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Old 08-03-2009   #1
Beelzebubalicious
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Default Resilience

The word/concept of "resilience" is appearing with more and more frequency lately, the latest in an article by Thomas Barnett titled, "The New Rules: Putting Resilience at the Heart of Nation-Building". There was also an interesting short article on resilience in Foreign Policy Magazine recently, titled, "The Next Big Thing: Resilience".

I have noticed that the word resilience has come up a lot recently in the literature on fragile states and fragility, most importantly in the OECD Fragile States Working Group paper titled, "From Fragility to Resilience: Concepts and Dilemmas of Statebuilding in Fragile States" .

In this paper, I was especially struck by the inclusion of “citizen expectations” and how often I heard that high expectations are a major problem in post-conflict countries (matched with government’s inability to deliver services at the local level). In many societies, Liberia being one, resilience is a major factor in preventing further conflict. Here are some quotes from that report that highlight this approach:

"We presume the opposite of fragility not to be stability, though this has often been the goal of external actors, but rather resilience – or the ability to cope with changes in capacity, effectiveness, or legitimacy. Resilience, we argue, therefore derives from a combination of capacity and resources, effective institutions, and legitimacy, all of which are underpinned by political processes which mediate state-society relations and expectations. ". Page 2.

“The central contention of this paper is that fragility arises primarily from weaknesses in the dynamic political process through which citizens’ expectations of the state and state expectations of citizens are reconciled and brought into equilibrium with the state’s capacity to deliver services. Reaching equilibrium in this negotiation over the ‘social contract’ is the critical, if not the sole, determinant of resilience, and disequilibrium the determinant of fragility.” Page 3.

Barnett states that "The new rules for national security lie in making this notion of resilience central to the broader shifts in emphasis at both Defense and State. We must develop the ability to shift seamlessly from predation to protection, or from simply hunting down bad guys to making communities, societies, and regions more resilient in this age of globalization."

To some extent, this feels like a new term for the same old stuff, but I do think that terminology matters and I've always had a hard time with the term "stability" or even "sustainability". Resilience also connotes that a society is not resilience and we somehow need to build resilience. Again, the wrong approach. If we stop talking about what's not there and start noticing what is there (amazingly resilient, flexible and innovative societies that do a damn good job dealing with conflict, not to mention external intervention in their countries).
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Old 08-03-2009   #2
Stan
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Default By Afrcan Standards, Naive at best

Hey Eric,
Thanks for the links !

Quote:
... definition of a fragile state, simply, as one unable to meet its citizens’ expectations or manage changes in expectations and capacity through the political process.
If that were all it took to meet the definitions of a fragile State in Africa. There's little that I could gain from this in order to prepare for a tour in Sub-Sahara in any capacity even today. After more than 14 years, I could barely apply the same logic here.
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If we stop talking about what's not there and start noticing what is there
Concur. Not too sure why we can't see beyond our political means/methods. But then, being part of a Country Team never made much sense to me
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Old 08-03-2009   #3
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This "resilience" talk is redundant. John Robb* is totally in love with it, but resilience isn't much more than modesty, common sense and competence.

It's completely redundant to other virtues that are well-known.

The "resilience" buzz is useless spiel.




*:
http://www.google.com/search?as_q=re...ghts=&safe=off

Last edited by Fuchs; 08-03-2009 at 09:42 PM. Reason: added link
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Old 08-03-2009   #4
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Default Agree.

I'd add stamina and refusal to quit to your list. Resilience suggests that people be people. How innovative...
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Old 08-04-2009   #5
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Disagree. Resilience is an excellent topic in a variety of theaters. The opposite though of resilience is not fragile it is brittle. Something can be incredibly strong (like an oak tree), but if it is brittle it will shatter under force.

Resilience as a concept is a precursor to much of the discussion on sustainability and military concepts such as force protection.

Resilience as an ideology is a much broader set of concepts than John Robb and others have discussed. Often pigeon holed resilience refers to societal rather than simple military matters. A resilient society can withstand privation and sacrifice much more than a "just in time" inventory society with levels and depths of brittle systems built upon each others.

Similarly the use of of contractors in the battlespace and substantial reliance on high cost weapons systems may appear to be effective but increase the brittle nature of conduct of war. Overcoming or adapting may be sexy to scream as mantras but if the systems were resilient in the first place would be unnecessary.

In the end resilience admonition to societies from a variety of angles and to people directly that survival is about more than having a McDonalds available in time of disaster.
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Old 08-04-2009   #6
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Default I see and agree with some of what you what you wrote.

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Originally Posted by selil View Post
Disagree. Resilience is an excellent topic in a variety of theaters. The opposite though of resilience is not fragile it is brittle. Something can be incredibly strong (like an oak tree), but if it is brittle it will shatter under force.
Agree.
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Resilience as a concept is a precursor to much of the discussion on sustainability and military concepts such as force protection.
True but I disagree with the concept (not that anyone cares...) because it leads to esoteric discussions instead of concentration on issues.
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A resilient society can withstand privation and sacrifice much more than a "just in time" inventory society with levels and depths of brittle systems built upon each others.
Granted on the effect -- how either Society responds though is the indicator of their real 'resilience.' Also note that 'not just in time' society may surprise you with their resilience in spite of the massive change in their norms.
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Similarly the use of of contractors in the battlespace and substantial reliance on high cost weapons systems may appear to be effective but increase the brittle nature of conduct of war.
The 'resilience' is shown by how that force functions without contractors should they be abruptly removed. My suspicion is they would do far better than the Contractors would like to believe
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Overcoming or adapting may be sexy to scream as mantras but if the systems were resilient in the first place would be unnecessary.
You may use resiliency; I'd prefer reliable and redundant; not the same things
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In the end resilience admonition to societies from a variety of angles and to people directly that survival is about more than having a McDonalds available in time of disaster.
One would hope so. Don't think I've been to a McDonalds in over 10 years.

I get the point, Sam -- and do not disagree with the broad context. I do, however, believe that 'resilience' is built in to military structures and to people in general. That and I shudder every time a new term du jour pops up...
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Old 08-04-2009   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selil View Post
Disagree. Resilience is an excellent topic in a variety of theaters.
I challenge you to name one instance where "resilience" as a concept helps to gain an insight that isn't already covered by conventional means.
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Old 08-04-2009   #8
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Hi Fuchs,

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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
I challenge you to name one instance where "resilience" as a concept helps to gain an insight that isn't already covered by conventional means.
Could you be a little more explicit about what you mean by "conventional means"? There are precursors to the concept of resilience in Karl Polanyi's writings in the 1940's and in some of the Anthropology literature even earlier.
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Old 08-04-2009   #9
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"Resilience" has for example been applied to financial markets. Those markets would need to become "resilient" to avert further breakdowns.

In that case I would point at the basic requirement of systemic risk control (as conventional means) to show that we need no "resilience" concept to explain or create stable financial markets.
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Old 08-04-2009   #10
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Default God, grant me the serenity...

Circa 1981, psychology 101... taught us that resilience was a personal trait and by no means something conventional. Rather, an individual trait with core values at the root. Something to the tune of being able to effectively deal with things efficiently in spite of the level of difficulty.

It used to be called Primary and Secondary Control. But, never conventional.

I need a shrink
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Old 08-04-2009   #11
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Quote:
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I hesitate to think what you'd do with one if you got your hands on them !
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Old 08-04-2009   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan View Post
Circa 1981, psychology 101... taught us that resilience was a personal trait and by no means something conventional. Rather, an individual trait with core values at the root. Something to the tune of being able to effectively deal with things efficiently in spite of the level of difficulty.

It used to be called Primary and Secondary Control. But, never conventional.

I need a shrink
The use of "resilience" as buzzword isn't about individuals, but about groups (companies, forces, communities, industrial sectors, nations).

It's typical for buzzwords that a entirely normal word is being mis-used in a different, slightly related meaning.
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Old 08-04-2009   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
I challenge you to name one instance where "resilience" as a concept helps to gain an insight that isn't already covered by conventional means.
Resilient communities have little need for federal assistance in disaster. As found in the red river floods where farmers responded rapidly to impending disaster. Their resilience allowed for a response to an event that dwarfed the scope (if measured in area rather than media) of New Orleans which was an example of a brittle community. Communities are made up of individuals that create characteristics in the larger society that are independent of the individual efforts.

Your challenge though is a non sequitur. The concept of resilience IS a conventional term and it has only recently been discovered by military pundits. Resilience, sustainability, reliability, and robustness can all be found in systems and organizational literature dating back decades.
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Old 08-04-2009   #14
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Yes, and "kinetic" was a perfectly well-defined physical term until it was turned into a military buzzword. I don't care about non-military, non-security meanings. This is about national security stuff, and I am obviously convinced that "resilience" is a useless buzzword in national security affairs.

You didn't meet my challenge anyway.
Repeat:
Quote:
I challenge you to name one instance where "resilience" as a concept helps to gain an insight that isn't already covered by conventional means.
So what could the citizens or bureaucrats learn by studying resilience theory about preparing themselves better for the next disaster?

I say: Nothing.


Most citizens of New Orleans fled or became egoistic (on the level of families). The failure can easily be explained with the well-established military term of cohesion.

Even IF the disaster example was helpful to military theory (and I don't think it is, except probably for irregulars); military theory has already a much better, less vague term that points directly at the point of failure instead of being named for a desirable end-state.

Last edited by Fuchs; 08-04-2009 at 11:52 PM.
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Old 08-04-2009   #15
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Originally Posted by selil View Post
Resilient communities have little need for federal assistance in disaster...
We've been through five hurricanes since I moved to Florida, no Federal or State help to speak of in any of them. We're resilient. And I didn't even know it; I just thought we did what had to be done.
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...it has only recently been discovered by military pundits. Resilience, sustainability, reliability, and robustness can all be found in systems and organizational literature dating back decades.
Add redundancy and remove resiliency and I agree.

I have no beef with resiliency per se, problem in my opinion is its discovery and I'm sure impending overuse by the punditocracy.
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Old 08-05-2009   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
....I don't care about non-military, non-security meanings...
Well I guess we don't have much to discuss then.
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Old 12-18-2009   #17
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Whether you like the term/concept or not, it's getting a lot of attention in Homeland Security circles. I'm on the outer edge of these circles, but even there, I hear it a lot. Take this new paper, for example:

Quote:
There is growing interest in the subject of resilience on the part of President Obama’s Administration, as well as lively discussion regarding this issue in academic, business, and governmental circles. This article offers an operational framework that can prove useful to the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) and stakeholders at all levels, both public and private, as a basis for incorporating resilience into our infrastructure and society in order to make the nation safer.
and

Quote:
In a report to help in transitioning to a new Administration, the importancenof resilience was highlighted by DHS’s Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) as one of the top 10 challenges facing the next Secretary of Homeland Security.1 This emphasis is consistent with the earlier Report of the HSAC Critical Infrastructure Task Force (CITF), which recommended that the Department “promulgate critical infrastructure resilience as the top level strategic objective— the desired outcome—to drive national policy and planning.”2
An Operational Framework for Resilience
Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
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Old 12-18-2009   #18
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There's little to gain from fashions that are about symptoms instead of about causes.
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Old 02-25-2010   #19
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Default relisiance, dependency and standing up local government

The notion of resilience, the ability and inclination for collective response to an external impact that damages or destroys formal institutions, is useful. Yes, the construct has been around for a long time. I don't mind the new term.

Right now we are all about standing up local government. This means we help local government deliver services (output legitimacy). The way we do this changes citizens into clients. They don't have to put anything in to get something out (no inputs required). This breeds dependency. We all know that. Dependency is a deficit. It tells us part of what is wrong, not what to grow.

For example

When I was in Bamiyan in 98 the farmers there just waited on their asses for the NGOs to come along and pay them through their shell of a local government to fix up the irrigation canals damaged by normal spring flooding like they did the year previous. This means that they did not have to work together to figure out how to do things on their own. Because they didn't have to work together, they lost one thing that forced them to work across tribal lines. Standing up local government, in this instance, strengthened divisions functional to conflict and undermined the networks of relationships/trust that enabled these folks to do things on their own. This version of standing up local government undermined it. We are doing the same today.

Talking about resilience adds the dimension of cross-difference relationships for collective action. It lets you see things you can't see when you talk about dependency. This ties better into an exit strategy. Resilient communities are likely more fertile ground for local democratic institutions.

Resilience is a useful notion today.
We'll find better language later.
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Old 03-24-2010   #20
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Default Resilience

When John Robb talks of "resilience" he's talking about the creation of subsystems that people can fall back on if/when the global/national system(s) fail. The major unit of this resilience is the resilient community (RC), which is a community made up of people that provide alternatives for energy, food, security, communication, and transportation. These communities will share knowledge with other communities and depend greatly on open source methods for problem solving. This can range from sharing organic farming techniques to desktop manufacturing. Most important, RC's have the potential to give people meaning as work, family, community, and spirit intersect in ways that "globalization" and corporate created culture have failed to do.

Last edited by Seerov; 03-24-2010 at 03:53 AM.
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