I have argued, here and elsewhere, that the challenge that faces this great nation is far more complex than the armchair presidents would lead us to believe. The question “why wasn’t anything done sooner” inevitably comes back to the fundamental laws, and requirements, of the physics of movement and storage (Logistics, in other words.) You can only move as far as your ability to support the folks that are working, and can only move forward what the transportation networks can support.
Apparently, the Louisiana Director for Homeland Security went so far as to say the Feds SHOULD have been “force feeding” the people of LA within an hour of the hurricane subsiding. All this says, to me, is that the Colonel served in a capacity other than logistics–and never appreciated what it took to enable him to do his job.
It is challenging, and often means we cannot do as much as we want, as quickly as we would like. And then, human nature kicks in, and we begin to lay blame. Why? Because we cannot accept that some things are beyond man’s ability to control.
I put forward this little poem, The Logistician’s Lament, as a pithy description of the challenges that face logisticians. In this case, I suggest the Colonel in charge of Louisiana Homeland Security is one of the generals.
Logisticians are a sad and embittered race of men who are very much in demand in war, and who sink resentfully into obscurity in peace. They deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. They emerge during war because war is very much a fact. They disappear in peace because peace is mostly theory. The people who merchant in theories, and who employ logisticians in war and ignore them in peace, are generals.
Generals are a happily blessed race who radiate confidence and power. They feed only on ambrosia and drink only nectar. In peace, they stride confidently and can invade a world simply by sweeping their hands grandly over a map, pointing their fingers decisively up terrain corridors, and blocking defiles and obstacles with the sides of their hands. In war, they must stride more slowly because each general has a logistician riding on his back and he knows that, at any moment, the logistician may lean forward and whisper: “No, you can’t do that.” Generals fear logisticians in war and in peace, generals try to forget logisticians.
Romping along beside generals are strategists and tacticians. Logisticians despise strategists and tacticians. Strategists and tacticians do not know about logisticians until they grow to become generals–which they usually do.
Sometimes a logistician becomes a general. If he does, he must associate with generals whom he hates; he has a retinue of strategists and tacticians whom he despises; and, on his back, is a logistician whom he fears. This is why logisticians who become generals always have ulcers and cannot eat their ambrosia.