Resilience is partly a matter of char­acter, but it is also one of policy. Stephen Flynn, a scholar at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity who has written widely about this, argues that, despite the bil­lions spent, we have never made it a pri­ority. George W. Bush often explained, “We fight the ter­ror­ists over­seas so that we don’t have to fight them here at home.” And indeed, the focus of policy in the Bush years was the fight abroad. At home we have spent hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars on a Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity that many experts agree is a dis­aster and should prob­ably never have been cre­ated. And while al-​​Qaeda has dimin­ished in strength, cer­tainly in its ability to launch major attacks on mil­i­tary or sym­bolic tar­gets, we remain unpre­pared for the most likely attacks, which are of the kind we saw in Boston.

In written tes­ti­mony given last July to the Senate Com­mittee on Home­land Secu­rity and Gov­ern­mental Affairs, Flynn pre­dicted that “small attacks car­ried out by one to three oper­a­tives, par­tic­u­larly if they reside in the United States, can be car­ried out with little plan­ning and on rel­a­tively short notice. As such, they are unlikely to attract the atten­tion of the national intel­li­gence com­mu­nity and the attacks, once underway, are almost impos­sible for the fed­eral law enforce­ment com­mu­nity to stop.”

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