Wednesday, August 15

City-based warfare creates need for decentralized police and redundant critical services. Do we have the will to carry out the programs?

"The mechanisms of power and control that states once exerted will continue to weaken as global interconnectivity increases. Small groups of terrorists can already attack deep within any state, riding on the highways of interconnectivity, unconcerned about our porous borders and our nation-state militaries. These terrorists’ likeliest point of origin, and their likeliest destination, is the city."
--John Robb
ZenPundit highlights John Robb's The Coming Urban Terror. ZenPundit rightly points out that "Network theory is one of the key concepts for the intelligent public to understand for the 21st century."

Robb's piece is very scary stuff but he also discusses practical countermeasures:
In almost all cases, cities can defend themselves from their new enemies through effective decentralization. To counter systems disruption, decentralized services -- the capability of smaller areas within cities to provide backup services, at least on a temporary basis -- could radically diminish the harmful consequences of disconnection from the larger global grid. In New York, this would mean storage or limited production capability of backup electricity, water, and fuel, with easy connections to the delivery grid -- at the borough level or even smaller. These backups would then provide a means of restoring central services rapidly after a failure.

Similarly, cities may combat networked gangs by decentralizing their own security.[...]

Robb's advice is not new (see Annlee Hines's Planning for Survivable Networks) and the ideas he covers have gained much ground since 9/11. However, many US city governments are stretched to the budget limit, and have put off repairs to basic infrastructure systems. So I think a lot of political will needs to be mustered before US city governments embrace Robb's advice.

The question is how to muster the will. Since the 1970s appeals to civic responsibility have largely taken the form of helping the disadvantaged, supporting diversity, and protecting the Earth's environment. Even in the post-9/11 era, I don't think civic appeals relating to defense issues have gained much ground outside the military milieu.

I wonder how much time US public schools give to teaching the importance of national defense.

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