New Orleans reveals vulnerability of the US

Mark Steyn refuses to be partial in his blaming, and gives all the authorities an equal lashing in this week’s column. He argues that it proves the authorities have neither learned nor listened to any of the lessons of 11th September 2001.

PS Reader Groucho recommends Lionel Shriver, with a view from an American abroad.

One thing that became clear two or three months after “the day that everything changed” is that nothing changed — that huge swathes of the political culture in America remain committed to a bargain that stiffs the people at every level, a system of lavish funding of pseudo-action. You could have done as the anti-war left wanted and re-allocated every dollar spent in Iraq to Louisiana. Or you could have done as some of the rest of us want and re-allocated every buck spent on, say, subsidizing Ted Turner’s and Sam Donaldson’s play-farming activities. But, in either case, I’ll bet Louisiana’s kleptocrat public service would have pocketed the dough and carried on as usual — and, come the big day, the state would still have flopped out, and New Orleans’ foul-mouthed mayor would still be ranting about why it was all everybody’s else fault.

Those levees broke; they failed. And you think about Chicago and San Francisco and Boston and you wonder what’s waiting to fail there. The assumption was that after 9/11, big towns and small took stock and identified their weak points. That’s what they told us they were doing, and that’s what they were getting big bucks to do. But in New Orleans no one had a plan that addressed levee failure, and no one had a plan for the large percentage of vehicleless citizens who’d be unable to evacuate, and no one had a plan to deal with widespread looting. Given that all these local factors are widely known — New Orleans is a below-sea-level city with high crime and a low rate of automobile ownership — it makes you wonder how the city would cope with something truly surprising — like, say, a biological attack.

Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America’s enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?