As Michael Grunwald wrote in The Washington Post last week, "Over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large. Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate."
So there have been mistakes all round, some made by single individuals in moments of crisis, some by many people over the course of many years.
But we should resist the notion that we can come up with some organizational solution that can prevent every mistake. Today, as we look back on World War II, we tend to think that everything worked smoothly. But that wasn't the case.
Rick Atkinson's "An Army at Dawn" shows that U.S. commanders made many blunders in the 1942-43 North Africa campaign. There were constant complaints about bottlenecks and snafus in defense production, and President Roosevelt changed the organizational chart several times.
In 2002, everyone agreed FEMA should be put under Homeland Security; now, people say it should be taken out.
Fortunately, we don't depend just on government. Millions of citizens have contributed $500 million, thousands are taking Katrina evacuees into their homes and schools and churches, and private companies are hurrying free supplies to those in need. Government will never be perfect, but fortunately America is more than just government.