Responding to Catastrophes: U.S. Innovation in a Vulnerable World
The incidence and severity of catastrophes around the world are growing. This study argues that the United States needs to prioritize and focus its efforts and take a more robust role in responding to catastrophes to safeguard U.S. interests and promote global stability. Humanitarian management of disasters should be recognized as an issue that speaks to core interests and values of the United States. The ability—and, increasingly, the propensity—of “natural” disasters to cascade into “complex emergencies” underlines why it is inappropriate to separate “natural” from “man-made” disasters in discussions of global crises.Human decisions frequently exacerbate the effects of disaster agents, as, for example, when earthquakes tear through areas that either should not have been populated in the first place or should have been retrofitted once the area's vulnerability became clear. In this sense, all disasters are “man-made,” and the dichotomy between acts of war and acts of God is largely false. Unfortunately, catastrophe response organizations—both within the United States and abroad—mostly have not incorporated this thinking into their practices. Responding to Catastrophes seeks to integrate thinking about the nature of—and response to—future catastrophes into the policymaker's decisionmaking process.
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