Need for Global Leadership Marks New Year
Early warning systems that protect the wealthier coastal nations of the world were not in place along a broad corridor of impoverished coastal countries, which therefore had to rely upon other countries' monitoring networks. Unfortunately, the early warning systems of countries like the United States, although undeniably capable of detecting geological events that trigger killer tsunamis, were curiously unable to be fully and effectively brought to bear for those nations less well-equipped to know for themselves of the imminent danger coming at them. Even though tsunami warnings were issued from Hawaii, the effort was too timid and too late in conveying absolute urgency for affected nations to act decisively (assuming that they would have, in any event).
News media outlets in the United States have related the horrors this week in the Pacific nations to the tragic loss of life experienced by the United States on September 11, 2001. This correlation has sparked some criticism of conflating the deaths of close to 3,000 people in the World Trade Center and Pentagonhorrendous and tragic as those deaths wereto the loss of 50 times as many lives in this week's natural disaster.
Yet to be noted openly, however, is a telling and troubling relationship between September 11, 2001, and December 26, 2004. In both tragedies, monitoring systems were available, in place, and fully functional that could have mitigated some or much of the loss of life, if perhaps not the loss of property. In each case, a few critical and actionable hours separated the people who knew what was coming from the people who would pay the ultimate price upon its arrival. Even the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the "9/11 Commission"), politically unable as it was to provide a full accounting of all who were culpable by incompetence, noted scores of links in the chain of massive failure at all levels, both civilian and military, of the U.S. government that occurred both in the days and in the hours before people died. Similarly, reports coming out in the world press today note that, in particular, the United States had satellites, seismic equipment, telecommunications infrastructure, and computer models that could havesome might argue, should havebeen brought to bear while the waves were still more than an hour away from the coasts of the affected countries.
In both cases, no one would argue that loss of life would have been entirely avoided: naturebe it the human nature of zealots bent on mass murder or the Earth's nature of routinely renewing itself through destructionwill inevitably and horrifically have its way from time to time.
However, concerned observers cannot help but take note of the fact that, once again, the country that now poses more vociferously than ever as the defender and promoter of freedom across the globe remains unable, with all of its technological sophistication, to stand as the defender and promoter of life itself, either in far away lands or upon its own shores.
Fair or unfair as this assessment may be, the world faces what could be characterized as the perception of a crisis of global leadership in safety and security. In such a circumstance, it can be expected that the emerging powerhouse nations of China, the European Union, and to a lesser extent Japan will start to make not-so-subtle overtures to be seen as the successors for the new century to the mantle now slipping from the shoulders of America.