In what the Associated Press and the Washington Post Online are calling a “shocking” revelation, the British Ministry of Defense was considering emplacing a surface-to-air missile system on the top of a civilian apartment complex as part of its defensive measures for the pending summer Olympics.
One of the residents interviewed was quite put out that no one had even consulted him, let alone gotten his permission.
Was this shocking overreach by paranoid security types? Hardly.
First of all, this sort of measure is in fact, quite commonplace in major cities—particularly national capitals—when big events involving multiple heads of state take place. London is expecting at least 100 such people. Here in Washington, one can observe every day uniformed members of the Secret Service manning posts atop the White House and scanning the sky for airborne threats. It is unfortunate, but this is now the norm, and it is the correct course of action.
The folks running the London Olympics have a Herculean task in regard to security. The openness of U.K. society (not unlike our own) makes it tempting for potential terrorists to “give it a go,” and the enormous media coverage of the Olympics makes it a prime target.
The tower in the apartment complex in question has a clear and unobstructed view of the air space all around the main Olympic venue and therefore makes an ideal location for a quick reaction air defense position. The soldiers that will be stationed there could identify any approaching aircraft, and in the event that other measures proved ineffective, they could engage the target with as little effect on the surrounding neighborhoods as possible. In other words, they could save lives.
The British have a tough job ahead of them, one that Heritage will examine in more detail in the immediate future. The Olympics should be a celebration of peaceful competition and joyous achievement for the athletes sent to represent their nations. One hopes and prays that this summer, that is what it will be. The very prudent, wise, and professional measures being taken to protect the leaders, athletes, and spectators will contribute to that goal.
The Brits are doing the right thing. Good show, lads.