Of the many uncomfortable truths emerging from last week’s bombing and subsequent manhunt—including the fact that American cities are still vulnerable to Islamic terrorism—one of the most troubling but least talked-about is the fact that martial law may now become part of the municipal playbook.
It was not two immigrant brothers—“losers,” their uncle called them—who closed down Boston, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, put military vehicles in its streets, and sent men in helmets and flak jackets into peoples’ homes. It was our elected leaders: our local, state, and federal political officials and law-enforcement authorities. If any Bostonians objected to having their civil liberties trampled on, they were drowned out by their cheering neighbors who massed in the streets to celebrate the authorities who had turned their city into something resembling Fallujah under American military occupation.
And we may as well get used to it, because in the event of future terror attacks this reality is likely coming to your city, too. As Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia’s chief of police, said on Fox News Sunday of closing down a major American city, “Certainly I think it was genius.”
The consensus of smart commentators is that Ramsey is right: It’s the way we live now, and we better get used to the facts of modern life. Terror, Islamic rage, and the hysterical Twitter-fed public response to shootings, bombings, and threats, have made the ever more disruptive and repressive responses unavoidable. “What happened the other day in Boston unfortunately is not the exception,” says Richard Haass, the head of the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is not a one-off. This is a glimpse of the future. This is granular terrorism that 1, 2, 3 people can carry out. We live in a world where power is diffused. Where individuals are in turn empowered.”