Clang! Clang! The sound you hear is the bricks this country throws up against the backboard, vainly scrambling to score -- just once – amid an emergency. Every time the United States is faced with an emergency, it's unprepared and attacks the situation by going after something completely irrelevant. The solution is for America to genuinely prioritize and focus its limited resources and evaluate its would-be leaders on preparing for emergencies.
The last time the United States successfully confronted a major emergency was in 1946. World War II had just ended and the United States began moving to establish a new international system that would ensure the peace. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union had other plans. Stalin rejected the American Baruch Plan to establish international controls over nuclear materials and reneged on his pledge to remove troops from Iran.
When the British informed America it could no longer support anti-communist resistance in Greece and Turkey, Truman came to a unique crossroads in American history -- to forgo peacetime intervention in overseas matters or assume an unprecedented role as the guarantor of the West.
Non-intervention remained the default preference of many Americans, even after the experience of the past thirty years. Truman went to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and asked for his support; the latter was prepared to support him but also recommended he “scare the hell out of the American people" to win theirs.
In March 1947, Truman did just that and inaugurated America's role as a superpower in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The United States established a massive national security apparatus and multilateral alliances around the globe, and stood vigil for the next forty-five years.
After the peaceful conclusion to the Cold War, America's record has been less reassuring.
After the Oklahoma City bombing, Clinton closed down sections of Pennsylvania in from the White House, and blamed, in part, the more strident voices of right-wing radio, a major source of opposition to him.
When twenty Saudis attacked the United States on 9/11, the country launched a years-long occupation of Afghanistan and toppled the Hussein regime in Iraq.
Following the collapse of the housing market and finance sector, the U.S. government assumed control of the country's health care system, approximately one-sixth of its multi-trillion economy.
Subsequent to the murder of an American ambassador in Libya, the Administration blamed and arrested an obscure YouTuber.
When the current pandemic erupted, Americans learned the government did not replenish vital medical stockpiles. Subsequent legislation has included provisions for sunscreen, the Kennedy Center, and now weapons programs.
America has never been good at preparing for emergencies.
Two notorious examples. Amid increasing tensions with Japan in 1941, the United States misread the threat to Hawaii, despite the former's history of sneak attacks. Despite successive terrorist attacks in the late Nineties, the United States never established a comprehensive strategy against Al Qaeda before September 11th.
This distressing record should only remind Americans to expect its government to prepare comprehensively for emergencies and move with a purpose in their occurrence.
Warnings abound and always remain just warnings.
Americans should no longer permit their government's diversion (and borrowing) of scarce funding away from emergency preparation and response.
Americans should evaluate candidates' bids for their votes based on their preparedness proposals -- and definitely not unrealistic (and unenforceable) promises like Biden’s call to mandate use of masks nationwide.
Another 9/11, another Katrina, another economic collapse, or another pandemic and Biden’s vaunted "battle for the nation's soul" will pale in comparison to the battle for survival.