If you wish to mingle with the great and the good, and by the way have access to a Gulfstream V and a $40,000 entry fee, you could have spent the past few days listening to the international business and intellectual nobility dilate on the theme “resilient dynamism”. You know, of course, what that means, otherwise you wouldn’t have received one of those gold platted invitations in the first place.
Every so often, a new idea, or at least a slogan that sounds like it contains an idea, takes center stage. Resilience seems to be the new thing to talk about. And it is even better if you can make that resilience dynamic at your next public policy cocktail party.
As the gatekeepers of global power fire up their Gulfstreams and return to their nations’ capitols and financial centers, rest assured that resilience has long since replaced bygone slogans of the past, slogans such as regime change, nation building, and the global village. Surely the next several issues of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and dozens of think tank journals will enlighten us all on the gospel of resilience and its impact on our planet for decades to come.
In the meantime, we can suppose it has something to do with its predecessor buzzword “sustainability” or survivability or recovery from disaster or some such. We the hoi poloi will be informed in due course, when our betters deem it fit to fill us in on emerging trends and tides.
But for the Davos masters who imagine themselves to be more creative than they are, they are well behind the times (and not for the first time). Awaiting other nominees for the Resilience Oscar, mine is Dr. Steve Flynn, Ph.D., former Coast Guard commander, Northeastern University professor, and, most importantly, author of Rebuilding the Resilient Nation (2006). That puts Steve Flynn a good seven years ahead of the Davos secret society.
Steve’s concept was insightful, imaginative, even brilliant, and it had to do with homeland security. He knew something about that before almost all others as a senior advisor to the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century (sometimes called Hart-Rudman). He was early among those warning of domestic terrorist attacks, including nuclear weapons shipped cross country on railroad cars, and soon came up with the novel notion that the way to deter such attacks was to make them irrelevant. That is to say, if a society, in this case, American society, has built into its critical infrastructure—transportation, communications, finance, and energy—on line back-up systems ready to take over if others are destroyed, it makes an attack on those systems less attractive and less productive.
Shut down a power grid, air traffic control system, bank transfer system, or phone network, and another one pops up. Expensive, but effective. Emergency home generators and survival supplies in basements and backpacks do not deter terrorists, but they offer some personal insurance.
So, the many times you hear the t.v. talking heads and read the predictable opinion writers on the new theme of resilience, think to yourself, I know who’s idea that was. Steve Flynn.