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  1. #1

    A little different perspective on New Orleans. A must read!

    I cut and pasted this from another message board that I frequent. Some serious food for thought here........

    "New Orleans: A Geopolitical Prize By George Friedman

    The American political system was founded in Philadelphia, but the American
    nation was built on the vast farmlands that stretch from the Alleghenies to the
    Rockies. That farmland produced the wealth that funded American
    industrialization: It permitted the formation of a class of small landholders
    who, amazingly, could produce more than they could consume. They could sell
    their excess crops in the east and in Europe and save that money, which
    eventually became the founding capital of American industry.

    But it was not the extraordinary land nor the farmers and ranchers who alone set
    the process in motion. Rather, it was geography -- the extraordinary system of
    rivers that flowed through the Midwest and allowed them to ship their surplus to
    the rest of the world. All of the rivers flowed into one -- the Mississippi --
    and the Mississippi flowed to the ports in and around one city: New Orleans. It
    was in New Orleans that the barges from upstream were unloaded and their cargos
    stored, sold and reloaded on ocean-going vessels. Until last Sunday, New Orleans
    was, in many ways, the pivot of the American economy.

    For that reason, the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 was a key moment in
    American history. Even though the battle occurred after the War of 1812 was
    over, had the British taken New Orleans, we suspect they wouldn't have given it
    back. Without New Orleans, the entire Louisiana Purchase would have been
    valueless to the United States. Or, to state it more precisely, the British
    would control the region because, at the end of the day, the value of the
    Purchase was the land and the rivers - which all converged on the Mississippi
    and the ultimate port of New Orleans. The hero of the battle was Andrew Jackson,
    and when he became president, his obsession with Texas had much to do with
    keeping the Mexicans away from New Orleans.

    During the Cold War, a macabre topic of discussion among bored graduate students
    who studied such things was this: If the Soviets could destroy one city with a
    large nuclear device, which would it be? The usual answers were Washington or
    New York. For me, the answer was simple: New Orleans. If the Mississippi River
    was shut to traffic, then the foundations of the economy would be shattered. The
    industrial minerals needed in the factories wouldn't come in, and the
    agricultural wealth wouldn't flow out. Alternative routes really weren't
    available. The Germans knew it too: A U-boat campaign occurred near the mouth of
    the Mississippi during World War II. Both the Germans and Stratfor have stood
    with Andy Jackson: New Orleans was the prize.

    Last Sunday, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a nuclear strike.
    Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in many ways, distinguishable
    from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from North America was closed. The
    petrochemical industry, which has become an added value to the region since
    Jackson's days, was at risk. The navigability of the Mississippi south of New
    Orleans was a question mark. New Orleans as a city and as a port complex had
    ceased to exist, and it was not clear that it could recover.

    The Ports of South Louisiana and New Orleans, which run north and south of the
    city, are as important today as at any point during the history of the republic.
    On its own merit, POSL is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and
    the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons a year, of
    which more than half are agricultural products -- corn, soybeans and so on. A
    large proportion of U.S. agriculture flows out of the port. Almost as much
    cargo, nearly 17 million tons, comes in through the port -- including not only
    crude oil, but chemicals and fertilizers, coal, concrete and so on.

    A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it is where the
    bulk commodities of agriculture go out to the world and the bulk commodities of
    industrialism come in. The commodity chain of the global food industry starts
    here, as does that of American industrialism. If these facilities are gone, more
    than the price of goods shifts: The very physical structure of the global
    economy would have to be reshaped. Consider the impact to the U.S. auto industry
    if steel doesn't come up the river, or the effect on global food supplies if
    U.S. corn and soybeans don't get to the markets.

    The problem is that there are no good shipping alternatives. River transport is
    cheap, and most of the commodities we are discussing have low value-to-weight
    ratios. The U.S. transport system was built on the assumption that these
    commodities would travel to and from New Orleans by barge, where they would be
    loaded on ships or offloaded. Apart from port capacity elsewhere in the United
    States, there aren't enough trucks or rail cars to handle the long-distance
    hauling of these enormous quantities -- assuming for the moment that the
    economics could be managed, which they can't be.

    The focus in the media has been on the oil industry in Louisiana and
    Mississippi. This is not a trivial question, but in a certain sense, it is
    dwarfed by the shipping issue. First, Louisiana is the source of about 15
    percent of U.S.-produced petroleum, much of it from the Gulf. The local
    refineries are critical to American infrastructure. Were all of these facilities
    to be lost, the effect on the price of oil worldwide would be extraordinarily
    painful. If the river itself became unnavigable or if the ports are no longer
    functioning, however, the impact to the wider economy would be significantly
    more severe. In a sense, there is more flexibility in oil than in the physical
    transport of these other commodities.

    There is clearly good news as information comes in. By all accounts, the
    Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which services supertankers in the Gulf, is intact.
    Port Fourchon, which is the center of extraction operations in the Gulf, has
    sustained damage but is recoverable. The status of the oil platforms is unclear
    and it is not known what the underwater systems look like, but on the surface,
    the damage - though not trivial -- is manageable.

    The news on the river is also far better than would have been expected on
    Sunday. The river has not changed its course. No major levees containing the
    river have burst. The Mississippi apparently has not silted up to such an extent
    that massive dredging would be required to render it navigable. Even the port
    facilities, although apparently damaged in many places and destroyed in few, are
    still there. The river, as transport corridor, has not been lost.

    What has been lost is the city of New Orleans and many of the residential
    suburban areas around it. The population has fled, leaving behind a relatively
    small number of people in desperate straits. Some are dead, others are dying,
    and the magnitude of the situation dwarfs the resources required to ameliorate
    their condition. But it is not the population that is trapped in New Orleans
    that is of geopolitical significance: It is the population that has left and has
    nowhere to return to.

    The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in order to
    operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food and
    other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In other
    words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United States, you
    need a workforce to do it -- and that workforce is gone. Unlike in other
    disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region because they have no place
    to live. New Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans
    is either gone or so badly damaged that it will not be inhabitable for a long

    It is possible to jury-rig around this problem for a short time. But the fact is
    that those who have left the area have gone to live with relatives and friends.
    Those who had the ability to leave also had networks of relationships and
    resources to manage their exile. But those resources are not infinite -- and as
    it becomes apparent that these people will not be returning to New Orleans any
    time soon, they will be enrolling their children in new schools, finding new
    jobs, finding new accommodations. If they have any insurance money coming, they
    will collect it. If they have none, then -- whatever emotional connections they
    may have to their home -- their economic connection to it has been severed. In a
    very short time, these people will be making decisions that will start to
    reshape population and workforce patterns in the region.

    A city is a complex and ongoing process - one that requires physical
    infrastructure to support the people who live in it and people to operate that
    physical infrastructure. We don't simply mean power plants or sewage treatment
    facilities, although they are critical. Someone has to be able to sell a bottle
    of milk or a new shirt. Someone has to be able to repair a car or do surgery.
    And the people who do those things, along with the infrastructure that supports
    them, are gone -- and they are not coming back anytime soon.

    It is in this sense, then, that it seems almost as if a nuclear weapon went off
    in New Orleans. The people mostly have fled rather than died, but they are gone.
    Not all of the facilities are destroyed, but most are. It appears to us that New
    Orleans and its environs have passed the point of recoverability. The area can
    recover, to be sure, but only with the commitment of massive resources from
    outside -- and those resources would always be at risk to another Katrina.

    The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is also
    a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States cannot function
    without a city around it. The physical and business processes of a port cannot
    occur in a ghost town, and right now, that is what New Orleans is. It is not
    about the facilities, and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a
    city's population and the paralysis of the largest port in the United States.

    Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has depended on
    the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river.
    Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa.
    There must be a facility to empower this exchange. It is also the facility where
    goods are stored in transit. Without this port, the river can't be used.
    Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a
    fundamental national security issue for the United States.

    Katrina has taken out the port -- not by destroying the facilities, but by
    rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable. That means that
    even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the absence of a port near the mouth
    of the river makes the Mississippi enormously less useful than it was. For these
    reasons, the United States has lost not only its biggest port complex, but also
    the utility of its river transport system -- the foundation of the entire
    American transport system. There are some substitutes, but none with sufficient
    capacity to solve the problem.

    It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would
    assume, the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far north
    as they can be and still be accessed by ocean-going vessels. The need for ships
    to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds
    to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river
    going north. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: The United States needs a
    city right there.

    New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial infrastructure. It
    is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city
    must exist. With that as a given, a city will return there because the
    alternatives are too devastating. The harvest is coming, and that means that the
    port will have to be opened soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people
    prepared to endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the
    city will return because it has to.

    Geopolitics is the stuff of permanent geographical realities and the way they
    interact with political life. Geopolitics created New Orleans. Geopolitics
    caused American presidents to obsess over its safety. And geopolitics will force
    the city's resurrection, even if it is in the worst imaginable place."

    That's some pretty scary stuff, above and beyond the horror that exists there now

  2. #2

    Join Date
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  3. #3
    WOW...what an eye opening article. I love/hate to read things like that. As stated, I think the true end effects of Katrina have yet to be seen, and probably won't be for years to come.

    Thanks for posting that.

  4. #4
    Oh yeah, and I have to ask...where did you get that article? If you could post a link, that would be awesome. Thanks

  5. #5
    EZ Dock of Long Island Shibby1485's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Long Island, NY
    so basically.... it's devastation and destruction here and now and will be for quite sometime.... but in the future it can be a new land of opporunities if you think about it. It can be better than it ever was....

    The New Orleans population will probably relocate and disperse around surrounding areas during the time of reconstruction. They will get jobs and find new habitats. By the time New Orleans is rebuilt and inhabitable as a bustling city, the previous population will be settled in and not really want to go back to such a high risk area.

    With that in mind, New Orleans will require a new workforce, and the incentives, real estate, salaries, and opportunities may be enough in the "NEW" New Orleans to encourage people from around the country to relocate to this new city of opportunity.

    It's possible and the outlook of the distant future looks hopeful.... but the present and near future will continue to disintegrate a little bit.

    **Very interesting article you posted, thanks.

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