Living with Insecurity

I have often wondered why Karl Popper ended the dramatic peroration of the first volume of his Open Society and Its Enemies with the sentence: "We must go on into the unknown, the uncertain and insecure, using what reason we have to plan for both security and freedom." Is not freedom enough? Why put security on the same level as that supreme value?

Then one remembers that Popper was writing in the final years of World War II. Looking around the world in 2004, you begin to understand Popper's motive: freedom always means living with risk, but without security, risk means only threats, not opportunities.

Examples abound. Things in Iraq may not be as bad as the daily news of bomb attacks make events there sound; but it is clear that there will be no lasting progress towards a liberal order in that country without basic security. Afghanistan's story is even more complex, though the same is true there. But who provides security, and how?

In Europe and the West, there is the string of terrorist acts - from those on the US in 2001 to the pre-election bombings in Madrid - to think about. London's Mayor and police chief have jointly warned that terrorist attacks in the city are "inevitable." Almost every day there are new warnings, with heavily armed policemen in the streets, concrete barriers appearing in front of embassies and public buildings, stricter controls at airports and elsewhere - each a daily reminder of the insecurity that surrounds us.