Friday, July 22, 2011


Here's a story I can't be sarcastic about:
A massive bomb blast has hit government buildings in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing at least seven people and injuring several others.

PM Jens Stoltenberg described the situation as "very serious". The bomb was followed by a fatal shooting incident near Oslo at a youth meeting of the Labour Party, which Mr Stoltenberg leads.  Norwegian media said at least four people were killed when a man opened fire indiscriminately.
This is indeed very serious, and very tragic.  It should go without saying that this sort of attack - whatever the reasons for it - is inexcusable anywhere.  Especially in the case of this particular set of targets though, it seems particularly cruel, callous and senseless.

Norway is perhaps one of the least offensive countries in existence.  They are rarely at war with anyone, or even particularly hostile.  Their foreign policy has always seemed, to me, to be centered around trying to do a lot of good: their foreign aid expenditures are quite high, and their involvement in peacekeeping operations is high-profile and notable.  They also have a significant commitment to the United Nations, as they are the second-largest contributor in terms of percentage of GNI spentHere is a more detailed breakdown of how they're spending their money with the UN; it's for good purposes.

It's also worth noting that Norway is a fairly free and open society despite being what U.S. conservatives might call "socialist".  As the BBC states:
To them, living in an open society has been not just a privilege, but also a statement to the rest of the world; a display of how it is possible to live together in peace.
That's a noble goal if I've ever heard one.  As we learn more about the attacks, and as wild speculation gets thrown around, I think it's very important to not lose sight of that.  It's easy to over-react to threats.  We in the United States know that all too well, as every attempt at an attack - successful or not - seems to be met with increased security measures that seem to do very little.  In some ways it's quite sad to see how a place that prides itself on freedom and liberty is sometimes so quick to sacrifice those ideas under threat.

Norway is a place that has escaped that so far.  They value their freedom as much as we do, yet they have managed to overcome the temptation to trade some of that freedom in the face of outside threats.  I hope, for their sake, that they are able to resist making the same mistake.  That of course won't be easy for them, as the pressure to do something - anything, regardless of utility - will be strong.  But I do hope they can do it.

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