The Surprise We Expected
London was flying and we moved confidently about the city - the paranoia after Sept. 11 and Madrid was mostly forgotten and no one had second thoughts about taking the tube. The "war on terror," that much examined trope, was an exhausted rallying cry, with all the appearance of a moth-eaten regimental banner in a village church. But terror's war on us opened another front on Thursday morning. It announced itself with a howl of sirens from every quarter, and the oppressive drone of police helicopters. Along the Euston Road, by the new University College Hospital - a green building rising above us like a giant surgeon in scrubs - thousands of people stood around watching ambulances filing nose to tail through the stalled traffic into the casualty department. The police were fanning out through Bloomsbury, closing streets at both ends even as you were halfway down them. The machinery of state, a great Leviathan, certain of its authority, moved with balletic coordination. Those rehearsals for a multiple terrorist attack underground were paying off.
And we will face again that deal we must constantly make and re-make with the state - how much power must we grant Leviathan, how much freedom will we be asked to trade for our security?