It’s amazing to me how many people have become disaster preparedness and response "experts" over the past week. Katrina illustrates a lot of things, but there’s two that bear mention right now.
- Building a city several feet below sea level, right next to the sea, is pure folly. It’s double folly when the system of levies are insufficient to hold back the waters in a major storm.
- As I’ve been saying: governments are not omnipotent, regardless of how disappointing such news is to the tens of millions who have no conception of the scale of this disaster.
The first point is obvious. It’s certainly arguable that when New Orleans was built, there was not a great understanding of such matters and what the potential for ruin could be. But that’s no excuse for about the last hundred years, especially after the 1900 total destruction of Galveston, Texas. And the responsibility for this lies with every adult individual and business that inhabits the place. It’s certainly not the responsibility — and need not be the concern — of people living in mile-high Denver.
The second point is what no one seems to be getting. The proportion of this disaster and sheer numbers of people in dire straights are mind boggling. Television images provide only the equivalent of a pinhole view of the Grand Canyon.
The city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana were unprepared, and then failed almost completely and totally to perform even the basic first response that every city and state do as a matter of routine when disaster strikes. Federal response always takes days, because, duh, it just so happens that the federal government does not have massive disaster teams stationed at every potential hot spot throughout the U.S. In short, the locals can always do a far better job at first, for a variety of reasons. They know the lay of the land and the makeup of the population; they have the needed gear locally and they’re trained as to the specifics of the particular threat in the particular area. The feds are intended to provide support, once the local resources wear thin, but in no case is there going to be much federal help for days.
These are just basic facts, verifiable through a review of any past major disaster.
I’m even hearing it asked why troops weren’t (note the past tense) brought back from Iraq. Does anyone understand the sort of logistical support large numbers of troops require? (Obviously not.) It took months and month to build up the equipment, support and resupply lines needed in order to launch the war against Iraq. Well, it’s not as though identifications like this have been forgotten. No. This stuff is not even known to anyone currently spouting off about all of this. This is the level of "expert" we’re dealing with, now.
And all to make political points.
Look, I’m no fan of Bush, either. Didn’t vote for him (or anyone, for that matter). I happen to think that as many radical Muslims as can be killed, should be killed, and Bush has and is doing a good job at that, with very minimal loss of volunteers on our side. So while I grudgingly grant the convenience of having him around in that regard, that’s it. There is absolutely nothing else about the man I admire in the slightest.
But I deal in facts. The simple facts are that the locals who should have been prepared and on the scene, weren’t. The feds have probably done just about as well as could be expected, given the time it takes to deploy resources. Just simple facts. So, Oprah, you can take your uninformed and ignorant reckless disregard comments and stick to parading dysfunctional women around your TV show.
But more than that, even if New Orleans and Louisiana had been fully prepared and executed perfectly with everything they had, they still would have been overwhelmed. That’s the most important lesson, here. Individuals were their own best asset during this mess. That’s plain to see. The dots no one will connect, though, is that if individuals are their own best assets in such critical times, then how much better if they realized that they were their own best asset at all times.
And consider this: how many billions and billions are spent too create the illusion for you that government is your best and only real hope when things get very serious?
The best way to ensure a far better outcome the next time is for individuals everywhere to realize and understand that the government typically fails at everything it does, while individuals who strive, typically succeed at everything they really set about to do. That’s a tremendous difference.
Thinking that you really need government is a certain way to end up in need of government, with disappointing results each and every time.