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The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation Hardcover – February 20, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Homeland Security expert Flynn examines the vulnerability of the U.S. to disaster--natural and man-made--and what the nation must do to fortify its security. By exploring several well-documented and frightening scenarios, Flynn exposes our weaknesses and the consequences of our failure to adequately plan for disaster. Among the scenarios he explores: an avian flu outbreak in New York; destruction of a chemical plant in New Jersey; a San Francisco earthquake that compromises levees and leads to massive flooding. Flynn points to threats from our blithe disregard for the dangers all around us, including chemical plants and oil refineries operating in close proximity to crowded communities. We can't plan for every disaster, but the nation can be better prepared, Flynn maintains, and he offers advice on how corporations and the government can reduce the risk of disaster. Among his suggestions: making sure energy management and public-health systems have enough resources and building more power-transmission lines to keep lights on when temperatures rise. Flynn's book reads like a thriller but has the added punch of reality. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Stephen Flynn is among the world’s most widely cited experts on homeland security and trade and transportation issues. A senior fellow with the National Security Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations since 1999, he is the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller America the Vulnerable. Flynn lives in Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065516
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on March 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Former Coast Guard Commander Steven Flynn and author of "America The Vulnerable" makes a convincing case that the United States is nowhere close to being ready for the next terrorist attack or natural disaster, which he emphatically states will occur. According to him, we are living on borrowed time.

Without political partisanship, the author states that our whole policy and reaction to terrorism since September 11, 2001 has been in the wrong direction, and the wrong place using the wrong rationale. Flynn challenges Mr. Bush's policy of "Fight terrorism abroad so we don't have to fight them at home." He discounts this for obvious reasons: 1) by virtue of 9/11, they have already found their way here, or know how to get here. 2) He shows that many of the terrorist attacks worldwide have come from natives, not aliens 3) The military is not the way, nor has the means to fight terrorism.

Policy is not the only gripe that Flynn has with the federal government. It is their lack of priorities, secrecy, and failure to rebuild our aging infrastructure, or partner with private industry in creating more secure plants, docks, ports, airports, rail yards, etc. Without government incentives or suppport, there is little likelihood that private industry will invest in security that will make their product or service less competitive and cost more unless the government provides industry-wide incentives.

He rails against poor prioritizing aided by a lethargic federal government mired in indifference. He provides countless examples of aging, obsolete, and decaying infrastructure that are ripe targets for a population that mostly lives near coastlines, or places prone to forest fires, tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an exceptional book. This should be required reading at FEMA, in Congress, and the White House.

I've admired Flynn ever since I read America the Vulnerable a few years ago, and he continues to impress me with his pragmatic approach to homeland security. While his first book dealt primarily with hardening America against terrorism, this one takes a wider view and deals with the full spectrum of disasters--man made and natural--that could befall us.

His basic arguments are simple--that most measures taken since 9/11 have been largely for psychological benefit and that major vulnerabilities still exist because of failing infrastructure, misallocated funds, poor city planning, lack of leadership etc. He argues that the federal government has missed an opportunity to lead a national effort to prepare for future disasters (instead it has passed responsibility to state/local officials), failed to engage America's most important resource--its citizenry, and avoided working with the private sector. His arguments are well-supported and convincing.

Flynn is also highly critical of the current administration's "the best defense is a strong offense" strategy. Here he will be criticized by some, but as the Islamic terrorist threat continues to evolve from the 9/11 model (foreign groups with direct connections to key leaders) to the 7/11 model (homegrown radicals who are simply inspired by foreigners), his argument will become all the more prescient. Flynn represents the other end of the spectrum--"the best defense is a good defense"--and perhaps there is room for a more balanced approach. Maybe: "The best defense is both a strong offense and a strong defense"?

In the final chapter he presents ten ideas that should be adopted to strengthen the country.
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Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately for the security and resiliency of the United States, we are in the grip of contradictory and ill-advised thinking concerning the role of government in securing the well-being of our nation. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that government can't do the job, when its agencies and programs are ill-conceived, under-funded, and poorly managed. On the other hand, it is disingenuously held that private businesses operating in marketplaces will necessarily find the right solution to all of our problems.

In lieu of the sham disaster agencies whose missions are to prevent and deal with disaster, that is, the Dept of Homeland Security and FEMA, the author proposes an overarching federal agency, the Infrastructure Resiliency Commission, that would have the power to examine the vulnerabilities of the US from either nature or man, coordinate programs to upgrade infrastructure and limit exposures to disasters, and to respond quickly and effectively when disasters do strike. He recommends the repeal of many of the dubious tax cuts over the last few years to fund these huge and critical programs. He regards as extremely simplistic the idea that our threats are mainly external and can be mostly eliminated through the exercise of military power. As is pointed out, it is not that home-grown terrorists won't strike; the issue is whether we can limit the damage and respond effectively.

The private sector does have a very important role to play in upgrading our approach to potential disasters, but governmental regulation and incentives will be required. It is wishful thinking to contend that businesses will absorb costs that will put them at a competitive disadvantage to implement security and safety measures that may not have a payoff.
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