In the nearly six years since 9/11, no American city has suffered a catastrophic terrorist strike. A key reason that the U.S. has stayed safe, reports Judith Miller in the exhaustively researched On the Front Line in the War on Terrorism, is the cutting-edge work of the nations two largest police forces, the NYPD and the LAPD. Led by two dynamic cops, Commissioner Ray Kelly in New York and Chief William Bratton in L.A., the forces have adopted different methods of fighting terror. Kellys NYPD, wielding vast resourcesincluding a small army of sworn officers, an all-star team of experts, and its own undercovers, whove helped unravel several deadly plots since 9/11sets the gold standard, Miller argues, achieving a terror-fighting capability on par with any law enforcement agencys.
With scarcer resources, Bratton has stressed working with other agenciesto such good effect, says Miller, that the feds see the LAPD as a model for other cash-poor police departments across the nation. In a gripping sidebar, she describes the LAPDs top counterterrorism success to date: breaking up what appears to have been an al-Qaida cell in Hollywood.
Kelly and Bratton wont be able to relax anytime soon, as John Robb shows in his chilling glimpse into the near future, The Coming Urban Terror. The author of the much-discussed Brave New War explains that the very things that make cities so successful in the modern economyefficient international networks of communications, energy, capital, and servicesalso make them vulnerable to terrorist disruption. New technologies have also exponentially increased the capacity of small groups to inflict massive damage for little cost. The scariest threat, Robb believes, is bioweapons. The technology for creating lethal new strains of viruses and bacteria is already widely dispersed. So its only a matter of time before suicide vectorsterrorists who infect themselves with such diseasesbegin attacking our cities. Our market societies can best defend themselves, Robb says, by decentralizing services and security.
The creativity of free markets is a theme of two more stories in this issue. Steven Malangas The New Privatization details how U.S. governors and mayors are solving a big problemcrumbling infrastructureby auctioning off bridges and roads to private firms, for vast sums; those firms promise better upkeep and greater efficiencies. And Canadian doc David Gratzer shows how our northern neighbors single-payer health-care system, held up by American activists as a model for us, has led to long waits and worsening care. Fed-up Canadians are turning to the market, including new private clinics, for answers to their health-care woes.
Two provocative stories in this issue focus not on markets but on culture. America has made eradicating racism against blacks its domestic imperative for half a century, with such success that African-Americans now hold leading positions throughout our society and a black middle class thrives. How is it, then, that a large black urban underclass remains trapped in poverty, educational failure, illegitimacy, and crime? Myron Magnets tour de force In the Heart of Freedom, in Chainsranging from an analysis of the Duke rape case to unpacking the dehumanizing lyrics of Snoop Dogglocates two culprits: an elite culture that continues to portray Western civilization as a monster, crushing nonwhites; and a self-destructive worldview, prevalent among young urban blacks, that sees bourgeois success as selling out and celebrates the gangstas world of niggas and hos. Its past time, argues Magnet in this sequel to his classic The Dream and the Nightmare, for blacks to break with that worldviewand for white elites to stop condoning it.
A cultural battle is going on for operas soul, too, and Heather Mac Donald describes it vividly in The Abduction of Opera, the result of six months of reporting and a lifelong love of one of the Wests cultural jewels. The struggle pits beautys defenderswith New Yorks Met holding the lineagainst trendy European directors, whove brought sexual perversity, violence, and agitprop to their stagings of Handel, Mozart, and other giants, who must be rolling in their graves.
Brian C. Anderson