The Real Lesson of the Barcelona Attacks

Can we go now? I’m bored.

The Barcelona attacks are a reminder of how Europe failed to respond to the horror inflicted on Madrid. How many more warnings will the West require?

Spain is no stranger to terrorism. Between 1968 and 2011, the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) killed more than 820 people. In 2004, Al Qaeda claimed credit for coordinating bombings in the Madrid rail system that killed 192 and injured over two thousand people. Thursday’s attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils appear to be something new. The ETA has had a clear, realizable political objective behind its violence all along. The Madrid bombings were widely understood as retaliation for the support that the center-right government of José María Aznar had shown for the U.S. war in Iraq. The timing of the attacks suggested their political objective: general elections were to be held just three days after the attack. They were held, and Aznar’s party lost.