On the practical side, Stephen Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations believes we need to do a better job of supporting first-responders. Republicans, he argues, have allowed a rigid states' rights ideology to create an artificial distinction between federal and state responses to natural disasters and small-scale acts of terrorism--denying local cops and firefighters the resources and support they need. As for the psychological side: Instead of a security mindset, which assumes we're either safe or not, Flynn's buzzword is resilience--the idea that you can't prevent all hazards but can organize communities to recover quickly once inevitable hazards occur. "The more resilient we become as a society, the less consequential acts of terrorism become, and that requires acting in ways DHS hasn't been acting," Flynn told me. "One is being far more open with the American people about vulnerabilities, and another is empowering us about how we address the vulnerabilities so we don't have an unbounded sense of fear."I've always agreed that we needed a lot more "You can't phase us" in our assessment of the Islamist threat, and I found myself nodding with every sentence when I read Flynn's article this spring. Actually, that was kind of a problem, as I was on a treadmill and it threw off my equilibrium. I almost fell over a couple of times, but as Flynn certainly would have wanted, I sucked it up and finished off the workout and the article. It was truly an admirable show of personal resilience. But I digress.
Granted, a resilience-first reaction was close to impossible in the aftermath of 9-11, when the nation basically needed time to nurse its wounds, but Bush made the problem so much worse by exploiting and adding to the national fear for the next five years (I don't remember him doing it as much following the 2006 elections), when we all would have been better off had he tried to buck us up. Flynn's one of the few prominent experts who I've seen make that argument so eloquently, and to link it to concrete changes in policy.