Sunday, September 11, 2005

A different America?

No Fixed Address - New York Times

Four years after September 11, the United States is struggled with another major blow against its self-confidence. But in much the same way as we saw then, great forces are being mobilized in order to create a new beginning.

New York is back in a big way since that dreadful day four years ago. The gaping hole down near the southern edge of Manhattan is still there, but in every other sense the city is truly booming, carried forward not the least by the strength of the US economy and its pivotal position in the global economy.

On a sunny and warm day like today, all the world seems to be strolling through the streets of mid-Manhattan.

The New Orleans catastrophy will take a long time to repair. But in the media here, discussions have already descended into a very partisan dispute over who is to blame for most things. It is Democrats versus Republicans in a show of politics at its worst.

Large sums are already talked about when it comes to the rebuilding efforts. It will be sums probably larger than the annual costs for the Iraq war, with the total talked about perhaps in the order of 150 to 200 billion dollars. Huge amounts.

There will be a new but probably different New Orleans. And there will in all probability be an attempt to address the race and poverty issues that obviously predate even the Bush administration, but where so brutally exposed in the aftermath of the hurricane.

We are told that America will never be the same. Sure. America is never the same. September 11 changed a lot. So, in its own days, did certainly the San Fransisco earthquake. Not to speak about World War II or the Vietnam war. This is a society where change is the only thing that's permanent.

Back in Europe there are those gloating and hinting that higher taxes would have held off the hurricane or at least substantially alleviated its effects.

It sounds improbable, sorry to say. A hurricane of that order tended to devastate cities irrespectively of the level of income taxes - if they are not used to permanently hiding the population in bunkers.

But the New Orleans tragedy has clearly changed the agenda of the Bush administration. By how much remains to be seen. These are still early days.

But with his leadership abilities on the issue called in question, and with Iraq looking constantly messy, there is bound to be rather intense strategy sessions in the White House.

America will change. Sure. But in changing I guess it will still have a tendency to look the same.