What raises the question is the fear and paralysis visited on this city by a single man, the Beltway Sniper, who, at this writing, is still on the loose after 11 shootings and nine kills in 13 days.

Much of the weekend’s open-air activity, from high school football games to soccer games for children, was canceled. What will it be like if some Arab or Islamic regime, against which our president has repeatedly threatened preemptive war, sends half a dozen sniper-terrorists to take revenge in Washington, D.C.?

A year ago, an anthrax scare that killed half a dozen people crippled mail service and forced the evacuation of Senate office buildings, post offices, and the Supreme Court. Following 9-11, the White House and Capitol have become virtual fortresses.

Is this the price of empire? Is it worth it?

Never during World War II, when German submarines prowled the coast of Maryland and Delaware, sinking thousands of tons of shipping monthly, was Washington as buttoned-up as today. Not since the British marched down the Bladensburg road in 1814 to burn the White House has our capital seemed so vulnerable.

Recent weeks have also taught us the cost of our having embraced global free trade and international interdependence.

After West Coast shippers locked out 10,500 dockworkers, the president was forced to invoke Taft-Hartley for the first time since Nixon intervened to halt a longshoreman strike during Vietnam. Reopening the 29 ports on the West Coast, said Mr. Bush, was “vital to our economy and to our military.”

Why vital? Because U.S. factories are more dependent on imports to maintain production today than they have been since before the Jacksonian era. Factories had already begun shutting down and thousands of workers had been idled. Retailers, too, were clamoring for Bush to intervene, as half the goods on store shelves at Christmas are no longer Made in the U.S.A.

Tens of millions of tons of this cargo enter U.S. ports each year in millions of truck-sized containers that have lately been found to conceal terrorists. One dirty bomb, one anthrax bomb, one bomb containing poison gas in one of these containers, and the ports of both coasts and the Gulf would be paralyzed. The same holds for the thousands of trucks that daily roll into this country from Mexico and that privileged sanctuary of international terrorists, Canada.

Not once, however, from 1941-1945 did Yamamoto’s fleets or Doenitz’s submarines force a closure of the U.S. factories the were producing the tanks, guns, planes, vehicles, ships, and munitions that enabled the Allies to crush the Axis powers in less than four years.

How did America become so vulnerable? A large share of the culpability rests with self-styled conservatives.

The open-borders, ally-ally-in-free immigration policy championed by the Wall Street Journal has left us, on this eve of war, with ten million illegal aliens wandering around the country. Some 300,000 have defied deportation orders for various crimes and disappeared into our midst.

Conservatives, too, threw out the America First trade policy that made the GOP “America’s Party” for 70 years and ours the most self-sufficient nation on earth. Then they grafted onto the GOP a Wilsonian-free-trade-uber-alles ideology that has left us dependent on imports for our prosperity and security.

Instead of abandoning Cold War relics likes NATO and pulling up the trip wires of war laid down by Acheson and Dulles after the Soviet empire expired, we began launching wars and intervening in lands from Panama to Haiti to Somalia to Kuwait to Bosnia to Kosovo, then stationed thousands of U.S. troops on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia.

On September 11 came blowback.

Now, to make America safe from a terrorism provoked by our own mindless interventions, we have decided to “liberate” Iraq, with Ariel Sharon as our role model. Ought we not we not first ask ourselves how Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon turned out, and how his occupation of the West Bank has made his own country more secure?

Or should we wait until Washington is as exciting as Jerusalem?

Congress has now capitulated and surrendered its power to make war to Mr. Bush. So we are likely going to war. But when the cheering stops and U.S. soldiers shot in the back in occupied Baghdad are brought home to Dover AFB, hopefully, we will settle accounts with those who sacrificed God’s Country on their pagan altar of empire.