"We're at the point in the curve where small groups can fight nation states, and acquit themselves pretty well. The trend will move closer and closer to the individual, to the point where one man can potentially declare war against the world, and win."Source
....Loose nukes, for example, may cause isolated catastrophes, but "there's no way small groups or individuals can replicate the huge manufacturing base and expertise requirements for a meaningful nuclear program."
More of a threat, says Robb, will be biological attacks. "That knowledge is more ubiquitous, and the tools for manipulating it are undergoing the same process as Moore's Law -- it's highly informational in character, and lends itself to computing power. You'll probably see the tinkering and replication that allow the development of weapons."
Another area of concern: attacks on infrastructure, like the recently-foiled plot to destroy Saudi oil fields. "I don't think attacks are coming directly to our shores as quickly as people fear," he says. "I think most attacks will be on systems, from a distance. Al Qaeda is focused on systems disruptions." But much-predicted efforts to cripple Internet may be less likely, because of its resilient nature and because the terrorists need it themselves.
....What can we do? Technology is a key template. "We need more resilience at the community level," says Robb. "Backup systems and alternative sources of supply. A bird flu epidemic could mean six months with nobody in the office -- are you set up for that kind of remote work?"
His advice: simplify and plan to route around problems. "We focus on economies of scale and reward specialization, but there's not a control system complex enough to manage the whole global system. You can dampen the shocks by simplifying your processes and planning to switch around as needed."
More centralization of government power is a road to ruin, he says. "We need a more resilient approach, that allows for more community participation in security, and more connectivity." Special ops forces, cooperation, and rapid response to threats are all critical as well.
This suggests that community-level defenses against mass-casualty terrorism is not only important---it is absolutely vital. Any governor or mayor that does not make local defense against terrorism an important part of his campaign should be shunned and rejected harshly. The local incompetence seen in Louisiana and New Orleans during the Katrina aftermath should no longer be acceptable to the intelligent voter. It is time to throw the bums out on the street and elect people who care more about the defense of the people than lining their own pockets from tax money.