The Long Blog: Practical Deductions From Standpoint of US Policy – or – The superior resilience of red wine glasses in contrast to champagne glasses
Editorial Note: This is the ninth — and final — in a series of posts on resilience as a proposed focus for a homeland security strategy. This strategizing is organized around the approach taken by George Kennan in a seminal 1946 document. Links to prior posts are provided below. If you have not, please access the comments to these posts. The discussions taking place “behind the wall” have been fundamental to the value of the effort.
From the closing paragraphs of the Long Telegram:
(3) Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit–Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies…
(5) Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After Al, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.
800.00B International Red Day/2 – 2546: Airgram
Fundamental to Kennan’s foreign policy is an effective — we might even say, resilient — domestic policy. The stronger and more differentiated our internal condition, the less opportunity we give any external threat.
As his later writings confirm — and is inferred by the final paragraph above — Kennan is not much concerned with the strength of domestic security. Rather, the social, political, and economic vitality of the nation is our best defense (and offense, too). The more we solve domestic “deficiencies” the stronger our international position.
Much of our thinking and talking about homeland security is homeostatic. We focus on prevention (at least I do) and protection. We talk about recovery. We seem to seek to minimize change. It sounds like we are aiming to preserve the status quo.
But this language obscures — and may actually complicate — achievement of our real goal, which is much more about adaptability, optimization, and growth. We want to solve our deficiencies.
A complex system self-organizes around a point of equilibrium. This is good, we usually don’t want the system to lose its core characteristics. But do we really want to always return to the same or very similar point? (the Greek homoios = similar is the origin of homeo in homeostasis).
This has not been the goal — or historical experience — of the United States. We want the sense of stability of being in the same place. But we have also wanted our equilibrium point to move (up) — economically and in regards to justice and freedom. It has been the American tendency to seek a kind of heterostasis, a stability that encompasses a depth and breadth of positive change.
The narrower and shallower the basin, the more likely turbulence will cause the system to spill over its boundaries and become an entirely different system. Consider a shallow champagne coupe. Just a little turbulence and all is lost.
Better is a champagne flute. The depth of the basin is more suited for containing turbulence. The flute’s shape intensifies and directs the internal turbulence — bubbles and fragrance — for our pleasure.
Even more condusive to resilience is the depth and breadth of a red wine goblet. The basin generously accommodates the turbulence needed to aerate the wine. The more complicated the vintage, the more vigorous the turbulence, the more satisfying the taste.
Two years ago at the annual (semi-annual?) World Bank riot, I observed a police commander apply a strategy of resilience to a tactical situation. It was toward the end of a long, hot day. A unit of riot police was being held in reserve outside the principal perimeter. The arrival of a television crew attracted an anarchist flash team intending to charge the police.
Just as the anarchists finished the short war-dance that typically precedes a charge, the police commander barked into his radio, “disperse!” The line of dark visors turned sharply toward their boss. Again he shouted, “disperse!” And this time he waved his arms and wiggled his fingers as if to say, anywhere, I don’t care. The thin blue line dissolved.
The anarchists, all pumped up from their noisy huddle, no longer had a target. They looked around in confusion. Their shoulders slumped. The television crew drove on. The turbulence had been given the space it needed to return to equilibrium.
In developing and implementing a strategy of resilience we seek to deepen and widen the boundaries in which turbulence can occur while maintaining the essential function and form of our current system.
Has this been — is this now — the goal of the Department of Homeland Security? Does this resonate with the goals and objectives of the component agencies of the Department of Homeland Security? Is this a major outcome of our homeland security planning, training, exercising, grant-making and preparedness programs?
With a few possible exceptions, the answer has to be no. If any consistent strategy can be discerned it has much more to do with suppressing the likelihood of turbulence and responding to the messy consequences of turbulence, rather than accommodating the possibility (probability) of turbulence. We are much more focused on resisting change than adopting resilience.
Prevention, response, and recovery each have an important place in homeland security thinking and doing. Each will be more successful in combination with a strategy of resilience.
For the next joint meeting of the DHS policy team with the White House Resilience Policy Directorate, I recommend a Stag’s Leap Cabernet (2004 vintage if you can find it) in a deep, wide goblet.
This is no time for champagne.
www.hlswatch.com, post #1993/WordPress 2.7.1 with 0 widgets: Blog
Previous posts in this series:
The Long Blog: A strategy of resilience (October 19)
The Long Blog: Practical policy continued (November 2)
Other than responding to reader comments, this completes the series. Monday I will offer some final thoughts before departing my role at The Watch.