“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation” -James Madison

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Societal Breakdown

Katrina and the resulting fallouts have provided evidence to something I have been thinking about since shortly after 9/11.

It occurred to me that if the bad guys really knew America, they would not waste time trying to kill lots of people at once in a huge explosion at a major event during, say, the Super Bowl or Macy's parade. Nor would they consider a retread of 9/11 using planes or trains.

No, if you want to beat America, this is how: true terror, not the flash-in-a-pan Big Boom That Kills A Lot Of People At Once. The scary thing is how absolutely simple it would be.

Disclaimer: I do not *want* this to happen; the following is merely a presentation of what I *would* do if I were the bad guys. Fortunately I seem to be the only one reading my blog, so I feel safe that they're not going to stumble upon this and the ol' light bulb will flicker to life.

Small teams, spread throughout the various states (mostly in the "flyover" and red states), hitting vulnerable and unguarded (or lightly so) targets that don't kill anyone or cause any major damage on their own. These targets would be railroad bridges, highway overpasses (especially those that intersect, like Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta, or the Mousetrap in Denver), communication towers, water towers, local airstrips, etc. These "ideal" targets would be out of the major cities mostly, where there is a distinct lack of manpower to guard as well as rebuild, and the costs of bringing in personnel and equipment would be magnified as well as problematic. The idea behind the principal targets is to shut down the transportation and infrastructure systems. If enough roads are made impassable for up to weeks at a time, then our consumer-based economy trips. It is currently running at a sprint, and as anyone knows, it's easier to trip someone running than walking. Local economies will crash, and the macro economy will fracture.

Secondary targets would be grain elevators, stockyards, burning of fields, poisoning of water supplies and livestock, and any attack on agricultural resources.

Tertiary target would include direct assassinations, such as local police chiefs, mayors, city managers, and any other persons of influence in small communities. When the Big Man in a small town is vulnerable, everyone else feels even more so.

Multiple attacks in multiple states, whether coordinated, staggered, or ongoing, would severly undermine the foundations of our economy and infrastructure. The riots we see on the evening news in other places would be in Everytown, USA. There would not be enough help for everyone, and Americans have gotten used to getting help when they're down.

What has any of this to do with Katrina? Look at New Orleans and Gulfport -- a completely helpless government, chaos among the remaining denizens, a breakdown of societal norms, and absolutely no immediate remedies available due to intersecting logistical problems. Here in Atlanta we are facing a fuel crisis due to the severing of our pipelines from Louisiana. Across America we are all facing higher prices and limited supply, for the long term as well as in the short term. It will take months to get oil production back to what is was, which already wasn't enough. Delta Airlines was already facing bankruptcy, in part due to already-high jet fuel prices. Now they've just had many of their flights to the affected area cancelled and the fuel prices are about to skyrocket. Our local economy is about to be hit very hard from multiple whammies -- many newly-laid-off people, loss of a major player in the tax base, high fuel and resupply prices, and a guaranteed taxpayer-funded rescue to reorganize Delta.

New Orleans has always been a small blip, a minor major city with a perenially bad football team but a great party zone. No one has thought about the importance of the city's docks, drills, refineries, and seafood UNTIL WE LOST THEM.

Now this situation is all anyone can talk about. The human tragedy is something I have deliberately not touched on here, as others have said it all and so much better. The point I am making is that this is a one-time natural disaster that has us all reeling a bit, even if we didn't get so much as a drop of rain from that storm. We are an interconnected society.

Can you imagine what would happen if we got up in the morning to reports from around the country of crossroads being destroyed, of water tables poisoned, of entire sections of the country suddenly unable to conduct commerce? The national media would be schizophrenic trying to get the latest reports from various "backwater" affiliates, none of which is a huge story, but which all are big locally. Panic would be everywhere, and there would be no way to fix it all or catch all the bad guys, and they could easily keep doing it.

Take away the electricity, make gasoline and fresh water scarce, make it hard to get food, water, and other supplies into cities, and make the toilets stop working. See New Orleans and Gulf Coast for examples. Multiply this across every major city.

That would bring us down, and it's a good thing the bad guys haven't figured that out yet.


2 Old Comments:

Yowee! Yes, this is a scary scenario, and I do hope you are right about no one from "the other side" reading this ever. Especially considering that Pearl Harbor and quite a few other things that happened to America were ideas first explained by Americans!
However, this particular subject has been talked about before. I subscribe to a magazine called "Countryside" which has a great deal on preparedness for disasters of all kinds, and they constantly make the point that we are an interconnected society. EVERYTHING is a web now, and if you touch one part, people jump 3,000 miles away.
I personally am working to see how much of my own needs I can provide, and NO, I am not a "hippie" (much too young for that!) or an "Earth mother." I just think it is sensible to be prepared. Food security is a HUGE issue, and it does not get talked about much because "people might panic."
There all kinds of resources out there now about storing food, water, etc., as well as growing some of your own food if you want. It does not have to be some laborious, time consuming project like a lot of people think. It mainly requires thought. And isn't that what responsibility is about? Thinking ahead and preparing for what life holds, good and bad.
Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful post.

By Anonymous Lady Copper, at 10/10/05 7:53 PM  

Lady Copper,

Thanks! The problem with our society is that we have been so insulated and safe for so long, and that we have become a true consumer-based society.

When my parents and older brothers lived through the Cold War, they had a basement shelter with several weeks' worth of food and water stocked. Many Americans had provisions like this.

Now most do not. And when the excrement flies, they are lost.

I just bought a house, and am now preparing my emergency kits and supply boxes.

Paranoid? Possibly, but not stupid....

By Blogger Skymuse, at 11/10/05 1:13 PM