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America's Dangerously Fragile Social Order

A breakdown of law and order bubbles just beneath the surface of American society. This ironic op-ed from the State-run China Daily asks: If rape, robbery, murder and disorder is what happens after a well-anticipated natural disaster, what is likely to occur after a major terrorist attack?

By W. Chao

September 29, 2005

Original Article (English)    

With unlimited financial resources and the scientific know-how to predict any kind of natural disaster, why during the Katrina was the United States left with thousands of casualties and so many reported cases of homicide, rape, robbery? This was not just a matter of government incompetence: It was a demonstration of just how fragile much of America’s social fabric is today.

Imagine what would happen in an even larger city, like Philadelphia, Chicago or Los Angeles, if there was a major breakdown in public services like the provision of fresh water and a breakdown in law and order?

In view of the frantic exodus from Texas [during Hurricane Rita], the authorities have frankly admitted that they were incapable of coping with even this level of difficulty.

The question must be asked: If the U.S. performs so miserably during a well-anticipated natural disaster, what would Americans do in a real terrorist attack, designed to inflict maximum damage to key urban infrastructure such as the water and electricity supply of a major city?

Waiting for Relief in New Orleans

The result would be a major breakdown in law and order, because the social cohesion that prevails in the three major East Asian nations, Japan, Korea and China, is simply non-existent in many parts of the United States.

I know, because I have been everywhere except the New England states north of Boston. Racism is an omnipresent, endemic disease in every U.S. state, just waiting for a major civil disturbance to raise its ugly head, like that which occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and now the natural 2005 calamity in New Orleans.

There is no excuse for this. These problems clearly relate to racism, because such an event is likely to happen to eclectic areas in Long Island, New York; or Thousand Oaks, California or Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts; or in San Francisco or Reston, Virginia, if a comparable event occurred.

The prevention of terrorist attacks is a very expensive business in today’s world. For instance, New York has been taking a lesson from the London attacks and is projected to spend $9 billion on personnel, electronic surveillance and other measures. How many billions more is U.S. President George W. Bush prepared to spend for these types of stop-gap measures in other cities?

Unless equality - where all of the world’s people are given a fair chance of having their grievances redressed - is allowed to prevail, no amount of prevention will make any meaningful difference. Dedicated foes will always find loopholes and countermeasures.

Ours is indeed a different world, even from that during the Kosovo War just a few years ago. Advanced weaponry is no longer decisive in war, as demonstrated by the car and roadside bomb attacks that have proven so effective against the occupying army the urban warfare in Iraq.

Because of the tangible and intangible costs of the Iraqi quagmire, coordinated anti-Iraq War demonstrations like those in Rome, London, and Washington are gaining momentum.

The U.S. Treasury is not a bottomless pit. The Chinese have a saying: If you sit and consume a mountain of food without replenishing it, the day will come when even that mountain disappears.

To inflict such pain on their own is downright un-American, let alone when people around the world are watching on television.

Don't tell me that there was no money to repair the New Orleans levees (one pre-disaster estimate placed the repair costs for the levees at a mere $23 million).  Now, billions must be paid to compensate for the negligence and folly of not planning for disaster.

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