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The destruction appears to be so general that it is hard to understand what happened. But from the video the building fronts appear to be bashed in rather than out, so the blast was on the street rather than inside. The incinerated cars suggest that it was a coordinated series of car bombs.
The fact that there was a shooting attack at a government party youth camp at the same time makes it almost impossibly unlikely that the motive was not terrorism.
There are lots of crazy people in the world and there is as yet no evidence that this was a jihad attack. But an awful lot of the crazy people whose craziness takes the form of bombing public places are jihadi Muslims. Norway is more than 10% Muslim and it is a very real likelihood that the attack was perpetrated by jihadis.
According to the New York Times,
Earlier this month, Norwegian prosecutors filed a terrorism charge against Mullah Krekar, the Iraqi-born founder of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, who is accused of making death threats against the head of Norway’s Conservative Party, Erna Solberg. Mr. Krekar co-founded Ansar al-Islam in 2001, but said a year later that he no longer led the group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and United Nations.
If the attack does turn out to have been done by jihadis, the irony will be palpable. Norway has been foremost among Western countries in its anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian policies.
I remember being on a bicycle trip in Norway in 2001 during a diplomatic crisis there. From CNN in my motel room I followed it for several days.
A Palestinian who had murdered two Israelis applied for asylum in Norway on the ground that he would be subject to persecution if he were turned away. His asylum petition was granted. Israel and the United States protested. The Norwegian government deflected, saying it was an immigration service administrative decision and they could not change it. Whereupon the newly inaugurated Bush administration sent the US Navy to conduct war games off the Norwegian coast.
The message, I am pretty sure, was not that the United States was going to invade Norway, but rather that the US was serious about it and that it was not a routine diplomatic note. I think the further implication was that if the decision were not changed, that Norway would be informally suspended from membership in NATO.
Which would have meant, among other things, that if Russia had wanted to establish an equally informal sphere of influence over Norway's all-but-empty northernmost territory of Finnmark (Norwegian Lappland) and the arctic island of Svlabard, the Norwegians would have been on their own to do anything about it.
The government got the message, the person who granted the asylum petition was transferred to other duties, and the Palestinian murderer was extradited.
The lesson of Oslo in 2011 is the same as was learned at such vast cost at Munich in 1938 -- appeasement doesn't work.
One could well say there is another lesson as well. Oslo is where the Oslo Accords were negotiated and signed in 1993. These were the "Land for Peace" deal between Israel and the PLO. Israel conceded the land - much of Judea and Samaria and all of Gaza were handed over to the newly-constituted Palestinian Authority. Jericho, Ramallah, Qalqilyah, Gaza, and many other cities got Palestinian governments. And got nothing in return. There was and is no peace and no diminution in Palestinian hostility. Nor a diminution in their teaching hostility and delegitimization to their children.
So the earlier lesson of Oslo is that negotiating with people who are negotiating in bad faith is worse than not negotiating.