Our narrowing world

The Independent offers predictable advice to the British public after a terror bombing attack on a concert for teenage girls in Manchester that left more than 20 killed and 3 score mutilated and crippled for life. The writers confidently assert that "there's only one way Britain should respond to attacks such as Manchester. That is by carrying on exactly as before."

They themselves may do so if they wish but there may be a scarcity of followers. The latest in a line of phrases like "we can't let hatred change us; this is not who we are etc" sound like the pleadings of a cult leader to the faithful after the Mothership failed to arrive.  The faithful are heading for the door.  In fact the pixels were hardly dry on the computer monitors when the Independent itself reported panic as hundreds ran from real or imagined peril inside a Manchester shopping mall.

Terror has already changed us in ways ranging from the gradual collapse of the Schengen area, intrusive inflight security including a ban on electronic devices in flight  to the inevitable tightening of security at all future concerts and exhibitions.  If there's one thing Ariana Grande will have at future concerts it's security grande.  Even the virtual world which once promised to be the frontier of freedom has become a hacker-haunted place.  Your phone now spies on you.  Mass surveillance is ubiquitous. Passwords to your social media accounts can be demanded at borders.  That email that just arrived in your inbox may contain an attachment from the Shadow Brothers that can encrypt all the files on your hard disk unless you pay them $500 in Bitcoin to retrieve a decoder key.

Government is losing its credibility as an effective protector.  Under these circumstances "carrying on exactly as before" is likely to have a meaning opposite to Independent's intention.  For most people it will mean continuing to batten down the hatches and rebuilding the trust networks so foolishly discarded when they put their trust in the State. The vision of future may prove to be not the borderless EU after all -- but Israel.  If government fails to protect people they are likely to fall back on tribalism and wire instead.

The issue is whether order can recover before the world fragments into a patchwork of affinity groups. Tribes have considerable advantages after all. They are designed to provide trust, a commodity often more valuable than the theoretically greater military potential of an open group.  An open group without trust is a kill zone. US forces faced green on blue or "insider" attacks in Afghanistan they responded by reviving their own tribe.

Part of the reason green-on-blue attacks have subsided since 2012 is because security measures were put in place to prevent such incidents following the spike (there were only two green-on-blue attacks in 2008, five in 2008 and 2009, and 16 in 2011, according to a tally compiled by the Long War Journal). Among the changes to security were “guardian angels,” or NATO soldiers who watch over NATO and Afghan troops.