Leading Article: Terrorism is our responsibility, too

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IF ANYONE thought that terrorism was on the decline, or had been limited to a few trouble spots, yesterday's car bombs outside the United States' embassies in two African capitals should dispel that optimism. The explosions in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam confirm that the description of the US as the world's sole superpower exaggerates the omniscience and omnipotence of the richest country in the world. They demonstrate that those seeking vengeance, for whatever reason, have the reach and the means to attack soft targets anywhere. It does not take large numbers of people, or large amounts of money, or a great deal of skill to launch terrorist attacks - all it takes is a sense of mission and a cheap air ticket.

Any industrial democracy is faced by the problem that however much it may defend its obvious targets, there will always be others, and that the price of adopting any role whatsoever on the world stage is exposure to a permanent and immanent threat of bloody, localised mayhem.

It is much too early, however, to begin to apportion blame or draw lessons, save for the obvious. The first is that there will always be a tension between the ideal of free, passportless global travel and El Al-style intrusive security measures. The second is that terrorism is a shared responsibility, and that the nations of the world must share more information about the threats - given that almost all of them arise from some kind of known ideological obsession, even the US's own internal terrorism, such as the Oklahoma bombing. Yesterday it was US embassies: tomorrow it could be ours.