Evan Maloney's Brain Terminal

Rarely So Empty Before

War Starts, Streets Clear

by Evan Maloney evan@brainterminal.com

A few hours ago, slightly before midnight on a Wednesday, with a comfortable chill in the air, the streets of SoHo, Greenwich Village and Union Square were empty. After walking more than two miles, I barely saw a soul that wasn't driving a taxi in search of a fare.

Not since the days that followed the attacks of September 11th have I seen so few people during such a long walk through Manhattan.

Was it an anomaly? An off night for some inexplicable reason? Or for an explicable reason of which I was not aware?

Was it mere coincidence that, not even three hours after the war started, the streets of Manhattan were empty? Is it possible that the war brought to the fore a more present fear of another attack on New York City?

A True Gauge of Public Sentiment

If you were to conduct a poll of Manhattanites, I'm pretty confident that a large majority of them would say that war is unnecessary because Saddam Hussein doesn't pose a threat. But the empty streets contradict that. And they may be a more accurate reflection of the public's deepest feelings than any five-minute survey in which statisticians try to turn a few hundred people without caller ID into spokesmen for an entire nation.

The fear of attack that kept people off the streets and out of the taxis is a fear that agents of Saddam Hussein--or sympathetic forces--are currently in place among us, that they possess weapons with which to attack us, and that they are capable of attacking tonight, tomorrow or at any time.

The empty streets show that, despite all the rhetoric, when push comes to shove, when twelve years of unheeded U.N. resolutions give way to the much-harder-to-ignore cruise missiles and invading armies, people know that the threat is real.

Fear = Size of Threat * Likelihood of Attack

Simply by fearing an attack, a person admits that Saddam Hussein and the forces sympathetic to him present a danger. What doesn't make sense is how someone can feel that fear and still say that Saddam Hussein poses no threat.

So, on the first day of this new front in the war on terror, I ask my fellow Manhattanites to spend some time thinking about why they stayed in. If we don't have to worry about Saddam Hussein, then where the hell is everybody?

Evan Maloney publishes his thoughts about politics and world affairs at www.brain-terminal.com.