I'm following news of the Norway attacks like the rest of you, and am curious to see, among other things, Norway's response. I hope it is not to pull troops out of Afghanistan; this would only breed more attacks. So, why Norway? It doesn't seem likely, on the surface, if this is jihadist in origin. There are many countries with more troops in Afghanistan than Norway; and there are several countries whose newspapers have printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. My first reaction is two-fold: 1) Jihadists did this in Norway because they could. Norway is pretty well-known among homeland-security types for being among the softer, less-defended countries of the West, and 2) Norway is making moves to expel a jihadist called Mullah Krekar, who is one of the founders of Ansar al-Islam, the al Qaeda-affiliated group that operated in Iraqi Kurdistan with some help from Saddam's intelligence services. This could be a message about his coming deportation.
Of course, asking the question, "Why did jihadists attack (x)?" could lead people to believe that these sorts of attacks are responses to particular events. They are not. At the deepest level, they are responses to Western existence. I know that this sort of statement sounds too Bushian for some people, but I tend to think that many hardcore jihadists -- i.e. ones who are willing to murder innocent people -- develop a deep desire to murder infidels, and only then go looking for specific places to do this murder, and only then gin-up weak rationalizations for the murder. In other words, the list of ostensible grievances is endless.
UPDATE: Of course, this could an act of right-wing extremism, perhaps in reaction to the rise of radical Islamism in Europe. I'm as confused as the rest of you are about the authorship of these attacks. There have been early claims of responsibility by jihadist groups, followed by denials, followed by reports that a blonde "Nordic-looking" man was the one who opened fire on the youth camp. Was this "Nordic-looking" man an Adam Gadahn-type, or someone not motivated by jihadist ideology? Stay tuned.
UPDATE ON THE PREVIOUS UPDATE (Monday the 25th): A number of readers have pointed out that my previous caveat give the impression that it was an instantaneous caveat, when in fact it wasn't. It was written a short while after the original post went up, and was labeled "Update" originally (I've since affixed the word "update" to it again. What happened was that I was driving and had connectivity problems, and so when I added further updates (below), I inadvertently erased the whole post, and had to rescue it from a Word document, but in re-posting that word document (or most of it -- I saved only most of it) I dropped the word "update," along with a couple of other things. And then I thought I had saved it and posted it, when it fact the "save" didn't go through until a later "save" of another update. When the post went out on my RSS feed, I believe it still had the word "update" in it. Though I don't know for sure, but will check my RSS feed when I get back. I'm sorry this sounds so confusing, but I want to clear up the impression that I folded in caveats later without saying that they were added later. In truth, I can't figure out what happened, because I thought when I wrote the aforementioned caveat, it had successfully posted, when it seems that it hadn't.
i barely understand the previous paragraph. Suffice it to say I don't want to leave anyone with either the impression that the caveat paragraph was posted simultaneously with the original content of the post, or that it was added hours or days later. I wrote it almost right after I posted originally, but it apparently wasn't saved into text until one of the next times I opened up this post. My bad -- no blogging and driving for me. And of course it was my bad not to lard even more caveats into the post in the first place.
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE ON THE UPDATE (Thursday the 28th): Jay Rosen has pointed out that the previous paragraphs read like gibberish. He's mostly right. Here's a shorter version: I posted, updated,, erased the post by mistake, tried to restore the post, left things out of the post, then fixed the post. There are people out there -- people who are opposed to me on ideological grounds -- who are accusing me of intentionally doctoring the post. They offer no proof, however. All I can say is that the screw-ups were inadvertent.
UPDATE: Here's an interesting story from Atlantic.com about why jihadists seem to have it in for Norway, if indeed this attack was jihadist-inspired. And because this might be domestic right-wing extremism in origin, I'm looking for something to read about Norwegian extremist groups. If anyone has any recommendations, I'll post and link.
UPDATE 2: This looks promising -- http://bit.ly/rlnhB2
UPDATE 3: I'm sure someone on the Internets has pointed this out already, but if these are the acts of a Norwegian lone wolf -- massive car bomb and point-blank massacre in a different location hours later -- then this guy is a true terror prodigy, the Muhammad Atta of Norway. Terrorism is hard to do. This is one of the reasons the U.S. hasn't been hit by an organized plot since 9/11. Most psychopaths are incompetent at killing. This is our saving grace.
UPDATE 4: Perhaps this attack will encourage governments to track the sale of fertiilizer more carefully. Obviously, farmers are going to continue to buy huge quantities of fertilizer, but how about a basic background check? I know this sounds like an invasion of privacy, but I would like to know what is on a person's Facebook page before I see him driving away with trucks filled with exploding shit.