WASHINGTON -- Whenever there's a world crisis, at some point there also comes a breaking point -- after which the drama is never acted out quite the same way.
The Battle of Midway was a crucial point in the Pacific during World War II. You might say Gettysburg marked the turning point in the Civil War.
Was the horrific killing of seven innocents and wounding of 48 others at London Bridge last weekend one of those turning points in the West's increasingly nasty "war" against Islamist terrorism? Or are we even asking the right questions?
It surely seemed that official Britain's words and behavior changed markedly immediately after the attack, the third in a bare three months, as Prime Minister Theresa May took on a new stance of toughness and reality. "We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are," she proclaimed. "It is time we say that enough is enough."
But most important -- with British intelligence now saying it is watching 3,000 Islamist sympathizers, plus another 20,000 in waiting -- the prime minister went directly to the heart of the problem.
"We need to live our lives not in a series of separate, segregated communities," she said, "but as one truly United Kingdom." And this would involve "difficult cultural, and often embarrassing, conversations" with the Muslim community.
In effect, she was saying that it is not only important police work that is a primary concern, but also questions revolving around changing public attitudes.
Often, in bad times like these, it helps to gain perspective through looking at other examples that might shed light. The events taking place -- since 1997 -- in northern cities of England centered around Rotherham are darkly instructive in understanding some of the terrible damage that can be inflicted by Britain's apparently tolerant attitudes toward radicals -- but also toward virtually any Muslim immigrants.
We now know without question that at least 1,400 teenage girls, some as young as 11 and 12, were "groomed" by immigrants, almost all of Pakistani birth or origin, and turned into prostitutes, "servicing" sometimes 50 men a day in darkened, locked rooms.
But it gets worse. This savagery went on for years under everybody's nose. The police knew about it. The social welfare authorities were constantly informed. But they did nothing. Why? Because their attitudes were such that they felt they would be marked as "prejudiced" or as "institutionally racist."
So, what are we dealing with in the big picture of Islamist or foreign terrorism that underlies all of these situations?
Answering these questions, the brilliant Lebanese-American professor Fawaz Gerges, now of the London School of Economics and Political Science, explained on CNN after the London Bridge tragedy: "You have troubled souls, you have hard-core ideologues, you have people who believe that somehow some Western countries and Middle Eastern countries are waging a war against their faith. ... The fact is it's going to run its cycle in the next few years, not just in Europe but throughout the world."
To which I would add that the generally young Middle Eastern men involved in this running "cycle" are in it for the sexual excitement of action and for that particular male joy of violence. Hardly something new.
But let's take a positive turn and tally up still elusive, yet interesting, potential turning points. In the wake of the London Bridge attack, professors are coming forward to give their ideas on how to purge radical Islamist ideas from the internet. Britons are talking more about their hesitant and often even criminal attitudes toward radicals. American and British Muslims seem to be realizing finally that they must speak out.
And in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are acting against Qatar for its long-rumored support of terrorist groups: an astounding, if complicated, development.
Above all else, attitudes have to change. We don't have to embrace the vulgar anti-political correctness of President Trump to see that the "tolerant" British -- and, too often also, the "liberal" American -- excuses for not holding Muslims to the law and to our cultural truths are abhorrent to us and degrading to them. We don't have to become Nazis to think that Western societies can take in untold numbers with vastly different cultural and value systems without beginning to lose their identities.
We need only to implement serious, balanced and truly just policing and immigration policies, tough-minded and middle-ground, that are appropriate and becoming to our civilized societies.
Attitudes. They've always been the start of everything.