Thursday, January 7, 2010

I missed the President of the United States report on the findings of the investigation following the Christmas Day attempted bombing of the Northwestern Flight. However, I listened to Messrs Brenan, Gibbs and Napolitano's press conference on the findings and strategies for response. As I did, a number of things come to mind. The first being the need to guard against solving the wrong problems. Dunn (1997) identified what he described as Type III error in which one arrives at the false conclusion that the estimated boundaries of a problem approximates the true boundary of the problem. He offers several benchmarks for establishing congruence between those boundaries. The second being the fact that the flight emerged out of the United States as an indication that terrorist may be finding it increasingly difficult to launch attacks from US soil - a possibility that the measures being taken within the United States are effective. The third things can be seen as two important aspects of the shift in terror tactics - the use of non- middle eastern, Muslims to launch attacks and to do so from outside the US. That third thing having been highlighted at the press conference. These three things have to be central to the response and approach. The press conference appear to focus strategy on the United States - new machines, more K-9 officers, sharing of intelligence. While there is the need to ensure greater supervision and decisive action to be taken within the public service arms involved in national security, there is a need to ensure that those avenues for attacks available outside of the United States are policed if not curtailed.

Returning to the question of problem boundaries, adequate analysis of the problem is required to identify as nearly as possible its true boundary that is, it causes, not its symptoms must be the focus of responses.

Another critical aspects of that approach is to develop "a culture of disaster aversion" - a mental and cognitive shift in understanding and accepting the risks and vulnerabilities and adopting matched attitudes and skills to diffuse. In means a systematic inculcation or transmission of the Knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to respond to disasters or at best threats of disasters. The reaction of the passengers on that Christmas Day flight is an example of the the kind of attitude that is required. It must extend to all citizens on airplanes, in airports, in queues, on trains, on buses, in schools, in neighborhoods. As much as we may not want to be suspicious of our neighbours and friends. Often it is they who have the greatest opportunities to do us harm. We all must be come disaster intelligent. This means refusing to remain silent in the face of suspicion, and confronting when breaches are recognized whether with respect to security or regulations.

In addition, there must be open and outright condemnation of these Al Kaeda attacks by mainstream Islam. It is these condemnations that will assist in serving as a signal to the young and unsuspecting adherents and would be recruits. The silence of mainstream Islam on these attacks continue to be troubling.

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