Sunday 16 May 2021 | 06:25 | SYDNEY
Sunday 16 May 2021 | 06:25 | SYDNEY

Suggested reading for Ric Smith


Sam Roggeveen


4 March 2008 09:35

The recently appointed head of the government’s homeland security review, Ric Smith (who is also a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute), could find worse ways to spend an hour today than to read this Foreign Affairs essay on resilience as the key concept for a new counter-terrorism strategy. The article is all about America, but Australian readers should ignore the specifics and focus on the philosophical approach it recommends. The key points for Australia:

  • Stop the panic: Al Qaeda cannot destroy us, as we are too large and too strong (this is true even of Australia, not just the US). But we can undermine our own way of life if we over-react to the threat in self-destructive ways.
  • Let the Australian people help: Australians can cope with a terrorist attack, and they will probably rise to the occasion, as they do when natural disasters threaten. Flight 93 and the orderly evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11 showed that people will help themselves if you give them information.
  • Focus on resilience: Since we cannot defend all of Australia against all attacks all of the time, we must instead improve our ability to absorb attacks and bounce back. This has the added bonus of strengthening our economy; extra security, by contrast, is an economic brake.