The U.S. has been suc­cessful in reducing the threat of ter­rorism, but it has wildly over­spent in a futile attempt to achieve the goal of elim­i­nating it. “After 9/​11 we put our national secu­rity appa­ratus on steroids and decided that we were going to try to stop another attack from ever taking place,” says Stephen Flynn, a pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, who has advised the gov­ern­ment on home­land secu­rity issues. “But much less invest­ment was made to increase our society’s ability to respond to such events.”

In an age of fiscal con­straints, ana­lysts such as Flynn advo­cate a shift from ter­rorism pre­ven­tion to “resilience.” The smartest and most cost-​​effective way of han­dling the threat of ter­rorism is “to build our capacity to cope with it” when some­thing ter­rible tran­spires. That means, for example, de-​​emphasizing costly Pen­tagon weapons sys­tems and steering resources toward local police, health-​​care providers, and first respon­ders like those who per­formed so bril­liantly when the bombs went off on Patriot’s Day. The dis­patch with which Boston’s emer­gency per­sonnel han­dled the crisis, trans­porting dozens of injured people to triage tents and hos­pi­tals in min­utes, undoubt­edly lim­ited the death toll. Such heroism was no acci­dent. Sev­eral physi­cians had expe­ri­ence working in Iraq and Afghanistan, and theWall Street Journal reported that the city has con­ducted sim­u­lated bomb­ings to drill its first respon­ders on how to react.

The mil­i­tary value of ter­rorism is to cause dis­rup­tion and to get max­imum bang from an attack. But if you’re a ter­rorist and you have reason to believe it’s going to be a fizzle, it lowers your incen­tive to do it,” says Flynn. “Building resilience doesn’t solve the ‘nut’ problem. What it does is change the cost-​​benefit cal­cu­la­tion of a ter­rorist or group of ter­ror­ists and lowers the value of engaging in ter­rorism on U.S. soil.”

Read the article at Bloomberg Businessweek →