Like a stopped clock, the Ugly American is correct twice a day.
Or, in former New Orleans "recovery czar" Ed Blakely's case, twice in a couple of years and change.
The story of Mr. Disaster Recovery in the Big Easy -- cette Americain Vilain -- is a typical story of les Americains descending upon a foreign country, figuring out (more or less) what the deal is pretty quickly, then embarking upon quixotic quests to pound large square pegs into teeny round holes.
THIS ALWAYS goes rather disastrously. The natives grow to hate the Ugly Americans, bombs are thrown, casualties mount, and the Ugly Americans pronounce the backward locals incorrigible.
Then comes the choice between overwhelming force and getting the hell out of Dodge -- and a quick look at the poll numbers (and the ledger) usually tips the balance in favor of hauling ass. Oftentimes, the Ugly American departs with a pithy benediction for the unkempt, uncouth masses left to deal with the mess les Americains made of, well, everything (as if the everyday, ordinary messes of the locals' own making weren't daunting enough):
I KNOW . . . I know. "Hey, you f***** up. You trusted us" is not what Ed Blakely said. I know Otter, and the erstwhile "recovery czar" is no Otter.
On the other hand, you have to admit that Neidermeyer was kinda right when he told Flounder he was "worthless and weak."
Nevertheless, that's where we stand -- Ed Blakely is your typical Ugly American in a Third World dystopia. He basically knows the problem; he basically knows how things ought to be, but he has absolutely no idea how to get from here to there.
And he damn well isn't going to stick around long enough to figure it out. Or win any "hearts and minds."
AYE, BUT HERE be the rub: Somebody's got to. We have met the enemy, he talks and acts funny, and we think we saw his kind when some junta took over some Central American country or another . . . and he, inexplicably, is us.
Louisiana -- New Orleans -- is not American, not culturally or temperamentally. The city and state face terrible problems that, in many respects, are not "American" in size or scope, and they prove resistant to public-policy medications formulated for different strains of dysfunction.
They can be fixed, but only with the application of overwhelming force and decades of "nation building." And who can afford that? Who has patience for that?
Thus the Vietnam bugout. And the ongoing Iraq bugout. And the coming Afghanistan bugout -- one way or another.
And bugging out is an entirely reasonable thing to do under the dictum, "When you find yourself in a deep hole, quit digging." Obviously, it was a reasonable move for an Ugly American who'd dug himself as deep a hole as Ed Blakely.
THANKS TO WHAT Thomas Jefferson did in 1803, however, not every American (most especially the federal government) has the luxury of Blakely's "wham bam, thank you, ma'am" act.
Something's got to give -- and soon enough, it will.