Friday, September 9, 2005
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (1)
Post-Katrina American foreign policy
Read the whole thing. And then, go read this Economist summary of the past week.
UPDATE: One thing I'm hoping about Katrina -- like what happened after 9/11 -- is that the estimated body count turns out to be less than originally expected. This AP report (link via Instapundit) offers some hope that this will also happen post-Katrina.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Joyner thinks Haass is overstating his case -- particularly on the energy angle:
Andrew Sullivan takes a gloomier view: "What the response to Katrina has done is make the U.S. super-power look a lot less credible, a lot less fearsome, a lot less capable. Ditto, of course, with regard to the inept conduct of the war in Iraq."posted by Dan on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM
Excellent reference. This is certainly not America's proudest moment. And as if to add insult to injury, Mr. Bush et al. have extended existing Haliburton contracts to include the rebuilding of military bases in Mississippi.posted by: Troy Worman on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I read the Economist piece on the train last night, and thought about a couple of ironies. The response to Katrina was "America's Shame".. With 10,000 dead I think I would agree. But had the Federal government everything been done correctly more aid might have arrived perhaps a day sooner. A few lives might have been save. Surely more than 1 - almost as surely fewer than 50.
Had the state authorities allowed the Red Cross to preposition relief supplies at the Superdome and the Convention Center a lot of suffering would have been avoided and some lives saved.
The city government seems to have missed opportunities to evacuate 10's of thousands of people from the city if photographs of several hundred waterlogged buses are any indication. Perhaps some people who died due to overcrowded conditions in the relief centers may have lived had this been done.
Surely there is cause for some shame in all of these things.
But - Europe had a flaming humanitarian crisis in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 90's, and not only was effective help late in coming but the delay was measured in years rather than days. In the end the US had to come in and remove the Serbian regime which was the cause. Hundreds of thousands of people died - many without succor of any kind.
Was Europe ashamed? To be sure. They were and are ashamed - of the United States!
When I arrived home I learned that the death toll from Katrina may have been vastly overblown. As of yesterday afternoon there were 337 confirmed deaths from Katrina. Mostly in Mississippi but also in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
We don't know what the final toll will be. Not being an authoritative and respected news magazine I feel no obligation to rush to judgement - but as a pure matter of opinion I think it is likely to be closer to 1000 than 10,000. Perhaps less than 1000 - we don't know. I don't know, Dan doesn't know, Bush doesn't know. The Economist doesn't know.
Even so I think the Economist is on to something with the title of it's latest issue: "The Shaming of America". Most of the vast global opinion-making machine we call the news media appears to be of the fixed opinion that whatever to the US or the US does or doesn't do, that the proper reaction of US citizens should be shame. Katrina is shame of the week.
No doubt the BBC and the Economist will issue corrections and retractions if their judgement proves faulty; they are after all serious and responsible news organizations committed to accuracy and fairness in all they do. On past form I might expect the Beeb to announce their correction at 3AM on a Sunday and the Economist to print a paragraph on page 87 beneath the ads for MBA programmes.
But what I think the Economist should do is print another issue with the same title but this time focus on the opinion-makers themselves. Tell the story of how American shame seems to be largely agreed upon among the 'enlightened' opinion industry.posted by: Don Stadler on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I am not usually prone to conspiracy theories, but this whole -- we are finding fewer bodies than expected -- thing has me wondering.
None of the stories seem to have numbers *from New Orleans*. The confirmed deaths being reported are from the other states. Meanwhile, those in charge of New Orleans have limited media access (i.e. we are not seeing any body recovery operations), put out this story about fewer bodies being recovered than expected, and finally they decline to put out a number. A number would give us an idea of what to expect, e.g. if they have searched 1/10 of the city and found 20 bodies, statistically we could get a good guess, especially if other factors (population density, socioeconomic measure of areas searched) were taken into account. What we are getting is simply an assertion, at this time, of fewer bodies than expected.
Another creepy thing is the story that appeared, and was quickly buried, of mutilated bodies being found at the New Orleans convention center. Why did that dissappear so fast? First we had some stories floating around about how the situation as regard to violence, etc had been exagerated, that many were rumours. Then we have evidence, appearantly, that maybe they weren't rumours, but the story is buried.
Finally, a neo/conventional conservative blogger --not a paleo, not a racialist, but an instpundit type-- has posted a personal message, which he vouches for, which says that things at a shelter are much worse than being portrayed
I don't know, but it really seems the media is being managed or is going along with management to mitigate the awful picture of what happened in New Orleans and its still awful aftermath.posted by: Mitchell Young on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Well.... Certainly the media have missed a great deal. But do you really believe Karl Rove could ahem - bury something this big?posted by: Don Stadler on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Isn't this a little overwrought? The LA riots, as I recall, were quickly forgotten, because the majority of Americans--and the majority of Europeans--don't care much about poor black inner city residents.posted by: y81 on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I don't think this is Karl Rove, I don't even think its a conspiracy really, just a result of an ideological bent. I can see programming directors , military public affairs officers etc sitting at meetings trying to decide how to 'spin' this, or else ignoring some hard facts in order to present a picture that is too optimistic.
Just a thought, will someone compare missing persons reports (resulting from the disaster) to number of bodies found? And if a public official tells me that they are finding fewer bodies than expected, I would ask, well, how many have you found, in what sections of the city, and how many did you expect to find in that section of the city. Reporters don't seem to be asking those questions.posted by: Mitchell Young on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
With 10,000 predicted deaths in New Orleans alone frankly I would expect to find them on every street. The latest confirmed count I have (about 24 hours old) was 118 in all of Louisiana. I don't think one can easily explain a gap between between 118 and 10,000 deaths through mistakes or ideological bent. We will see but the trend doesn't support nearly 10,000 deaths right now.
I'm not sure missing person reports would show much reliable data. Certainly not at this point. Later on they might be more reliable - assuming that they are followed-up on and the person(s) are confirmed to never have been found.posted by: Don Stadler on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Bush has done two great things since January 2001: cut taxes something like 1.5% of GDP, and occupied Iraq at a cost some estimates say may run to over a trillion dollars.
The real pain will be felt by those who
While it certainly has been a human and material
I certainly agree we look like incompetant
But, generally, wars are not won by evacuations.
Sure, the Second Battle of New Orleans was not
But then Dunkirk wasn't a victory in ANY
It serves our enemies right for taking the
Not the Armed Forces nor the People of the
FWIW, the Economist was a supporter of the war in Iraq. While somewhat iconoclastic, the notion that the Economist is part of some vast anti-American conspiracy is just a fantasy.
It need hardly be added that the Economist was using the numbers of dead reported at the time. If the number of dead turn out to be less, this will be very welcome, but it doesn't diminish the incompetence of the government's initial response.
As far as general foreign policy goes though, I think the impact will be minimal. The flood is huge news in the US, but less so in many other parts of the world.posted by: erg on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
"It's hard to believe that both the great things Bush has done have not contributed substantially to ineptitude of the American reaction to Katrina ...Even a great nation can't accomplish all things and can't run on empty."
But there's just no evidence that spending more would have prevented huge damage (reports have it that work on the levees that the waters topped was completed). And since adequate numbers of troops did arrive, the only problem is their slowness in getting there--and what's the evidence that can be traced to deployments in Iraq?
Daniel Vernet, foreign editor of 'Le Monde' wrote a piece on the foreign policy implications of Katrina yesterday
"Vernet doesn't see the seeds of a new isolationism, exactly, but rather a return to a more Jeffersonian foreign policy, a United States more focused on serving the cause of universal democracy by "creating an example, rather than exporting a model."
America's going to create an example of democracy?
That'd sure be nice.
First, we'll have to totally change the way campaigns are financed, which guarantee that whoever is elected is either already a creature of major contributors or is totally in hock to them, and legislates accordingly.
Then, we'll have to totally change the way campaigns are covered by the mass media, which no longer knows how to fact-check (or just doesn't care enough to), focuses on meaningless trivia, and produces policy analyses with all the depth and insight of a fortune cookie.
Then, we'll have to totally change the way voting is done: no more broken down machines in poorer precincts, no more scarcity of machines in poorer precincts, no more monkeywrenching GOTV efforts, no more ballots that put the punchhole for one candidate next to the name of the other candidate, and no more hackable, crackable electronic scanning machines.
Oh, and we'll have to totally change the way the votes are tallied and reported, too. And cut out this non-census-year gerrymandering nonsense.
Then, maybe, we'll have a democracy suitable as "a model for the world."posted by: CaseyL on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Projections made earlier indicated that over 60k would die should the levees break. The mayor of New Orleans predicted 10k fatalities. So far about 360 bodies have been recovered in NO and it doesn't appear the death toll will be very high at all.
Most impressions of the event are based on the hysterical coverage of the suffering of the people in the Superdome and Convention Center, a dreadful few days for thousands of people directly linked to the incompetence of the corrupt local government.Little if any coverage was televised of what was happening elsewhere--the competent rescue of thousands of trapped residents by prepositioned, well-trained, well equipped military forces.
As a result of the flood almost 250k people were left homeless. In DAYS over 650 million dollars was raised in contributions from people all over the country.Can you think of that happening anywhere else?
And were these evacuees housed in fetid tent cities waiting some central authority to feed and clothe them? No. churches and states and family members and fellow citizens took them in and are providing help for them. See that happening anywhere else? I don't.
And in areas where most have been resettled--Houston comes to mind--they are finding jobs in a vibrant, free economy. Can you imagine that being the case elsewhere? I can't.
In New Orleans, draining the city of flood waters will be a matter of days, not months. Businesses are already planning to rebuild. The mardi gras has not been cancelled. In days the restaurants of the French Quarter will be cleaned up, repaired and serving their incomparable food again.
The skills and vitality and initiative and spirit of this country is unique and unbroken. I wish I could say that of American and European bien pensants who can't come close to ordinary Americans.posted by: clarice on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
We've heard all this before from the same suspects...it's reminiscent of the "serious foreign policy implications" surrounding Abu Graibh, Gitmo, etc. Whatever. You'll notice that all of the dire consequences Haass catalogs are strictly rhetorical: Our enemies "engage in schadenfreude", Chavez "taunts", jihadists "celebrate". Just a lot of hot air.posted by: John Barr on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I've come across a lovely bit of commentary titled "The fetid aroma of hindsight" by the well-known lefty Michael Kinsley. It puts all this caterwauling about the government in it's place. Some choice pieces:
"Well, how about that prescient New Orleans Times-Picayune series in 2002 that laid out the whole likely catastrophe? Everybody read that one. Or at least it sure seems that way now."
"Of course, my job isn't to predict and prepare for disasters. My job is to recriminate when they occur."
"Obviously — obviously in hindsight, that is — we should have spent the money to strengthen the New Orleans levees. President Clinton should have done it. Presidents Bush the Elder and Reagan should have done it. As Tim Noah notes in Slate, warnings about the perilous New Orleans levees go back at least to Fanny Trollope in 1832. In fact, the one president who is pretty much in the clear on this is our current Bush — not because he did anything about the levees but because even if he had started something, it probably wouldn't have been finished yet."posted by: Don Stadler on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Don Stadler Now I see why the LA Times doesn't like Michael Kinsley.posted by: ROA on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Katrina's consequences for foreign policy can be guessed at now but will only be clear in retrospect, some ten or twenty years down the road.
We know now, or ought to, that the sudden addition to near-term federal financial obligations of many tens of billions of dollars for relief and recovery after Katrina will place new pressure to limit the fiscal drain of the commitment in Iraq. We know that the short-term political damage to President Bush's approval ratings will prompt a White House drive to keep them from falling farther (as I've written here before this may not change the current course of administration foreign policy much, though it may be a further inhibition on any new initiatives). We know the demonstration that the United States was unprepared for a major emergency is not a plus as far as our campaign against terrorists is concerned -- it may not hurt, but there is no way it can help.
The longer term is something else, and here I have to say David Brooks was on to something a few days ago in the New York Times. Katrina is not a one-off as far as the public's confidence in the government's ability to address national problems is concerned. As Watergate in the 1973-4 period succeeded the Vietnam adventure and was succeeded in turn by chronic inflation and the failed Carter Presidency, Katrina has been preceeded by a series of events that have shown the government at the federal level to be ineffectual and is likely to be followed by others.
The implications for foreign policy are disturbing. Public support for American leadership in world affairs does not come naturally to our people; it never has. It is instead dependent on the public's perception that our efforts abroad can do good, and even more dependent on the public's faith that American leadership overseas is not detracting from the government's ability to manage affairs at home. This faith was badly shaken in the 1970s, and it is being shaken now.
To me, among the most troubling aspects of this situation is the knowledge that during the first part of the 1970s the people charged with playing the very weak American hand in foreign policy were capable of playing it well, even brilliantly. The collapse of executive authority in Washington by 1974, coming at a time when America's main international adversary had far more resources and political options available to it than Islamist terror gangs have today, should have led to international turmoil on a very large scale (of course, after the politically crippled Nixon/Ford administration was succeeded by the weak Carter administration some of this turmoil actually happened). That it didn't then was largely due to the skill with which Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger conducted foreign policy. Skill on their level, or anything close to it, has not been part of foreign policy making in Washington for some time and certainly is not part of it now.posted by: Zathras on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
This navel gazing drives me crazy! Why do we only hear of NO, a glancing blow from one of mother nature's biggest - and nothing about the direct hit on Mississippi and Alabama and Florida last year and this year. From a Floridian - FEMA writes checks - EVERYTHING else is done by state government or localities - for good or ill. Many of the hysterical stories about looting, shooting and atrocities will be as ephemeral as the 10,000 bodies line, but the media will have moved on to something else and anyone interested will have to check on page 35 for the corrections.posted by: Fiona on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Fiona, navel gazing is the American way.posted by: Justme on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Katrina has ended the Bush Republican definition of government responsiblity: Lower taxes and let everybody pay for everything else except those w/ capital. This method was in direct oppostion to the BLair method in England which was to remove red tape from the economy and slow the growth in direct payment to individuals. Bush's method of starve the beast resulted in the fiasco on the Gulf Coast and this is important. M Brown was Fema director during the four hurricanes that hit Florida. The critical difference is that Gov Bush and Gov Chiles before him realized what the hurricanes really mean: They have the ability to destroy the infrastructure of the area and without planning no recovery can be made. Recovery can only be made by having professionals handle the situation. The governors of LA, MS and AL and the mayor of New Orleans were not up to the task and did not reallize the real implications.
In terms of foreign policy, this failure to protect the American people, everyone else in the world now realizes that foriegn/economic in the US is made not w/ the type of committment the US made to the Cold War(consistency) but on a president by president basis. This realization comes with the knowledge that the last superpower is a hollow giant.posted by: Robert M on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I suppose that the result of the heat wave of 2003 in Europe, which killed more in France and Italy than Katrina did in the US, and at temperatures routinely experienced in the American South, the foreign policy authority of France completely collapsed?
FEMA's response here was as quick as to any other hurricane. The particular nature of New Orleans (including its extreme geographic vulnerability) made it a lot worse. In addition, the state and city responded much more poorly than other states, most notably Florida, have responded to hurricanes.posted by: John Thacker on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
Well, we did have "pundits" like Victor Davis Hanson explaining how this showed that France was not a worth ally for the US. He also explained that it showed the French were weaklings unable to take heat because America routinely had greater tempratures in the American Southwest.
The comparison between temperatures in France and the US SouthWest was of course, total nonsense. Its a bit like saying that Americans in NYC or Boston are weaklings compared to the hardy denizens of Moscow or Rekjavik beause they have trouble dealing with snow and temperatures that are far higher than in those places. One could also add that a great part of the problem was that many French buildings don't have air conditioning partly because temperatures are rarely as high, partly because of a far greater proportion of older buildings compared to the American Southwest.
The deaths in France should be and were considered a national shame, a sign of serious social problems in French society and its health care system and government agencies. New Orelans should be considered similarly.
As to the impact on foreign policy, while I don't think it'll be that great, it need hardly be addd that the situation is different. In the US, the issue was actions taken in response to an emergency, command and control and planning. These are the very actions that would be greatly useful in planning for war or in defence against terrorist attacks. The failures in France were of a different kind and have less relevance to war or anti-terror planning. Also, France is not setting itself up as the invincible superpower (much as it might liek to).
Maybe I've missed a few posts. Who is getting paid for the cleanup and repairs in New Orleans and the gulf cities?? Would it be really out of line to put the people who lived there to work cleaning up the place they live? Or maybe the people in charge haven't made enough to retire on yet? Just a question maybe someone can answer.posted by: dw417 on 09.09.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
America Quo Vadis? (Part 1)
At the end of the cold war dawned a new century which was supposed to usher in an unprecedented era of prosperity referred to a “growth “by economists and technocrats, in addition to peace and democratization. However, what we are witnessing now is the rise of global militarism, greed -driven corrupt- ridden globalization (coded terminology for neoliberalism) huge social disparities and the curtailment of basic civil rights and liberties in the world’s preeminent and well established “liberal democracies”. How did we get to this? And where are we headed? When one looks at America or its superpower supremacy it is patently evident that its unrivalled status is being challenged by new and rising regional great powers: China and to a lesser degree India. Frustrated by new power blocs such as Russia -China tandem hooking up with India, the U.S has yet to devise a policy to deal with these new competitors. America has so far sought to maintain its global hegemonic dominance by means of a foreign policy whose corner stone is the “war on terror”.
This war is based on the premise incompatible with the much vaunted and lofty premise of “conflict- resolution”: that by bombing, occupying very poor and weak states it can keep alive the fading myth of a beneficent “Pax Americana” stabilizing and subduing what Washington perceives as the world’s unruly barbaric and backward masses. This policy doctrine of “pre emptive “strikes is a post modern version of naked aggression or brute force not unlike the state sanctioned violence used during the crusades in the Middle Ages or from the times of Rome’s imperial conquests . This power worst of all, is being used in a most reckless, inefficient and costly manner (to the US treasury and taxpayer that is) possible. There is no post war planning , as in the case of Iraq. As a result the on going “war on terror” the U.S has become a source of instability and a target of scornful vilification in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Instead of a benighted “good guy “or a pillar of strength and stability in a highly unstable international arena it is seen as an agent of instability and destruction operating in a highly unstable international arena. Yet more humiliating is how “the richest nation on earth” conducts the “war on terror”. An emasculated and effeminate military force relies on either high -tech gadgetry or mercenaries to fight the ground wars which it can’t prosecute alone. Often an ill –equipped army untrained for guerilla warfare is sent to the “theatre of operations” or conflict zones without a “game plan” while on the home front military bases, hospitals are shut down. Due to domestic electoral reason the U.S is unable to make the sacrifices in manpower and troops to properly “pacify” its outer spheres of influence. Instead it relies primarily on air power is reluctant allies and the 21st century version of “gunboat “diplomacy to subdue those nations unwilling to do business with it. Examples come to mind such as Serbia, Iraq, North Korea or Libya which in order to avoid an air war with the U.S renounced plans to stockpile WMD and opened up just in time its rich oil industry to U.S oil companies.
When the cold war ended the U.S was blessed with a “peace dividend”. Yet instead of capitalizing on this ‘surplus of good will “ generated by the Fall of Communism and the triumphant emergency of freedom and fast food , it squandered this wealth on massive defense spending, over- consumption , fastidious space programs and tax cuts to the wealthy elite at the helm of corporate run America. The domestic economy driven by consumption replaced production as the main engine for economic growth in the world’s largest economy has resulted in a 600 billion trade deficit with China, now the main exporter of goods to the U.S. The Wal Martisation of America has seen massive displacement of the manufacturing sector to the Far East and China. The traditional American worker has been replaced by an underpaid coolie slaving away for pittance wage in sweat shops located in what the Chinese euphemistically refer to as “free zones”: estentially giant mass labor camps.
Hurricane Katrina has exposed the fault lines of class, race and income in the U.S. A huge underclass surfaced for all too see to the horror of the new American under taxed “White over class” as the analyst and author Michael Lind calls Bush’s corporate buddies. It has also called into the question the relentless and merciless on- going dismantling of the welfare state at a time when government is needed more than ever in crisis such as these. The state actor is called on to disburse Federal hand outs in the form of disaster relief to the Gulf states, bankruptcy protections is sought to save a collapsing domestic airline industry, or policing the murky and opaque world of corporate fraud and tax evasion and other crimes against shareholders are some examples of much needed “intrusiveness” by government and its agencies in the life of its citizens. Right wing republican ideologues bulk at the mention of state intervention and trumpet the glories of the free marker and deregulation instead. However, it was deregulation in the energy sectors which led to Enron’s collapse and resulted in thousands of American shareholders losing 100 billion investments savings. This same deregulations dogma has brought North West and Delta Airlines down to their knees and groveling in front of the Federal government for state funds to stay alive.
Post a Comment: