I’ve been re-reading Get Your War On. It’s a window back to the brief time in 2001-02 when sensible people feared terrorists more than we feared our own governments.
Those days are gone – and despite the governments’ best efforts to keep us scared, it would be very hard to bring them back. A Madrid-style bombing in London wouldn’t do it: a 200 in 8,000,000 chance of terror death is entirely bearable. Not even a 9/11 reprise featuring Big Ben would do it, if only because it would have happy side-effects [*]. We know that sort of thing has happened in the past; we’re already as scared of it as we’re going to be.
So in order to make any difference to Western attitudes, terrorists would need to do something very fucked up indeed. A dirty nuclear bomb is a possibility: although the actual casualties and damage would be negligible, people get scared when they hear the ‘nuclear’ word.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much smallpox or a real nuke.
This is good, in that it makes it unlikely that our fellow citizens will be panicked by the next exploding fanatic into acquiescing to the abolition of any more of our rights than they already have. However, it’s bad in that it indicates the only rational move for would-be exploding fanatics is to kill *millions* of people.
[*] The death of Charles Clarke would be particularly welcomed. Cunt.