NEW ORLEANS: LESSONS OF A FAILED STATE [ Updated]
Charitably speaking, the debacle that was New Orleans after Katrina was a complete and utter national disgrace. The Department of Homeland Security had its first big test and failed so miserably that the Congress should consider liquidating it and going back to the drawing board. The State of Lousiana and city government of New Orleans also stand revealed as abjectly incompetent and unable to provide even minimal services and rule of law in a crisis situation that everyone had ample warning was coming. Lastly, an ominous percentage of the citizens of New Orleans failed the basic test of civilized humanity and instead reveled in barbarism. By the standard we use to judge nations, New Orleans is a failed state. Sadly, a great American city can now be considered as part of the Non-Integrating Gap.
I referred to New Orleans a few days ago as ” Mogadishu on the Mississippi“. NuSapiens asks if it had become a “ feral city “, quoting Richard Norton:
“In a feral city social services are all but nonexistent, and the vast majority of the city’s occupants have no access to even the most basic health or security assistance. There is no social safety net. Human security is for the most part a matter of individual initiative. Yet a feral city does not descend into complete, random chaos. Some elements, be they criminals, armed resistance groups, clans, tribes, or neighborhood associations, exert various degrees of control over portions of the city. Intercity, city-state, and even international commercial transactions occur, but corruption, avarice, and violence are their hallmarks. A feral city experiences massive levels of disease and creates enough pollution to qualify as an international environmental disaster zone. Most feral cities would suffer from massive urban hypertrophy, covering vast expanses of land. The city’s structures range from once-great buildings symbolic of state power to the meanest shantytowns and slums. Yet even under these conditions, these cities continue to grow, and the majority of occupants do not voluntarily leave.”
What lessons can we draw ? A couple come to mind:
Agencies like FEMA that purport to be disaster coordinators should actually be run people who have the practiced understanding of large-scale logistics. Either bring in retired military personnel with such experience, the U.S. military being the premier logistical organization in the world, or have the Pentagon train USG civvies in the art. Traditionally, FEMA is run by a partisan crony of the president’s. Katrina provided a good excuse to end that practice.
THE UNDERCLASS AS AN INSTANT INSURGENCY:
A few days ago we had a lively debate here about America’s own Non-Integrating Gap and what kind of ” system administration” should happen domestically. Or even if that would be a good idea. Well…I can’t say that the ” what” or ” how ” are resolved but New Orleans just demonstrated why something needs to be done. A critical mass point has been reached.
Every American city ( and not just cities either) has a subset of the population that is so antisocially detached, disconnected and potentially dangerous that disaster planners must expect that ” instant insurgencies” will arise from the underclass in the advent of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Cook County, Illinois, where I reside, is also home to 80,000 gang members, the most dangerous of whom already exist in sophisticated organized crime entities that have infiltrated the Chicago Police Department and even their anti-gang units. Good behavior cannot be expected from them if a 9/11 or Katrina magnitude disaster hits Chicago.
Every family or individual needs to be able to have a plan to cope for a short-time in the advent of a mass disaster for at least five days to a week. That means minimally, food, clean drinking water, basic medical supplies, a battery-operated radio and realistically, a firearm and someone trained in its use.
Not every locality will see the total societal break-down during a crisis that happened in New Orleans but you never know how your neighbors will act until they are put to that test. The U.S. government may not be on hand to help you either – at least not at first.
UPDATE – DHS:
Here’s why DHS needs to be rethought entirely – even when it is aware of a problem it is too enormous, poorly organized and badly run to respond. (Hat tip to Bruce Kesler )