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U.K. military at Olympics outnumber U.K. troops in Afghanistan

The Summer Olympic Games in London kick off today with the opening ceremony extravaganza, march of athletes, lighting of the flame and security and surveillance so pervasive it would make Britain’s great prophet of dystopia, George Orwell, cringe in fearful recognition. 

Great Britain, with its own home-grown Petri dish of Islamic radicalism and history of terrorist incidents, is taking no chances. Forty years after the terrorist attack at the Olympics in Munich, the rule is: better stiflingly safe than sorry. As a result, London has become a virtual police state with security cameras scanning a vast area of the city, many streets closed and thousands of security personnel on guard monitoring each wayward tourist to see if suicide bombs are strapped underneath some of those souvenir T-shirts. 

Tuesday, when the security contractor responsible for providing guards for the Games admitted it failed to train enough rent-a-cops, the British government called up an additional 1,200 troops. That has brought the total number of British soldiers on duty at the Olympics to 18,200. That deployment is nearly twice the size of the British military contingent stationed in Afghanistan, where 9,500 do battle with the Taliban.

In the long, storied history of the British military -- from Waterloo to the Crimea to the Khyber Pass to Dunkirk to Normandy -- there have probably never been so many men in uniform put in place to do battle with a foe so ephemeral. In all likelihood, the worst challenge they will confront will be redirecting a befuddled vacationing family from San Bernardino out of a secured area and back to the gymnastics venue.

All this security is a sad commentary about the state of our world, but Munich taught us the price of underestimating evil.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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