While terrorists are motivated for a variety of reasons, one thing that makes terrorism attractive as a means of warfare is that an adversary often finds that a relatively small investment in an attack can cause the targeted society to respond in costly and self-destructive ways. An overreaction to terrorist attack can end up motivating follow-on attacks much in the way that negotiating with hostage takers can fuel more hostage-taking. These deliberations sparked up after the London Bridge terror attack, in which seven people were killed and dozens more wounded, marking the third such incident in the UK in the past 10 weeks.
The incident was followed by the kind of stoic response that both Londoners and Israelis are noted for providing a measure of deterrence—not from every self-radicalized lunatic, but importantly from non-state and state actors who might otherwise see value in sponsoring these kinds of attacks. In response to that, Northeastern University’s professor Stephen Flynn, founding director of the university’s Global Resilience Institute, reflected his views on the importance of remaining resilient in the face of chronic terrorism.
He elucidated, “They can do the kinds of things World War II Londoners did during the Blitz”. He advocated that they could volunteer to provide auxiliary support to first responders in dealing with the aftermath of attacks. The “panic” response always requires two elements: an awareness of a clear and present threat, and a feeling of powerlessness to deal with the threat. The more prepared we are for emergencies, the more empowered we feel and the less afraid we become. Effective resilience policies start with accepting the fact that like natural disasters, acts of terror will not always be prevented. Accordingly, it is important to plan for how to deal with them when they do occur so as to minimize the loss of life and to speed recovery.