Until now, I have intentionally stayed away from the discussion of "what went wrong" with the response to Katrina. It seems to me that there are too many unanswered questions and I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the MSM who are sure that something is wrong and that it is the Bush Administrations fault. I have also been hesitant to point fingers at local officials until all the details are known. It has always seemed to me to be unproductive in the extreme to blame people when there is still so much work to be done. While things remain in flux, it is unclear not only who did wrong but if wrong was done. Finally, we dont even know how bad the disaster was--early searches today seem to indicate that the death toll may be far less than people have predicted.
But certain things--in a broad and general sense--are clear. The first lesson is that it is not smart to depend upon Big Government to protect you or loved ones unable to protect themselves from disasters. Living in Southern California, I have been made keenly aware of this fact. If a serious earthquake hits us I know my family will have enough water and food to get by for several weeks. We have even discussed escape routes that dont involve conventional roads (that would, of course, be overwhelmed with people and probable failures). The second, and politically more important lesson is this: Americans, in general, need to start thinking about things in a more local sense. Who is responsible for disaster response in your city? When something hits, it will be these people who can and should respond first. What is the evacuation plan? Is it a good one? Can it be reasonably implemented? What can citizens do to make themselves more aware of these things and prepared? These kinds of questions would be far more usefully answered by a responsible media and citizenry. I dont think we want, as Joe Knippenberg suggests, to militarize disaster relief. But, given their expertise, it would probably be a good idea to get ex-military folks to organize these efforts on the local level.