attack has nothing to do with mass flows of migrants from parts of the world whose populations are dominated by coreligionists of the attackers. It can indeed be said that, of the major terrorist atrocities committed on western soil since 9/11, all have been perpetrated by "home grown" terrorists. However, the "home grown" monicker is only ever used for the narrow ideological purpose of absolving the current waves of Middle Eastern and North African migrants so heedlessly invited into Europe by Angela Merkel of any blame for attacks. In truth, the native born status of the attackers, whether in London, Madrid, Paris, Copenhagen or now Brussels, who were all children or grandchildren of migrants, makes the attacks all the more disturbing. After all, if migrants themselves are better behaved than their children or grandchildren, it implies that a generation or more of welfare, social housing, state-sponsored multiculturalism, discrimination and affirmative action laws and incitement to hatred ordinances are doing nothing to foster a responsible civic culture and may, in fact, be amplifying any tendency to misbehave.
Thirdly, we are told that the latest attacks represent "blowback" for western foreign policy in the Muslim world. There's more than a grain of truth to this but, in reality, the notion that the barbarism which is becoming an increasingly frequent part of European life is an anguished response to dead relatives, mutilated bodies and the destruction of property in a far off land is far fetched. Why are the attacks on cities like Brussels being perpetrated by affiliates of Daesh and Al Qaeda, who have benefited so greatly from the western interventions of recent years in the Middle East and not by those of disgruntled anciens regimes? And why are the attackers almost invariably people who have grown up at the mollycoddled heart of European welfare states, none of whom have seen a western airstrike, never mind fallen victim to one?
Sadly, there are no politically correct answers to situations of the nature of that faced by Europe and the West today.
It is clear that, whether we like it or not, western security is better served by the rule of corrupt and autocratic dictators whose record of crushing Islamist terrorism in their home countries is infinitely better than that of democratically elected Islamists like Egypt's Mohamed Morsi, who deliver what veteran US diplomat, Edward Djerejian called "one man, one vote, one time". The west must abandon military adventurism based on the fantasy that occidental democracy can simply be implanted in countries in which it has no roots in local history or tradition.
However, by the same token, we must make the equally politically incorrect observation that what we invite, we become. If a population mass has no history of forming or preserving liberal or democratic institutions, common sense alone would suggest that the greater the concentration of members of that population in a western democracy, the more the liberal and democratic fabric of that society will fray. It is thus the sad lesson of history that trying to share the gift of liberal democracy by importing people or exporting regime change will achieve no good and some harm.
Moreover, there can be no doubt that fostering a culture of grievance amongst members of migrant communities within western countries does nothing to reduce their hostility to their host societies and plenty to amplify it - with consequences which are sometimes fatal.
And therein lies the grim lesson: If liberal democracy is a shining city on a hill, as one of its most eloquent proponents once suggested, then alas, the city must become a fortress lest it shine no more.