It is scarcely necessary to observe how sharply America's sense of being a nation "under God" contrasts with Europe's increasingly overbearing secularism. Here in Europe, the tension has become acute between a liberal state that seems increasingly ashamed of its Judaeo-Christian ancestry and a dwindling but still large minority of Christians who feel disinherited by the privatisation of their faith. The spiritual vacuum is being filled by Islam, with which liberals find an uneasy accommodation by recognising de facto Muslim communal autonomy. Jews find themselves marginalised by the rise of European Islam. Many also feel threatened.
The response of the European political class was summed up by David Miliband. With exquisite tact and diplomacy, the British Foreign Secretary chose the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai to declare that the "War on Terror" was a non-existent war against a non-existent enemy. At least President Obama does not delude himself that the danger has diminished merely because George W. Bush has left the stage. Shortly before he took office, he received a memo to that effect from Osama bin Laden himself. In his inaugural speech, Mr Obama roundly declared: "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." Absorbed as the Western world may be with our self-inflicted crisis, we cannot afford to ignore a threat that is existential in ways that not even a full-scale depression can be. What Yogi Berra said about baseball goes for global jihad, too: it ain't over till it's over.