July 09, 2005

Total War

War becomes total war when it's a shared state of mind, when everyday activities occur in a mental landscape of unseen bombings and small-scale threats; total war's a mostly-quiet Armageddon, a typically-bloodless daily grind; total war develops in little increments.

The bombings in London will probably be seen as a significantly more canonical event than 9/11 in the long term, mostly because bus, car, and train (etc.) bombs -- random, low-tech, mobile, easy to deploy, deeply effective at sowing fear in the everyday -- are the inevitable future for any reasonably-constituted Western democracy. There's simply no defense against technology's relentless democratisation of access to destructive power that doesn't strip a democracy of either privacy or openness. And the stakes can only rise.

Think "bomb in the BART tube", for example. It's not a matter of "if", but "when". That's total war for those of us who have to use it...


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