The sky is the same breathtaking shade of blue it was five years ago today. The air felt cool when I left my apartment this morning, so I went back inside for a jacket. Here in the city, it’s quiet on the streets. People seem contemplative; five years is a long time.
Another attempt on the scale of the 2001 attacks hasn’t been necessary. The last one is still doing the trick, and the terrorists’ resources are limited. The fear induced by terrorism mirrors the irrational psychology that makes state lotteries an utterly reliable form of stupidity tax. A huge statistical asymmetry serves as fulcrum for a spectral yet powerful lever: apprehension of the next jackpot. We’re terrorized not by the actual explosion, which statistically we’re almost never present for, but by our apprehension of the next one.
The terrorist tactic that matters most is the next one used, one we haven’t seen yet. In order to know it, we must know the terrorists. Without a national security policy that concentrates on the vigorous and politically agnostic maximization of intelligence rather than, in the phrase of the security expert Bruce Schneier, “security theater,” that may well prove impossible.
Elsewhere, Amitava Kumar aggregates links on the “Literature of 9/11.” The image above is taken from Max’s time-lapse photography of the towers from the window of our first Brooklyn apartment. I didn’t see the point in the photos when he shot them.