THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
WHERE'S MILITARY CAPACITY WHEN--AND WHERE--WE NEED IT MOST? I've been thinking the unthinkable today. As I've observed news reports of heroic rescues and heart-warming relief efforts, I've also attended to news reports of anarchy in the streets of New Orleans, of desperate people waiting on rooftops for help four days after Hurricane Katrina blew through their lives, of people dying under debris. And I've been wondering: where's all that military power that can mobilize instantly at the beck and call of a President? Where's our multi-billion dollar, high-tech military capacity when--and where--we need it most?
"HELP" ON THE WAY. While there are reports of a massive military force on the way--by land and by sea--citizens are dying, thousands are desperate, and local efforts are exhausted. People there report feeling helpless, isolated, and abandoned. They're thirsty, hungry...and angry. Why has it taken so long for our highly capable, multi-billion dollar homeland security capacities to mobilize, respond, and save lives?
NATIONAL DISGRACE? Someone today called FEMA's response thus far a national disgrace. That is probably over the top, but it reflects some of the feelings of people in New Orleans. I'm almost there in my feelings, too. The response from federal capacities sure seems underwhelming and inadequate to me.
TOO MUCH, TOO LATE? Apparently we are in a situation of "too much, too little, too late" for securing the city, maintaining law and order, preventing unnecessary deaths and loss of property. While a massive military effort is reportedly on its way, our own citizens die and are driven to desperate acts.
ON THE GROUND OR OUT OF REACH. I am thinking of all those National Guard helicopters sitting in hangars and on runways across the 50 states. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of American troops committed to a quagmire in Iraq. I think of thousands of helicopters and amphibious troop carriers sitting in the Iraqi and Kuwait deserts. I think of the expertise that's bogged down there trying to pull off the President's ideological need to save face. I wonder if the federal government that readily gobbles up our war taxes is unable to react and respond valiantly at home because it is bogged down over there?
GOD BLESS; GOD HELP. God bless every public servant who has helped immediately and responded with all their capacity and influence post-haste, for those who are, right now, putting their lives on the line in rescue and relief, and for those who have pressed their superiors--to the point of anger and insubordination--for a quicker and more adequate response. But let us begin to hold accountable those who have acted haltingly, hesitatingly, unresponsively and irresponsibly in the face of this natural and now man-made catastrophe.
RETOOL FOR DOMESTIC CRISIS RESPONSE. I wonder if American military needs to dramatically rethink its mobilization patterns and expectations. They seem to be able only to react slowly with long lead times to mount massive overkill efforts to armed conflicts. What America needs is a security force that is nimble and responsive to what happens today today. My impression is that prior to returning to the strategic build-up-to-strike patterns for Afghanistan and Iraq, our military was retooling itself to be such a nimble and response force that could be effective in domestic crises. Whether or not this was actually the case, it sure seems to be what we need to be headed for in the future.
LEAD, MR. PRESIDENT. I do not know what leadership our President is offering in this crisis. I do not know if he is listening to people tell him they are doing all they can. It is within his purview, it seems to me, to tell these hand-wringing excuse-makers to make immediate rescue and relief happen, whether the brass and ideologues he's surrounded himself with think it can happen or not. Lead, Mr. President. Please, lead.