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What Terror Experts Can Learn From Public Health Experts


Foreign Policy

What Terror Experts Can Learn From Public Health Experts

National security professionals have a duty to use their influence to fight hyperbole.

By Charles Kurzman

In the early 2000s, two events sowed fear in the United States and around the world: the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003. In the years that followed, the professional communities responsible for responding to these threats, and informing the public about them, have followed two very different paths.

In the fight against deadly diseases, public health experts have sought to balance the need for preparedness with their duty to avoid hyperbole, which can lead to panic. National security experts should adopt this same ethos.

SARS started in China and spread around the world, leaving hundreds of people dead. The global public health community mobilized immediately to contain the epidemic—and to manage perceptions of it. “SARS is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with seriously. Yet our actions must be based on facts and experience, not on fears,” Richard Schabas, the chief of staff at York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill, Canada, wrote in an article for the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2003. “The response should not be worse than the disease.”

“We will continue to see new SARS cases, usually at relatively low levels but with occasional flare-ups,” he continued. “In other words, we should plan on getting used to living with SARS.”

Read more: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/28/what-terror-experts-can-learn-from-public-health-experts/