The new shape of fear

Sam Smith – In attempting to understand why the Boston bombing is such a shock, it is worth considering something that differentiated  it from, say, 9/11, which is that the target was not some iconic tower of power but our capacity for terror. It was just a place, which meant it could have been anywhere. And precision was not the goal. Fear was.

Writing in US News about the Boston bombing, Paul Shinkman notes, “Law enforcement officials believed it was only a matter of time before the improvised explosive devices that have defined the conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Northern Ireland would be used against Americans on their home soil.”

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the major WWII conflict that killed 19,000 Americans, wounded 47,000 others and left 23,000 missing or captured. He noted that he felt great sympathy with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I asked him to elaborate and he said that when the soldiers of his era left the battlefield, they also left the danger for awhile. In Iraq and Afghanistan there was no such relief. All you had to do was walk down the block and an IED might explode.

And in most case, you’d never know who had done it or why.  Just as we may never know about Boston.

But whoever it was, and for whatever reason, they just narrowed the distance to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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