Making sure the bad guys know about blowback

Good idea, but it ain’t gonna happen, says an expert.

As usual, Tom Schelling turns out to be right (in this case, about smallpox, but apparently the right thing is unlikely to be done.

A reader who works for a national security think-tank (not one of the ideological press-release generators, but an outfit that makes a living giving technical advice to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other national security agencies) writes:

For three years, I have been urging an offensive information operations strategy — my analogy was “the day after” — that would be focused on Islamic and third world audiences (to get to Al Qaeda) that would make the point that the developed world would fare better in the resulting smallpox pandemic than the poor parts of the world, no matter how distant from the initial release.

Government and many concerned with terrorist BW threats have been very resistant, I think partly because they are very invested in the smallpox scenario as a way of coordinating homeland security preparedness activities, and they have trouble getting past the first part of the argument (“smallpox makes no sense as a focused attack strategy”) to get to the second part (“we need to make sure this is understood by potential attackers”).

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: