Wednesday, May 07, 2008

On Resilience

HLS Watch has a nice recap of yesterday's hearing on resilience by the House Homeland Security Committee. A key takeaway from Jonas' post:

DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy, Stewart Baker, represented the federal government and its views on resilience, as well as current efforts to invest in this capability. Much of A/S Baker’s prepared remarks focused on the ability to “bounce back” as the goal of resilience. This is important, but it leaves out other dimensions that make the concept of resilience valuable (i.e. deterrence, measured response, dual use, etc.).

You're not going to be able to sell resilience as a policy unless you can argue that a resilient target is an unattractive target. Politically, you just can't say, "We must beef up our systems so that when the terrorists destroy them, we'll be able to rebuild quickly." But given that al Qaeda seeks to harm us economically, there is a persuasive argument to be made that resilient systems will be a less tempting target.

Dumb analogy: You know all those action, sci-fi and horror movies, where it doesn't seem to matter what you do to the bad guy - he reacts as if nothing happened? Well, this attribute - all by itself - makes him a pretty formidable adversary. As viewers we begin to despair for the hero. We think, "Why even bother fighting this guy - nothing works!"

Of course in the movies, the small, scrappy good guys always win because they're the good guys. But in the fight against terrorists, the small scrappy guys are pretty darned abominable. If the U.S. is a resilient, indefatigable force for good (read: soft power), we are clearly the stronger horse and the more attractive option. Choosing terrorism becomes a dual loser: You choose not only an abhorrent ideology, but futility as well.

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