likely to spread. Other historical research indicates that one ingredient of successful revolutionary overthrow is the inactivity, complicity, or defection—i.e., the essential absence—of the police and military (Smelser, 1962). Widespread breakdowns of social order also heighten the probability that mutually hostile class, ethnic, and racial groups (the fault lines mentioned earlier) will come into open conflict, especially if different groups perceive that they have been treated unfairly in relation to others. To say all this is not to predict that extreme terrorist attacks will inevitably bring social and political chaos or that recovery will not happen, but given the enormous magnitudes of human reactions and immediate coping efforts in the attacks’ aftermath, such possibilities must be considered.


Recovery-related processes can be discussed under the headings of shorter-term and longer-term recovery to terrorist attack, without attempting to say how many weeks or months either would last.

Short-Term Recovery Processes

Short-term recovery processes can be expected to resemble known developments in other kinds of disaster situations:

  • There will be a period of mourning, longer and more difficult if casualties are great, the attack inhumane, or the target a sacred one. This mourning process will become less intense if attacks are repeated and become a way of life.

  • A period of collective solidarity—a pulling together of the community affected and, to a lesser degree, of other communities and the nation—will occur. As with mourning, these responses will be weaker if attacks are multiple and repeated.

  • There will be a more or less immediate mobilization to clean up the rubble, restore impaired functions as quickly as possible, and generate the requisite economic resources. These activities will become less effective as the number and scope of attacks increase and as greater pressure is put on the resources available.

  • People will keep away from areas of vulnerability made evident by an attack. The avoidance of airline travel in the wake of September 11 is an obvious example. If a nuclear power installation is attacked, there will no doubt be heavy public pressure to close others down, even at the cost of reducing the nation’s energy supplies.

  • If a given function or activity is impaired or avoided, people will turn to alternatives—note, for example, the increase of business after September 11 in all forms of ground transportation. A widespread curtailment of electric power will occasion a run on lanterns, flashlights, batteries, and generators. An impairment

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