Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Protective Imagination

Richard Forno makes a good point in his comment We Still Lack Protective Imagination:

[The response to the London bombings] pretty much comes down to lots of guys with guns running around America's mass transit system in an effort to present the appearance of "increased security" to reassure the public. While such activities are a political necessity to show that our leaders are 'doing something' during a time of crisis we must remember that talk or activity is no substitute for progress or effectiveness.

Forget the fact that regular uniformed police officers and rail employees can sweep or monitor a train station just as well as a fully-decked-out SWAT team -- not to mention, they know it better, too. Forget that even with an added law enforcement presence, it's quite possible to launch a suicide attack on mass transit. Forget that a smart terrorist now knows that the DHS response to attacks is to "increase" the security of related infrastructures (e.g., train stations) and just might attack another, lesser-protected part of American society potentially with far greater success. In these and other ways today following the London bombings, the majority of security attention has been directed at mass transit. However, while we can't protect everything against every form of attack, our American responses remain conventional and predictable -- just as we did after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and today's events in London, we continue to respond in ways designed to "prevent the last attack."

In other words, we are demonstrating a lack of protective imagination.

Contrary to America's infatuation with instant gratification, protective imagination is not quickly built, funded, or enacted. It takes years to inculcate such a mindset brought about by outside the box, unconventional, and daring thinking from folks with expertise and years of firsthand knowledge in areas far beyond security or law enforcement and who are encouraged to think freely and have their analyses seriously considered in the halls of Washington. Such a radical way of thinking and planning is necessary to deal with an equally radical adversary, yet we remain entrenched in conventional wisdom and responses....

[N]early 4 years after 9/11, it's clear that despite the catchy sound-bytes and flurry of activity in the name of protecting the homeland, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. (emphasis mine) |Link|
Can we drop the rhetoric of the war on terrorism and get serious. Terrorism will never totally go away, it's important to keep that in mind. The existing political order will always be challenged by the disenfranchised and radicals. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

So how do we deal with suicide bombers? Do we try to fortify all our soft targets? No, that's impossible and the cost would be prohibitive. Do we decide that a certain amount of risk is necessary for a free society?

Suicide terrorism is an almost unstoppable weapon. It is the freedom fighter's cruise missile.

Any suggestions on cultivating a protective imagination? I think we're all still trying to come to grips with the logic of suicide terrorism.

There is a demographic shift coming in the Arab world and if the local governments can't find employment for many of the youth, the world will get a lot more exciting in a bad way.

Think out of the box...

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