Yesterday a major US city – perhaps as many as 1 million people – was put under martial law. Business and universities were closed. Public transit and Amtrak were padlocked. Paramilitary cops from multiple states rolled down Boston’s residential neighborhoods in humvees with manned machine gun turrets on top. In full battle gear, these guys – they looked like soldiers – called people out of their homes. They then searched the homes. Boston became a ghost town and a police state for a day. And Bostonians cheered them for it. Some even called for a parade to honor the men who treated them like prisoners in their own homes.
This grand show of force, which even the FBI admits is unprecedented, was carried out for the purpose of catching a suspected terrorist – a 19-year-old honor student – who stands accused of deploying pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon. These bombs reportedly killed 3 people and injured 170.
Think about that. Boston was turned into a giant prison for a day to catch a teenager with pressure cooker bombs.
What does this mean?
1. Terrorism “Works”
For a maximum investment of perhaps $1 or $2 thousand dollars, ideologically-motivated individuals can cost the economy perhaps as much as $1 billion dollars in economic output. Nobody yet knows how much it costs to shut down down Boston for a day but $1 billion is about how much the city produces on a daily basis. The return on investment for an enterprising terrorist could be as much as 500,000%.
The brothers Tsarnaev succeeded in gaining a lot of attention for themselves. Chechnya will benefit from this attention. People will want to travel there. People will want to understand what has been going on in Chechnya. We all want to understand why people do these kinds of things and people now want to understand these brothers.
In short, the boys in blue created a tantalizing incentive for others to copy the Tsarnaevs. The Tsarnaevs’ terrorism “worked” but only because the Boston government helped them make it work. This is not a conspiracy theory. By overreacting, the governments at work here magnified the Tsarnaevs’ effectiveness. The Tsarnaevs didn’t shut down Boston. They didn’t put paramilitary troops on the streets of a major US city. The governments at work here did that.
2. The Demand for Tyranny is too Damned High
Bonus #2: Here’s what a house search under martial law in Boston looks like.