After both 9/11 and the 7/7 London transport bombings, the Labor government promised to take measures to defend the country against further such attacks.
It defined the problem, however, merely as terrorism, failing to understand that the real issue was the extremist ideas which led to such violence.
Accordingly, it poured money into Muslim community groups, many of which turned out to be dangerously extreme.
When David Cameron came to power, his Government raised hopes of a more realistic approach when it pledged to counter extremist ideas rather than just violence.
This approach, too, has failed. The Government still has no coherent strategy for countering Islamist radicalization.
Following last week’s barbaric slaughter of Drummer Rigby on the streets of Woolwich by two Islamic fanatics, the Prime Minister has announced that he will head a new Tackling Extremism and Radicalization Task Force.
And the Home Secretary has said she will look at widening the banning of radical groups preaching hate.
But at the heart of these promises remains a crucial gap. That is the need to define just what kind of extremism we are up against.
The Government has been extraordinarily reluctant to do this — because it refuses to face the blindingly obvious fact that this extremism is religious in nature.
It arises from an interpretation of Islam which takes the words of the Koran literally as a command to kill unbelievers in a jihad, or holy war, in order to impose strict Islamic tenets on the rest of the world.
Of course, millions of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere totally reject this interpretation of their religion.
Most British Muslims want to live peacefully and enjoy the benefits of Western culture. They undoubtedly utterly deplore the notion that the kind of carnage that occurred in Woolwich should take place in Britain
And let’s not forget that, worldwide, most victims of the jihad are themselves Muslims whom the extremists judge to be polluted by Western ideas.
Nevertheless, this fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran is what is being spouted by hate preachers in Britain and on the internet, and is steadily radicalizing thousands of young British Muslims.
Now the Prime Minister says he will crack down on such extremism. Yet after the Woolwich atrocity, he claimed it was ‘a betrayal of Islam’ and that ‘there is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act’.
The London Mayor Boris Johnson went even further, claiming: ‘It is completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam’ and that the cause was simply the killers’ ‘warped and deluded mindset’.
Yet the video footage of the killers — who had shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar’ when butchering Drummer Rigby — records one of them citing verses in the Koran exhorting the faithful to fight and kill unbelievers, and declaring: ‘We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.’
Frankly, these comments by the Prime Minister and London Mayor were as absurd as saying the medieval Inquisition, for example, had nothing to do with the Catholic Church, but was just the product of a few warped and deluded individuals.
Their comments were also deeply troubling. For if politicians refuse to acknowledge the true nature of this extremism, they will never counter it effectively.
But then, government officials have always refused to admit that this is a religious war. They simply don’t understand the power of religious fanaticism.
Of course, there are fanatics in all religions. Within both Judaism and Christianity, there are deep divisions between ultras, liberals and those in between.
In medieval times, moreover, Christianity used its interpretation of the Bible also to kill ‘unbelievers’, because early Christians believed they had a divine duty to make the world conform to their religion at all costs.
That stopped when the Reformation ushered the Church into modernity, and today no Christian wants to use violence to convert others to their faith.
The problem with the extremist teachings of Islam is that the religion has never had a similar ‘reformation’.
Certainly, there are enlightened Muslims in Britain who would dearly love their religion to be reformed. But they have the rug pulled from under their feet by the Government’s flat denial of the religious nature of this terrible problem.
Some people instead ascribe the actions of the Woolwich killers to factors such as thuggish gang membership, drug abuse or family breakdown.
But it is precisely such lost souls who are vulnerable to Islamist fanatics and who provide them with father figures, a sense of belonging and a cause which gives apparent meaning to their lives.
Many people find it incomprehensible that such fanatics remain free to peddle their poison.
Partly, this is because the Security Service likes to gather intelligence through their actions. But it is also because of a failure to understand what amounts to a continuum of extremism.
There are too many British Muslims who, while abhorring violence at home, nevertheless support the killing abroad of British or American forces or Israelis, regard unbelievers as less than fully human, and homosexuals or apostates as deserving the death penalty.
Such bigotry creates the poisonous sea in which dehumanization and religious violence swim.
To the failure to understand all this must be added the widespread terror of being thought ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘racist’.
It is quite astonishing that universities mostly refuse to crack down on extremist speakers and radicalisation on campus — despite at least four former presidents of Islamic student societies having faced terrorist charges.
In a devastating account published at the weekend, Professor Michael Burleigh, who advised the Government on revising its counter-radicalisation strategy, described how this process descended into a ‘sad shambles’.
He related how the Federation of Islamic Student Societies (FOSIS) had created a sexually segregated environment in which young people were being systematically indoctrinated in anti-Jew, anti-homosexual and anti-Western hatred by Islamist speakers on campus.
But although the Government condemned FOSIS for its failure to ‘fully challenge terrorist and extremist ideology’, with the Home Secretary even ordering that civil servants withdraw from its graduate recruitment fair, the Faith and Communities Minister, Baroness Warsi, actually endorsed it by attending one of its events at the House of Lords.
Nor has the Government done anything to stop extremist preachers targeting and converting criminals in British jails at a deeply alarming rate.
On top of all this official incoherence is the paralysis caused by the excesses of the ‘human rights’ culture.
Thus the Home Secretary is facing a monumental battle to get through Parliament a Communications Bill that would give police and security services access to records of individuals’ internet use.
It is said that some of these extremist preachers exploit loopholes in the law. If so, then the law should be changed.
But we all know what would befall any such attempt. It would be all but drowned out by shrieks that we were ‘doing the terrorists’ job for them’ by ‘undermining our own hard-won liberties’.
Well, it’s time to face down such claims as vacuous and lethal nonsense. The people threatening our liberties are Islamic radicals determined to destroy our way of life.
It is those who refuse to acknowledge the true nature of this threat who are doing the terrorists’ job for them.
And unless Britain finally wakes up from its self-destructive torpor, all who love civilized values — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — will be the losers.