Monday, September 05, 2005

Keeping one's head

A letter sent to National Review Online this weekend:

Sir,

I am seeing and reading all the commentary about the "slow" Federal response to Katrina and, perhaps its my background as a military logistician (retired now for a number of years), but I'd like to offer a few observations. As we say in the military, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We plan, pre-position and prepare and then have to adapt to the chaos of battle Clausewitz dubbed the "fog of war." While the shameless mayor of NewOrleans sounds off like an aggrieved pimp on the radio, a military operation, involving both Guard and active duty, that dwarfs our invasion of Panama has been gathering and underway since Tuesday. I saw the first alert orders go out Tuesday. (The President, BTW, issued disaster emergency declarations even before Katrina made landfall.) The first order of business for any operation, relief or military, is assess needs, routes of ingress and egress, etc. We're looking at a disaster area covering 90,000 square miles--this is not just New Orleans. Moving the right supplies and people to the right area in the right order is complex, even with a fully functioning communications net and an intact road network. Here we are, 96 hours after landfall, and thousands of troops, tons and tons of supplies, and a fleet of warships are there or due to arrive shortly. This is no small feat.

It should be noted that Gov Blanco was slow to ramp up the LA Guard--you don't simply call a Guardsman and tell him to report in two hours. By law, they can take as much as 72 hours to report so that they can get their affairs in order. If they show up sooner, great, but the point is, while all media--and some at the Corner--obsess over the Fed's performance, the flaccid response of local and state authorities in Louisiana made a daunting task even tougher. The Guard and military, for example, rely on local authorities to provide some idea of where victims are, and, as we have heard, Nagin's office didn't bother telling FEMA that Nagin had directed people to the NO Convention Center. Likewise, CSAR and medical units are not combat outfits. Having to bring in more troops to quell the animalistic behavior of some (and that behavior, BTW, broke out before the rains even stopped, though Blanco and Nagin didn't seem to care) means the flow of supplies and evacuees is slowed.

In any event, I hear a lot of people talking about the unprecedented scope and scale of the disaster, and, in the next breath, wonder what's taking so long. There is always room for improvement and this is not to say the Feds shouldn't take their share of knocks, but I've spoken with a number of military officers from other nations, including Third World states, who are studying here, and they are bemused by the spectacle of hand wringing and media panic.

As the subject line says, just my two cents' worth.

Sincerely,


(Emphasis added by me) This strikes me as a voice of sanity amidst a sea of media hysteria.

I personally have no idea what is involved in tending to the needs of tens of thousands of people trapped in a city that is under 20 feet of water, (nor do, I am sure, the journalists who are pontificating on the level of incompetence being shown by those who are charged with doing it) so maybe I am way off. But the above sounds sensible to me.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Nigel said...

Holy Crap!
Anyone seen this ranting from Matt Wells?:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4214516.stm

Is that what you would call balanced reporting?

Compare that with Paul Reynolds quite balanced piece. (Looks like he has been reading blogs ;-):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4216508.stm

Perhaps Paul can explain why is colleague is so prone to hysterical reporting?

Perhaps Paul can also explain why his own balanced report rapidly vanished off the front page (I almost couldnt find it again to link it!) whereas Mr Wells' disgusting piece is front and centre.

I feel some sympathy for Paul Reynolds - its obvious that balanced thoughtful reporting quickly gets pushed aside if it doesnt have the right amount of left-wing bleating in it...
Perhaps to keep your job in the BBC you have to bleat louder and longer than everyone else...

-N

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Nigel said...

baaa, rss delay... you already posted on Paul's article....

12:29 AM  

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