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Anticipating Future Strategic Triple Whammies

In the light of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear misconceptions (Part #1)


Prepared on the occasion of the disaster arising from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011)


Introduction
Multi-whammy preparedness: a Strategic Whammy Scale?
Transcending the obvious
"Acts of God"?
Systemic neglect -- of warnings
Identifying strategic options characterized by marginalization of warnings
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

Beyond deploring the horrendous destruction and loss of life and livelihoods in Japan, the question is how to derive insight from the event. Of special relevance is the manner in which the event overwhelmed assiduous provisions in anticipation of any single crisis. The point was originally well made by John Platt:

What finally makes all of our crises still more dangerous is that they are now coming on top of each other. Most administrations...are not prepared to deal with...multiple crises, a crisis of crises all at one time...Every problem may escalate because those involved no longer have time to think straight. (What we must do. Science, 28 November 1969, pp. 1115-1121).

The moment has apparently now been recognized by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who recently declared:

We are living through an era like no other. There are multiple crises: a food crisis, fuel crisis, flu crisis and financial crisis... Each is a crisis we have not seen for many years, even generations. But this time they are hitting the world all at once. We have never seen any era when we have been hit by all these multiple crises at the one time... Peacekeeping has experienced serious setbacks. Today we face mounting difficulties in getting enough troops, the right equipment and adequate logistical support. This supply has not kept pace with demand. (United Nations peace missions in peril, The Guardian, 8 July 2009)

Arguably it is not the safety of the technology that needs to be the subject of the urgent "stress tests" currently planned, rather it is the strategic mindset which should be subject to some form of "stress test".

Is strategic planning designed for 4-fold whammies, 6-fold whammies, etc -- to which many already considered themselves to be explicitly exposed? Or is it deliberately, unless challenged, designed primarily for single whammy crises?

This exploration follows on a commentary on risk assessment triggered by the flooding in Australia earlier in  2011 (Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect, 2011).

cs10s/floods.php">Disastrous Floods as Indicators of Systemic Risk Neglect, 2011).


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