Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Risk Management of Future Foreign Conflict Intervention

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Risk Management of Future Foreign Conflict Intervention

Article excerpt

Risk is a concept that is universal in its common everyday usage. It is simply an expression of the potential for a given action to lead to a loss of some kind. But risk also has a specific and precise technical definition among professional risk analysts. For this community, risk is the combination of the probability of an event and its consequences. Awareness of the consequences of various actions or events is patently necessary for informed decisionmaking on public safely. If there is a core meltdown of a nuclear reactor, there will be a massive release of radioactivity. Even if this were contained within the nuclear plant, the public trauma would put pressure on shutting down the nuclear industry, as has happened in Japan. This key paradigm, which has been highlighted in the risk literature for more than a half century, shows that awareness of the probability of an adverse event should also be important for decisionmakers. For unless the probability of a core meltdown is demonstrated to fall below some extremely low tolerance threshold, the risk to the public would be unacceptable despite the energy supply benefits.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami-induced disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2012, was a stark reminder that the residual risk of a core meltdown is not so low as to be purely academic. Yet it was after a fire at a first- gen erati ? ? nuclear facility in Northwest England in 1957 that the basic probabilistic principles of risk acceptability were originally developed for application to the nuclear industry. For public endorsement of nuclear power generation, the regulation of the nuclear industry requires that the probability of a serious nuclear accident must be extremely low. Regrettably, the aging 40-year-old Fukushima plant was designed and constructed before the use of probabilistic methods became widespread. Its design basis was deterministic, corresponding to what was perceived to be the maximum credible seismic shock. The notion of a deterministic design basis presupposed that this maximum level of earthquake could be determined accurately, which has proven to be too optimistic.

Since the 1970s, the ideas of probabilistic risk assessment have spread from the nuclear industry to the safety-critical chemical, oil, and gas industries, and to critical rail, sea, and air transport infrastructure. In the late 1980s, facilitated by desktop computer power and motivated by poor underwriting loss experience, the ideas started to permeate the insurance industry for catastrophe risk management.1

Increasingly, over the past several decades, these ideas have interested government organizations.2 The underlying rationale for an explicit probabilistic definition of risk is that it improves risk management, which is a key part of any organization's strategic management. An organization should make the effort and provide the resources to address the diverse risks associated with its activities. This involves identifying the risks and treating them to the best advantage of the organization, whether governmental, financial, commercial, or industrial.

Whereas risk has been a central concept for thinking about nuclear safety issues for half a century, its relevance for thinking about national security has only emerged since the end of the Cold War, and especially since 9/ ll.3 Specific, clearly identified threats, such as those once posed by the former Soviet Union, might be addressed as both certain and large in scale. These have been replaced by pervasive uncertainty over the sources of insecurity, which correspond to a complex range of different risks. The management of these diverse risks aims to contain or curtail security issues before they emerge. As with nuclear risks, prevention is best.

The classic post-9/11 paradigm for insecurity risk management is the Western intervention in Afghanistan, aimed at preventing Afghan territory from continuing to be exploited as a terrorist safe haven. …

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