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G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson

Theme Two. When the surprise is predatory!

In the past, “crisis management” has tacitly assumed that crises would be the result of natural forces and/or unintended human action.  When humans prey upon their own kind (short of organized military action), they are able now to wreck sufficiently unexpected destruction to add this as a source of crisis.   Do predatory sources raise additional complications when public institutions attempt to prepare  gracefully to deal with rude surprises – surprises that originate from within their own or other civil societies?  

Within the past two years, the US has for the first time experienced just such a situation, one that interjects security concerns into the mix.13  This is producing serious and complicating concerns about how public institutions establish confident emergency responses, and particularly how they might should incorporate processes that prepare the public for predatory crises.  Two of the factors in Table 2 above speak to this situation:  the mix of publicly available versus classified information needed to prepare for and/or respond to rude, nasty surprises, and the credibility of the information sources that are available.

Without dwelling here on importance of these two factors (and readers may wish to add others that stem from predatory sources of crises), it seems clear that increasing proportions of classified information needed for understanding and responding to novel threatening surprises set in motion reactions and operating dynamics that are now quite difficult to predict.  What do variations in these factors have on the capacity of institutions to elaborate the norms and capacities that facilitate recombine them in the face of novel, nasty surprises?  One important aspect of this would be to account for the effects on “crisis management” as a society’s technical and institutional infrastructure becomes increasingly interdependence and become the province of Homeland Defense agencies.  This is particularly interesting as one considers differences among various political cultures.

Theme Three:  When rude surprises are trans-border.

The fact of this conference is an “existence proof” that, when these matters extend beyond the confines of a single society, analysts and operators have only modest confidence in how to proceed.14  A way of addressing this business is to frame it in null hypothetical form, to wit: Institutional responses to threatening surprises in one nation will be very similar to those in other nations.  Put this way, the only response is, “NOT - - - LIKELY!”  And then the challenge begins to sort out the national level conditions that account for what differences we already see and should expect (at least tacitly) to color our reactions to each other in the Conference.

Another way of putting this is to wonder: in each of the affected countries, what similar conditions enables highly discretionary institutional behavior – in service to self-organizing recombination of public capacity as the lineaments a rude surprises unfolds?  What institutional

13 I should quickly note that these complications have been encountered in Europe for decades.  There is much for Americans to learn from this history.   

14 When confidence seems to cloak public pronouncements, it is almost always rooted in one analytical ideology or another which, of themselves, generates sufficient disagreement to erode general confidence.

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