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Building Population Resilience to Terror Attacks: Unlearned Lessons from Military and Civilian Experience

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On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States in a coordinated attack on its air transportation system and U.S. public symbols, causing the greatest single loss of civilian life in the history of the nation due to terrorism. The attacks in Washington DC, New York, and Pennsylvania rocked the entire nation, awakening all Americans to the dangers of terrorism that had been known for years by other nations. The response by America was dramatic as the nation hunkered down in an effort to ensure no more attacks. All air traffic was grounded for 3 days, security was increased throughout the nation, and travel, particularly by air, plummeted. It took months for Americans to return to the air in the same numbers as before these horrific attacks, and many Americans still fear airline travel. The caution of U.S. leaders in shutting down the system and the public reluctance to travel by air, while understandable, multiplied the negative impact of the terror attacks on the U.S. economy, furthering the aims of the attackers. On July 8, 2005, terrorists attacked the United Kingdom, killing 58 and injuring hundreds in a coordinated attack on the London mass transit system. Despite the shock of these attacks, London mass transit resumed some routes the same afternoon and opened all routes as soon as they were repaired. Londoners returned to these systems the next day in apparent defiance of the risks posed by terrorists. Is this dramatically different response by the Brits a uniquely British characteristic A review of current initiatives reveals that while there are both historical and current models of resilience, the U.S. population is not prepared to cope effectively with another significant attack or disaster. This paper examines the concept of resilience and recommends techniques to enhance the resilience of the American public. It will examine the model of resilience preparation provided by the military and explore past national efforts to prepare for attack.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Civil Defense
  • Unconventional Warfare

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