In one of the most memorable sentences of 20th century literature, LP Hartley put forward the idea that “the past is a foreign country”.
The line from The Go-Between is quoted so frequently, its origins have become almost forgotten.
Seldom can the recent past have felt so alien when recalling life before the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.
It was a time when people travelled freely, without fear. When global conflict was firmly in the rear view mirror.
A foreign country indeed.
The west made catastrophic errors in its response to 9/11. The invasion of Iraq, the operation of Camp X-Ray and the appalling images of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib.
The ill-conceived burkini ban in France, blurring the lines between genuine security measure and outright religious prejudice, is a sign that not all of those lessons have been fully absorbed.
As if to emphasise the fallout of 9/11, it emerged last week that American-led forces are preparing to launch an attack on Mosul, one of the last remaining IS strongholds.
But the rapidly escalating downfall of the rogue state is not to be taken for granted.
Military success is only one strand of the war on extremism.
The more important part is ideological – for tolerance to triumph over hate.
It is a battle which must be won.
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