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Monday, 23 November 2015

Is Closing Down Brussels a Good Idea?

Terrorists – or rather the spectre of them – have closed down Brussels without so much as setting off a firework. They may be as stunned as the people of Brussels, who are enduring a state of siege declared by their government. Can it really be that easy?

Seems like it can. In which case, we should ask if the Belgian government – such as it is in that deeply divided country – has made the right judgement call. My gut feeling is that they have got it wrong.

True, if you are a politician and your security chiefs tell you that a bomb is going to go off but they are not sure where, then you are in a difficult position: if you ignore them and a bomb goes off – well, you will be condemned; if you take their advice, no bomb goes off but your economy takes a huge hit – well, you will be condemned.

In World War Two, London was a regular target for German bombing. The government did not close it down. The Royal Family stayed and the Government stayed. True, at the outset children were evacuated but that was at least partly given up on: adults went to work and children went to school. Life went on and every day some people were killed.

If life had gone on as normal in Brussels in the past few days, the worst that could have happened is a co-ordinated attack on soft targets, just like those recently visited on Paris. A large number of people could have died .

My gut feeling is that you should carry on. Aircraft sometimes fall out of the sky or get blown out of the sky, but people go on flying and airlines continue to prosper. In a  big city like Brussels, the chances that any one individual will fall victim to a terrorist attack are really very small. As yet, the terrorists don’t have sophisticated technology to kill people; that’s what we have and use every day in the Middle East to great destructive effect. It just doesn't bring victory or peace.

For the most part, governments and security services should tackle the problem of murderous gangs as they usually tackle them: tracking down their members, disrupting their activities and arresting or killing their members. While they go about their business, we should go about ours.

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