Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leadership By Firedrill

Like most of us, I learned about and participated in fire drills at a very early age, starting in primary grades, then continuing all through middle and high school, in the military, and in the work environment. Fire drills are important, they prepare us to react to a dangerous situation, to remove ourselves from harm's way as safely and quickly quickly as possible. But fire drills do not prevent fires, nor do they guarantee to always protect us from sustaining casualties, nor do they extinguish fires. Fire drills are in essence an ad hoc response to an unplanned event, with temporary effect, minimizing but not always preventing casualties.

Common sense helps us to realize that in addition to fire drills, good management of fire protection involves fire prevention efforts, and effective fire suppression tools and tactics. Effective prevention includes knowledge of cause and effect coupled with appropriate proactive planning actions, effective suppression includes developing appropriate tactics to respond to individual and diverse situations, acquisition and training of effective manpower, acquisition and mastery of appropriate tools; taken together, this all adds up to effective strategic thinking by those charged with the responsibility to protect us from fires.

Over the course of the past seven plus years both the Bush administration and Congress (whether a Republican or democratic majority) have led our country through a series of fire drills, at varying degrees of success, but arguably, lacking in strategic thinking and action. Or have they? Has the strategy all along been to back the American people in to a corner through fear and intimidation garnered from natural events and human actions in order to consolidate power in to the office of the president, and perhaps more significantly consolidate the power and reach of corporate interests, who pull the strings of the Oval Office and both houses of Congress? All in service to the fulfillment of ever greater corporate greed.

The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center should have been a wake-up call, and the intelligence about Al- Qaeda available to our government prior to the 9/11 attacks should have led to appropriate, proactive, strategic planning and action, instead government and civilian resources were left scrambling, in a catch-up effort at protecting the security of our nation in the intervening years. Then based upon fear and misinformation the Bush administration hoodwinked the country in to an invasion and start of a five year war in Iraq in which our military assets have been exhausted, been disabled from protecting us in other parts of the world, lead to needless casualties of Americans and Iraqis, and put future generations of American tax payers on the hook to the foreign nations that have loaned the money to the United States to conduct the folly that is the Iraq war. All the while enriching war profiteering corporations (Haliburton, Blackwater, KBR, et al).

In the midst of all of the damage done to our economy, to human life, to our reputation and influence in the world because of the Iraq war, our government has taken us through more fire drills:

The natural disaster that was hurricane Katrina and the bungled fire drill that followed, including the complete mismanagement of the situation by the local, state and federal government entities and in particular FEMA.

The fire drill that has followed 9/11 and the pursuit of the "war on terrorism" has resulted in the suspension of our constitutional protections, when prisoners of the United States have been denied the right of habeus corpus, and where, playing upon fear and claiming urgency the FISA rules were overridden and the government allowed to listen and read virtually all of our telecommunications at will. The Constitution has been discarded in this fire drill.

Now capping an era of uncontrolled corporate greed, an era in which many demanded less government oversight in to various facets of life in the United States (in the financial sector, in protection of the environment, in mine safety, in health care, etc.), an era in which government intervention in the form of sound regulation has been ridiculed and avoided, an era in which the government, corporations and individual American citizens pursuing short sighted, greedy financial gains, have resulted in the latest fire drill, with a claimed immediate need to inject as much as or more than $700 billion of our hard earned cash in to the financial system. In essence saying to those who put the country in to this situation, "OK, you screwed up, but we will bail your asses out, and let you go back to playing your games all over again". The bailout bill as it seems to be presently constituted does little, if anything to address the root cause of the current financial disaster facing our country, it just, at best, restarts the economic cycle. It does not mandate any true change in behavior in the financial markets or in the conduct of business in the United States, it is simply just another fire drill, going through the motions of evacuating the financial industry principals, who through their playing with matches have started this conflagration, and evacuating them so they can play another day.

Is this really how we, as intelligent American people, as fathers and mothers responsible for providing a safe, nurturing environment compatible with a thriving life for our children want our society to operate, as one fire drill after another. With never an effort to embrace long term, strategic thinking, planning and actions. Never giving sufficient time, thought and effort towards building a better infrastructure, whether financial, medical, energy, transportation or telecommunications, to live safely and thrive in this county, but just constantly responding in a reactive, fire drill mode to the next crisis?

It is time that we, as American citizens, active in our role as owners of this society demand an end to governance by fire drill, time that we impose our will upon those who serve us in all governmental offices, whether elected or appointed, time that we say to the greedy, profit driven corporations and their lobbying agents that we have had enough of the fire drills, and that we demand more and smarter fire protection, that we demand fire suppression that serves not greedy corporation interests, but the greater good of all of the people.