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Building National Resiliency at Home as Important as Combating Terrorism Abroad, Argues Stephen Flynn in New Book

Related Bio: Stephen E. Flynn
January 30, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations


Contact: Lisa Shields, 212-434-9888;

The consequences of a 9/11-scale terrorist attack or a major natural disaster can be minimized if “America makes building national resiliency from within as important a public policy imperative as confronting dangers from without,” says Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies Stephen E. Flynn in The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation.

Flynn explains, “the source of our vulnerability to manmade and natural perils is rooted in our ongoing neglect of the physical infrastructure often heroically built by the ingenuity, muscle, and treasure of earlier generations. It also arises from our failure to invest in pragmatic measures that would better prepare us to respond and recover when things go wrong, and our tendency to overreact when we are spooked.” Flynn argues that in waging the war on terrorism, “Washington has been ignoring the predictable dangers associated with acts of God, and barely going through the motions when it comes to protecting the critical infrastructure that underpins our way and quality of life.” He calls for national resiliency to complement national security as the means of meeting the hazards that the twenty-first century portends.

The Edge of Disaster portrays sobering scenarios of the threats the United States faces, often compounded by its own negligence. While detailing current and pending perils, Flynn offers a menu of actions the U.S. government and American citizens should undertake now to manage these dangers. He contends that the starting point for building a resilient society is for Americans to reconsider the conventional thinking that the war on terrorism can only be won on the offense. “The best defense might just well be a good defense.” Flynn maintains that by preparing for the kind of hazards that nature periodically unleashes, America become a far less attractive target for those who might commit acts of terrorism as a means of warfare against the United States.

Flynn outlines a plan for mobilizing federal, state, and local governments, the private sector, and individual Americans into a national effort to prevent and mitigate disasters. While Americans must be willing to acknowledge that there will always be threats to homeland security, Flynn urges, “Americans need not lose sight of their most important and endearing national trait: their sense of optimism about the future and their conviction that they can change it for the better. A resilient nation can remain true to its values and lead and prosper on the world stage no matter what dangers might periodically befall it.”


“Steve Flynn has done it again. As with America the Vulnerable, The Edge of Disaster is the ‘must-read book’ for every American, elected official, and presidential candidate who is committed to ensuring that our nation continues to thrive in perilous times.”

Mark Warner, Governor of Virginia, (2002-2006)

“Since 9/11, protecting our nation against a terrorist attack has consumed policy-makers in Washington. What Stephen Flynn points out in The Edge of Disaster is that much of this effort has been directed overseas and often at the expense of our homeland and much more likely areas of vulnerability. Laying out a series of potential disasters both manmade and natural, Flynn calls for a greater emphasis on preparedness and the ability of a community and the nation to recover. Painting an often frustrating and infuriating picture of missed opportunities, The Edge of Disaster is a call to action. The time to act is now. We can only hope that policy-makers are listening.”

Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey (1994-2001) and Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (2001-2003)

“Steve Flynn’s book makes the very persuasive and evidence-filled argument that links national security preparedness with natural disaster preparedness. By investing significantly in our critical infrastructure, in citizen preparedness and most importantly in leadership, we can be better prepared for all hazards. A great book that I highly recommend others to read.”

James Lee Witt, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency (1993-2001)

“Steve Flynn has become a relentless contributor to the dialogue on prioritizing the work of the post 9/11 security environment. The Edge of Disaster challenges the balance of investment between domestic preparedness and the Department of Defense-driven offensive in the global war on terrorism. The book offers provocative challenges to both our elected and private sector leaders and both should read it thoroughly.”

Admiral James M. Loy, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard (1998-2002) and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (2003-2005)

“Steve Flynn offers the answer not only to protecting America from terrorist attacks and natural disaster, but also to revitalizing our democracy with a nation-wide commitment to rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in our future, and taking responsibility for protecting ourselves. This book is a must-read for all members of Congress, 2008 presidential candidates, and ordinary citizens who want to build a better and safer future.”

—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University


Published by Random House l 272 pages l $25.95 l ISBN: 978-1-4000-6551-6

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