What use is history? Here's a little fable to answer that question.
Once upon a time there was a civilisation. It controlled the world, and its citizens were wealthy and had considerable freedom, protected by laws and customs built up over centuries. This civilisation had survived assaults by great war machines, had survived, just, the creation of a weapon that could have destroyed the very planet on which it stood; it faced a world with no serious military threat. But then a few men got together and decided to destroy the civilisation. And they trumpeted this plan to the world. And they killed a few of its citizens. And their very resolution led the leaders of the safe, comfortable and all-powerful civilisation to decide that they were under threat. They were small men, of little history, and they'd forgotten, or didn't want to remember, that the civilisation had endured far greater threats - that its very existence inevitably caused some to push and flail against it. And so all that the civilisation stood for - all of the freedoms and rights its people had achieved - was destroyed from within, cut away, sometimes in small steps, sometimes in big - all for the want of a bit of history and a little perspective.
Sound familiar? If George Bush and Tony Blair were even slightly better men, better thinkers, then my prescription for the current state of affairs would be for them to read Occidentalism: A Short History of Anti-Westernism, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit.
Failing that, everyone else should. It is as its says on the cover short, and its is accessible, and it makes the obvious but curiously little understood point that there is absolutely nothing historically unique, or even unusual, about the intellectual framework, or personnel, or aims, of al-Qa'ida.