The world of ideas can be a confusing place. If you read the liberal press, you get used to people telling you that we have to keep a sense of proportion about the threat of terrorism. It isn't an existential threat to the Western democracies - as if that were the only kind of threat that mattered. Some who proffer such advice are also in the habit of telling you that terrorism is like crime and the effort to combat it to be conceived on the model of combating crime. The only difficulty is that there are others who give warnings like this one:
Al-Qaida has revived, extended its influence, and has the capacity to carry out a spectacular strike similar to the September 11 attacks on America...That's a crime all right, but hard to think of in quite the same terms as ordinary crime.
In today's Groan, Timothy Garton Ash is talking about a front line. He places it as 'run[ning] through the quiet streets of many a European city'. He also says that 'society [is] under attack from [a] potentially... destructive wave of terrorism'; and he looks forward to our 'eventually win[ning] this struggle and remain[ing] free'. A struggle to remain free doesn't sound that similar to the normal policing of ordinary crime. Not that Garton Ash is a proponent of the view of terrorism as crime. He isn't - he made this clear in an earlier op-ed piece. But in the very same piece he disavowed the metaphor of 'a war on terror'. With a front line and a global struggle to remain free, it's not altogether clear to me why he should still be shy of it, even if part of that front line is 'not a military but a cultural-political one'. The metaphor either works or it doesn't.