My perspective on terrorism is that of one who in 1975 at age 11 was taken by his father to dine at a London restaurant the day after it was bombed by the IRA, even though it was known that they had a habit of revisiting the same place multiple times. He did this in order to impress upon me a point that seems to be lost on the whole of America.
It is the perspective of one who was a student in Northern Ireland in the early eighties, when the first rays of hope were beginning to emerge from the dark cloud of hate which had festered there for almost a century.
It is colored by the experience of having reflected on this issue with people whose lives have been distorted, not by terrorist acts, but rather by the irrational things that happen in the wake of them. People such as the sister of an exonerated man who spent years in jail on a false terrorism conviction, and the daughter of the prosecutor who put him there.
The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize people. The appropriate response is to refuse to be terrorized. Healthy democracies respond appropriately, Authoritarian regimes do not - rather they amplify the fear in furtherance of their own ends.
The Bush response to 9/11 was at least as evil as the terrorist act that provoked it.
Conversely, the response of the Norwegian government to a horrific attack that was intended to kill both it's members and their children - the next generation of liberal politicians - was met with a staunch refusal to change the rules of the society in any way.
Norway is looking very grown up in comparison with us, right now.
The motive for the latest atrocity is unknown, and it should also be immaterial to the nature of the response. I sincerely hope that the Obama administration will resist the urge to respond by ramping up the "War on Terror". To do so would be nothing more or less than capitulation.