Saturday, April 14, 2007


One of the great controversies of this or any other era is how to maintain effective security. Loosely speaking, there are at least six approaches: offense, defense, containment, alliance, assimilation, and retreat. Each of these approaches presumes a well-defined group whose survival, livelihood, or cultural integrity is threatened by another well-defined group.

Offense involves attacking (destroying) someone perceived as a threat, while defense involves neutralizing an attack. Containment is the isolation of the threatening group, disabling its ability to attack. Alliance is the defusing of a threat by finding common ground with the attackers where both groups benefit. Assimilation is an extreme version of an alliance: two groups merge to form one new group. Retreat is the avoidance of an attacking group, usually by physical separation.

Depending on the groups (or more specifically, the personalities of their leaders) and the practicality of each option, one or more security approaches may be more likely to be tried than the others. I would expect offense or retreat to be favored equally by people on one side of the personality spectrum, with the rest of the options favored by those on the other side of the spectrum.

Based on this analysis, it should be no surprise that half of any randomly distributed population would think of security in terms of attack or retreat, while the other half thinks in terms of “accommodation” in one form or another.

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