America the Resilient
March 29, 2008 3:46 PM   Subscribe

America the Resilient.

This is the lead article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

posted by wittgenstein (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I have to agree. It is the lead article.
posted by found missing at 4:06 PM on March 29, 2008 [20 favorites]

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I haven't yet actually seen any proof that it's the lead article.
posted by Flunkie at 4:09 PM on March 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

I tend to prefer unleaded.
I'm using Safari, if that is helpful.
posted by Dizzy at 4:13 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

What Washington should do instead is arm Americans with greater confidence in their ability to prepare for and recover from terrorist strikes and disasters of all types. Confidence in their resilience would cap their fear and in turn undermine much of the incentives terrorists have for incurring the costs and risks of targeting the U.S. homeland.

I think the author does not quite know what the people in Washington actually want. If the masses were confident, the incompetent fucks would not have been elected for another term. The idea is to take the power out of the people's hands so they'll be easier to control.

As for resilience? Resilient to what? There has been exactly one major attack on American soil in the last 7 years. Being shot once does not make you resilient. It's actually done the opposite and pushed people to be scared and flinching at shadows. America needs a lot more prolonged attacks on home soil (think IRA bombings in London) for the citizenry to buck up and get over the fear that has been pushed down their throats for far too long now. As that's unlikely to happen, I think it's probably going to be a steady decline back to complacency only with nastier people in charge.

During World War II, Hollywood played a helpful public-service role by supporting war-bond drives and producing training films, while providing much-needed entertainment. Media executives today could do the same by committing themselves to relating stories and communicating messages that inform and inspire individual and societal resilience.

Propaganda films. That's a great idea.

Yeah, all of this is my humble opinion and I'm just a filthy foreigner who, some 8 years ago, was making plans of moving to America but has since reconsidered.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:13 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

Foreign Affairs is basically a dumping ground for articles by people looking to make a 'statement' in order to grease their path in the rah-rah America-is-awesome world of think tanks and whatnot. Also for politicians.
posted by delmoi at 4:14 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Apparently you don't have any problems derailing a discussion.
posted by found missing at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2008

But isn't the whole idea of a "lead article" really just a construct of the reactionary patriarchal fascists? You guys need to expand your minds.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The lead aria of Act Two in "Turandot" is "Nessun Dorma."
I'm using Opera, if that is helpful.
posted by Dizzy at 4:22 PM on March 29, 2008 [7 favorites]

Sorry, found missing. I'll try to stay on topic from now on.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:25 PM on March 29, 2008

I love the fact that it has a summary at the beginning. I hope this catches on everywhere.
posted by horsemuth at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

How is it that everybody in the world already knows this shit except for the people in charge? How was it that I, John Q. Public, a working stiff in the godforsaken wilds of Texas knew that New Orleans was an unmitigated disaster before anybody at FEMA or the White House?

How is it that I, just a typical T-shirt printer, knew there were no WMDs in Iraq and that the Saddam/Al-Quida tie-in was malarky before the Secretary of State?

Nothing explains it except our willingness, as normal Americans, for reasons unbeknownst to me, to elect complete fucking idiots over and over again. Why do we do this? I'm seriously stumped.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

The lead aria of Act Two in "Turandot" is "Nessun Dorma."

Ah -- Paul Potts lead 'Britain's Got Talent' to become winner with his rendition of 'Nessun Dorma.'
posted by ericb at 4:36 PM on March 29, 2008

posted by ericb at 4:38 PM on March 29, 2008

I was all set to play the devil's advocate, but I'm not sure if it's more charitable to suggest that the Bush administration is really trying its hardest to do good, or to suggest that they're exactly accomplishing their goals.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:41 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

How is it that everybody in the world already knows this shit except for the people in charge?

I think slimepuppy covered that one in his first graph.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:41 PM on March 29, 2008

The discus is an athletic throwing event in track and field competition. The discus, the object to be thrown, is a heavy lenticular disc with a diameter of 220 mm (8.66 inches) and a weight of two kilograms (4 lb 7 oz) for the men's event, and one kg (2 lb 3 oz) for the women's, with a smaller diameter of 181 mm (7.17 inches).

Oh, you said discuss.

Never mind.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:51 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Increasing the resilience of the American people will require presidential leadership

Likewise, increasing the fear of the American people is helped along by presidential leadership.

Perhaps a third option is not to be ruled by the luck of benevolence or malevolence of a given president, which in any case is a gross abuse of our country's balance of powers, but to foment conditions for a true democracy:

• get all the corporations out of our government
• free and fair elections, without dominance of the two-party machinery
• any oversight of our industrial-military-security complex
• actually imposing anti-trust legislation on key controls over our media, eliminating and even reversing existing conglomerations of media
• enact legislation to keep corporations from being treated like human beings

Those are just a few ideas. As easy as it is to put our hopes and faiths in one individual, s/he could get assassinated and replaced with a tyrant. Better to have a resilient system than to be lucky enough to temporarily have a benevolent tyrant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:52 PM on March 29, 2008 [7 favorites]

OK, I'll bite.

Based on the author's bio and background and books (as well as this article and previous ones in FA and elsewhere), my guess as to why the article being linked to here seems (to me at least) so strangely and impeccably devoid of any real meat or actual specifics (in that wonky way that only a technocrat can manage) is that Mr. Flynn is hedging his bets about who our next president is--and hoping to cement his credentials and land a cabinet position.

He appears to have worked for the Bush One, Clinton, and Bush Two administrations, and to have established himself as an up and coming "expert"/wonk/go-to guy (he's HS/ ex-Coast Guard w/ contacts at Brookings, AEI, CFR, etc) for all matters "Homeland Security" (terrorism preparedness, border security, all the usual catchphrases), and he seems clearly smart and driven enough to contribute as a midlevel or upper level administrator (HS, FEMA, INS, some other dept) to our next administration. He has the requisite anodyne politics, writes ominously and yet blandly about how ill prepared we are for disaster, and generally fits into the fearocrat mold this country--a mold that we, w/our implict and explicit militarization, have been perfecting in its Strangelovian zeal for at least 50 years.

But does the guy have anything new or original to say and is he taking any bold stances? The blurbs on his book say yes, that he stands outside the complex as a harbinger of what needs to be done, but by my admitedly somewhat cursory estimation the truth is no: he's just another insider and career specialist, not espeically bad perhaps but not especially insightful either.
posted by ornate insect at 4:55 PM on March 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

So, the key to Americans getting their lost, youthful resiliency back is 3 days store of food and water? Why, it was under our noses all along!

(Sorry, I'll be swinging back to fretful in a few minutes.)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2008

The Case for Resilience.

This is an old article from

posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on March 29, 2008

A discus sounds like a good idea for fending off terrorists. Or a disco ball.
posted by lukemeister at 5:30 PM on March 29, 2008

Nothing explains it except our willingness, as normal Americans, for reasons unbeknownst to me, to elect complete fucking idiots over and over again. Why do we do this? I'm seriously stumped.

"Why do things that only happen to stupid people keep happening to me?" - H. Simpson

Accurate ranking of national IQ here.
posted by tachikaze at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Foreign Affairs is basically a dumping ground for articles by people looking to make a 'statement' in order to grease their path in the rah-rah America-is-awesome world of think tanks and whatnot.

Well, it's a bit more complex than that. Haven't read the linked piece yet, but just thought I'd mention I've found some solid analysis in Foreign Affairs over the years. A few years back, Larry Diamond's What Went Wrong in Iraq? got me looking at the magazine and I think delmoi's easy dismissal is a little too cavalier for the reality.
posted by mediareport at 5:44 PM on March 29, 2008

Why do we do this? I'm seriously stumped.

to build up our resilience
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding the defence of Foreign Affairs. FWIW it does include articles which are at least interesting.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2008

No crossword, no horoscope, no Jumble.
posted by Dizzy at 6:25 PM on March 29, 2008

Increasing the resilience of the American people will require presidential leadership

You've all missed the profound truth in this. Presidential leadership does indeed train the American people to be resilient.
posted by srboisvert at 6:32 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

All they [terrorists] can hope for is to spawn enough fear to spur Washington into overreacting in costly and self-destructive ways.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:51 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the overview of the authors background ornate insect. I should have checked that out, but wanted to be moved or not by his message. I was moved, then not, then moved again, then not. I guess this is why said author has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, and more power to him for pulling that off. I will start with what I really liked about this article. I liked that it was addressed primarily to the future leadership of our nation, and I liked that it was about said leader presenting American people with messages that are both empowering ( what can I do today?), and important to their LONG TERM well being (what must I do, little by little, for tomorrow).

Just to give this a bit of context looking back....While I really liked Ronald Reagan's economic message in his time, his astounding presidential "miss", was that he did not make clear enough the need for individuals to SAVE some of their well earned money. Had he commited himself to that long term leaderly message back then, and other presidents had kept that message "fresh", so much would be different in 2008. The same can be said about conservation of energy messages, and now homeland security messages. Leaders need to LEAD, and one of the most important parts of leadership is to help individuals figure out how to do what they would much rather NOT do, but what will be in their best interests, and the collective best interests over the long haul.
posted by LiveLurker at 7:21 PM on March 29, 2008

LiveLurker: I'm not sure I grasp you at all. The economic woes we face today are in no small measure the direct result of systematic deregulation that began under Reagan. As Obama said the other day, "pain trickles up." Reganomics was a mythic attempt at corporatism masquerading as fiscal benevolence: it put the squeeze on the middle class, and the S&L crisis of the Reagan/Bush One era is but one red flag that signals how our economy cannot be dictated by corporate interests alone. I also think the dot com bubble of the Clinton years was another sign, and NAFTA was a bad idea, but at least Clinton managed to balance the budget and keep our defecit down: unlike George "three trillion dollar war" Bush. When Cheney said "Reagan proved defecits don't matter," it was clear we were in trouble. The current administration has been an absolute disaster economically b/c they believed, even after Enron, in letting the "market" (kept afloat by the Chinese) sort itself out. The result was an unchecked speculative bubble on Wall Street that mirrors the 1920s. And we all know what happened then. I think it's just simplistic and patronizing in the extreme to assume that our economic mess can be blamed on ordinary Americans. The blame rests in that absurd hyper-ideological canard, so common among conservatives, that to regulate the market is somehow unAmerican or anti-capitalist.
posted by ornate insect at 8:06 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

C'mon, this is a country of chickens. Imagine a building a year gets blown up by people who hate us. So what? Obviously sucks for the folks who are in the building--but you, personally, are still more likely to die sooner by eating bacon, driving your car, and any of a long list of other activities. Death by Terrorism is right down there around #672, Death by Sepsis Caused by Inability to Retrieve Errant Butt Plug.

To show fear, to throw out ideals, the rule of law, dignity in the face of those odds just shows how pathetic we are.
posted by maxwelton at 9:40 PM on March 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

Thinking you didn't understand where I was coming from in this thread ornate insect. I was talking about leaders setting the tone for those things which will be true regardless who is in office in eight months or eight months and four years from now. Things like saving some money, or saving some energy, even though both may seem difficult if not impossible at times.
posted by LiveLurker at 10:00 PM on March 29, 2008

LiveLurker, thanks for posting this.

ornate insect: He appears to have worked for the Bush One, Clinton, and Bush Two administrations--

Has Flynn really worked for Bush Two? His previous book was titled America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism. The title suggests that it's pretty critical.

Flynn's been calling for greater disaster preparedness for a long time now. I remember reading his essay on what the US should to increase disaster preparedness in How Did This Happen?, a collection of CFR essays that came out in response to 9/11.

Sure, he's a technocrat. But the US could use more technocrats and fewer political loyalists. See Iraq.

What kind of specifics were you looking for?
A report on disaster preparedness (PDF, HTML-ized by Google, NYT) released in June 2006 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that only 25 percent of state emergency operations plans and 10 percent of municipal plans were sufficient to cope with a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. ...

In 2005, after a review of hundreds of studies and reports and a survey of more than 2,000 engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a scathing report card on 15 categories of infrastructure: the national power grid, dams, canal locks, and seven other infrastructure sectors received Ds; the best grade, a C+, went to bridges, and even in that case, 160,570 bridges, out of a total of 590,750, were rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. ...

An August 2006 study sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security found that nine out of ten Americans believed that being prepared for emergencies was important. Yet a poll commissioned in the same month by Time magazine found that only 16 percent of Americans thought they were "very well prepared" for an emergency. The good news is that most of the things people can do at the individual level to prepare themselves, their families, and their employees are relatively easy. These measures include purchasing a three-day emergency kit, developing a family emergency contact plan, and visiting Web sites maintained by the Red Cross and other organizations that provide instructive what-to-do lists.
posted by russilwvong at 11:03 PM on March 29, 2008

Without getting into the larger issues touched upon by the article, I want to bring attention to the following misuse of statistics:

in 2006, the year the system turned 50, Americans spent a total of 3.5 billion hours stuck in traffic

The reader is meant to think: "Wow! 3.5 BILLION HOURS! That's a lot of hours to spend in traffic!"

If we assume the population of the US to be 300 million, that averages to roughly 11.7 hours per person per year stuck in traffic. Even if we assume that only half of the 300 million are driving, that's still only 23 hours per person per year.

I call shenanigans!
posted by yoz420 at 7:53 AM on March 30, 2008

Although I hate the imperative "Discuss." with the incandescent nuclear fire of a thousand suns, the linked article is worthwhile reading if only for this bit:
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of that day focuses almost entirely on the three airliners that struck the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. ... But it is the story of United Airlines flight 93, the thwarted fourth plane, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field, that ought to be the dominant 9/11 narrative. That plane's passengers foiled al Qaeda without any help from -- and in spite of the inaction of -- the U.S. government. ... Americans should celebrate -- and ponder -- the reality that the legislative and executive centers of the U.S. federal government, whose constitutional duty is to "provide for the common defense," were themselves defended that day by one thing alone: an alert and heroic citizenry.
posted by moonbiter at 10:51 AM on March 30, 2008

Why do we do this?

We, who?

But since you ask:

The short list for candidates for any office that is truly dangerous is not of the citizens' doing - it's the work of party hacks who live and breath this stuff, and the moneyed forces who foot the bills. At the senatorial, gubernatorial, or presidential level, the possible candidates have so many outstanding claims on them, it's not even funny. The man on the street who is presented with a final choice of Take-It on the one hand, or Leave-it on the other, is forced to hold his nose while pulling the lever or staying home. Which is why so many stay home.

Get more involved, you say? Find, persuade, finance, back and promote someone other than a local third rate lawyer to go against the been-there-forever, brings-home-the-bacon incumbant congressman and Make A Difference? Not so easy. Rare birds at the best of times, and who has time? Even the young and energetic free of two job wageslavery, or the old and retired and terrified of losing their life support tend to jump on bandwagons others have started. For the working and exhausted at the end of the day, it's not going to happen. (Besides, it usually just gets you Ralph Nader. Again.)

Democracy is rule by the intense minority - those who are willing on whatever candidate or issue to push and push and push and push and push and push until you just give up. Until we get a crisis, a real crisis, a knock down drag out millions of lives are immediately on the line kind of crisis (thank you, by the way, moonbiter, for the apposite quote), see above and repeat. (And be very afraid of crisis time, by the way- that way lies demagogues.)
posted by IndigoJones at 12:18 PM on March 30, 2008

We, who?

The collective we, obviously. It takes a nation of idiots, apparently. Yet, somehow, I refuse to give up hope -- my own brand of idiocy, I suppose.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:04 AM on March 31, 2008

« Older Notstalgia vs Hindsight?   |   Speed, Style and Beauty: The Ralph Lauren Car... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments