Modern political history has several examples of a dramatic event being commandeered by a noisy and media-empowered faction and used to engineer policy changes objectively unwarranted by the facts. In my student days, the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam was the classic case: a cripplingly unsuccessful attack by the North Vietnamese, analogous to the German WW2 Kursk Offensive or Robert E. Lee's Gettysburg Campaign, used, as beautifully documented in Peter Braestrup's great book, as the occasion to overthrow the American effort to win the war.
There is a distinct danger that the New Orleans/Katrina event will be another such. My old friend and mentor, Paul Craig Roberts, in a column we carry today, hopes it will trigger a reversal of America's Mid East adventure. Probably more likely, given the Neoconservative grip on the Bush Administration and their subordination of all else to sustaining overseas conquest, is some sort of deal with the Left. More pandering to Minorities, more ethnic pork, more burdens on the American nation. This is exactly what happened, also in the 1960s, when the Kerner Commission was able to chloroform America's rage over Black inner-city rioting, and me-too Republicans then vastly expanded the transfer programs and Affirmative Action policies which remain the great disgrace of the subsequent Nixon Presidency.
Happily, we have the internet. This time, it will not be so easy to misrepresent reality. Steve Sailer offers a more reasonable division of responsibility here today. An e mailer to NRO points out that a hurricane and a black-led police force does not have to mean disaster. And a powerful and well informed article on the Vodkapundit blog supplies an incisive analysis of the New Orleans pathology:
The first time I saw New Orleans, I was about eight years old...I've probably been back a hundred times since...It's a city I know as well as anywhere I've never actually moved to, and a place I love more than most of the towns where I have set up housekeeping. ...among the harshest of the catastrophe's side-effects, the very worst of the city has been on display to the world this week. Inept public officials, lack of planning and preparation, and the lethal unleashing of a hard-core criminal element... As sad and awful as it is, Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular did a lot of this to themselves....No, I'm not talking about the storm, I'm talking about: 1. The culture of corruption and general worthlessness that's been nurtured by apathy and inertia for a couple of centuries... 2. The state of the NOPD, arguably the worst metro police force in the country. Was anybody remotely familiar with that department surprised when they saw New Orleans cops joining in the looting? I doubt it... 3. Crime. We've all heard urban legends about neighborhoods where "even the cops won't go." In NOLA, those weren't legends....no level of government was willing to deal with that fact. Now they're loose, and ...they're now in the process of migrating out to the rest of the South; that's an export we could have done without... I actually think Mayor Nagin is a good guy...although he hasn't helped himself any with stuff like telling people to go to the convention center, but not passing that info on to the feds.
The generally intelligent thread attached to this essay amplifies these thoughts. One poster says
I lived on the Gulf Coast for 15 years. My family wasn't well off by any stretch of the imagination, but I can remember my mother begining to shop for supplies for hurricane season in early May, speading the cost out over a few paychecks so it wouldn't hurt the budget as bad...This isn't just the various governments at fault. At some point you need to start taking personal responsibly for yourself and your loved one's safety.
Vodkapundit also points out the Louisiana authorities were outmanouvered by the White House before the hurricane on the question of responsiblity, for what that is worth.
A number of national policies desperately need to be changed. But not by returning to the errors of the late 60s.