Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

The flexibility and cellular structure of 4GW elements leaves little chance for lumbering bureaucracies to effectively stave off every destructive plot. While various western government agencies have done surprisingly well in sniffing out and putting down many nefarious plots one wonders how many remain unknown.

The August 2006 break up of a terrorist plot to blow up airliners with bombs containing the active ingredients of Tang (the breakfast drink of astronauts since 1965) and hydrogen peroxide (both readily available at any supermarket) illustrates both the devious talent and unpredictable quality of today's 4GW operators and suggests that eventually one of these plots will be carried out successfully.

Of course after each discovery officials instill reactive (over reactive in some cases) protocols, such as TSA's shoe searches, limiting various vessel sizes for shampoo's, etc. At first blush this seems sensible enough but at some point these increasingly invasive measures will reach a semblance of critical mass and lead to systemic decay. One imagines a day when 5 hours pre-boarding time is par for the course as passengers run a gauntlet of fine toothed combing. Or, as a result of multiple, small scale attacks (ied's perhaps) a municipal para-military roam the streets of our major cities. In most cases the reactive response means more strain on the systems applying it and the citizens burdened by it.

So what to do?

Initially I was skeptical about the concept of community resilience. This due, mainly, to a rather shallow and incomplete glance at the prospect, viewing it from both a self centered perspective and through the limited aspect of grass roots counter-terrorism.

I'd imagined knocking on my neighbors door and saying something like "We need a communal coalition to address our lack of resilience in the event of a terror attack." Which in the relatively inauspicious environment of what one could loosely term "urban" Vermont might gain me a cocked eyebrow and some bored, reluctant humoring. So, as of late, I've been reading of and reconsidering the prospects of the bottoms up approach to resilience on a communal basis. That being the bottom up approach to limiting reliance on big government systems in cases not just involving a terrorist attack, but across the spectrum from a collapse in infrastructure and natural disaster. Or, as Peter put it in discussing John Robb's concepts on the same subject:

A key measure, as Robb suggests, is to reduce dependence on complex and extensive systems, at both an individual and community level.

Read the entire post as he goes on to consider what might a resilient community entail. Ignore the bit of commentary in which some character going by "subadei" over analyzes and under thinks. Though in my own defense (and yes, I'm defending myself from...myself) the nuts and bolts of building such a communal organization (and Peter presents a nascent blue print) needs to be addressed in detail. A concept on paper is one thing, a concept realized is another.

Further sources discussing the concept of resilient communities:

John Robb, who I first read of the concept in his book, Brave New War and is set to publish his next on the very subject of resilient communities.

The above mentioned Peter of The Strategist, a series of posts on resilience.

The Illustrious Grand Wizard of Oz, Shane Deichmans, who also happens to command a business initiative addressing emergency management and consultation.

Zenpundit who has cataloged both Johns Robb's posts and his own on the subject here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links, Soob. I think "resilience" is an idea whose time has come. But as you say, we have to flesh out the idea. It's worth reading Thomas Homer-Dixon's book The Upside of Down for insight into complex systems and what we might do to mitigate breakdown.

Jay@Soob said...

No problem, Peter. As for H-D's book It's on the short term have to read really soon list.

deichmans said...

Great post, General! Thanx for the plug to EMC2 LLC, too.

Resilience can be distilled to three measures: Preparedness (do you have a plan?), Awareness (do you need to implement your plan?), and Capability (can you implement your plan?).

While it would be nice to "unplug" from the complex infrastructure that sustains our culture, how far are people willing to go (or capable of going)?

When your three-day supply of emergency water runs out, will you ask your neighbor for access to their well? Will you seek out the American Red Cross shelter? Or will you seek your own water supply?

What about prescription medicines? Aside from looting a pharmacy, this supply chain has very high barriers to entry -- especially in a protracted crisis.

So while we can address our basic needs for short periods of time, true resilience may come at the expense of the things in our society that create a "culture": sports, arts, etc.

Jay@Soob said...

Thanks, Shane.

"So while we can address our basic needs for short periods of time, true resilience may come at the expense of the things in our society that create a "culture": sports, arts, etc."

Intriguing. I wonder if you could explore this a bit more either here or at Oz?

Jay@Soob said...

The Robbian approach would seem to be a grass roots sort, where as you seem to be indicating efforts must be macro-societal (popular culture) as opposed to micro-societal (community.)