If you haven’t noticed, Fridays are my responsibility here.
Daily blogging — most blogging — tends toward multiple short pieces. Whether news or commentary, unpaid (and many paid) bloggers seldom have enough time to do much more than aggregate, trying to make interesting connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.
With more contributors — one for each weekday — HLSWatch has morphed toward analysis and advocacy. It will probably seem a strange analogy, but drafting these weekly contributions is for me a bit like attending church. It is a discipline that I find helpful in focusing attention to aspects of reality I might otherwise neglect.
In this vein, I perceive the need for a bit more continuity between weekly services: a kind of lectionary. Since beginning to post in 2009 my choice of topics has been opportunistic, even impressionistic. Over the next few months I intend to give more consistent attention to three issues:
Catastrophes – I am increasingly persuaded the federal role in homeland security should mostly be focused on preventing, preparing for, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from very high consequence events. I also perceive the federal government has a key role in encouraging some modest, but consistent attention to catastrophic potential by other levels of government and the private sector. Catastrophes and potential catastrophes are, I will argue, complex events that unfold in distinct ways, different than emergencies or disasters. Some of the skills that are essential to managing emergencies and disasters can be profoundly counterproductive in potential catastrophes. At least these are my current perceptions. Can these claims hold up to my own analysis and your criticism?
Private Resilience – There’s lots of talk — often empty talk — about private-public partnerships. I’m all in favor of meaningful and practically focused private-public relationships. I am, though, much more interested in readiness and resilience that does not depend on the public sector. There is some intriguing evidence that many resilient neighborhoods have emerged in contention with the public sector. Is resilience a synthesis of a private antithesis engaging a public thesis? My interest in private resilience is related to my focus on potential catastrophes. In the very worst events private need will exceed public supply by several multiples. What are the characteristics of systemic resilience? How is such resilience engendered? Resilience can wither, how and why? My colleague Arnold Bogis has been clear that he perceives “resilience” to be little more than an intellectually sloppy buzz word. Can I convince him otherwise? Will he convince me?
Civil Liberties - Since 9/11 several legal measures have been undertaken that challenge — even directly assault — freedoms that were previously taken for granted. Other than various indignities at the airport, the narrowing of our liberties has not seemed to elicit sustained citizen concern… and even at the airport the protests have more often been whines than something more substantive. The explosive expansion of digital commerce and sociability provides the government (and others) unprecedented opportunity for intruding into civil and private “space.” There are reasonable motivations — preventative and protective — for this intrusion. The long-term consequences for our civil liberties are worth careful consideration and active engagement. Related, at least for me, is the issue of individual responsibility and the role of citizenship. Perhaps the government is not so much taking away civil liberties as the citizens are trading them away.
I have other homeland security-related interests — religious conflict and supply chains, to name two — but I have chosen these three topics for some sustained attention because I wonder if these three may, in combination, point us to an overarching reality.
Is there a persistent cascading complexity that we perpetually endeavor to deny? Do we regularly walk the edge of chaos, one step from catastrophe, but choose not to notice? What might be the outcome of noticing? Are the key components of resilience — flexibility, agility, adaptability, what else? — more effective than command-and-control to deal with cascading, unpredictable consequences? Is the active application of our civil liberties an essential tool for effectively engaging this complexity?
I will not post next week. Between the first Friday in June and Christmas there are 30 Fridays. In thirty posts, no more than 30,000 words — plus our discussions — can these questions be meaningfully answered? Will you participate? Argue with me? Propose your alternatives? Can we co-create an enhanced understanding of homeland security through our engagement with these three issues?
Claire Rubin has suggested blogs are not the best format for such extended considerations. Claire is one of the wisest women I know. But I have often found creative benefits in gentle foolishness. So, I will try.