Monday, October 6

The elites respond to Ebola. Wait...


The World Health Organization is a bureaucrat's dream:  get paid a lot and no one checks to see if you really show up.  In a recent interview in the Guardian, the virologist who discovered Ebola criticized WHO's response to the deadly outbreak in West Africa.  He believes the bureaucrats at WHO were, um...less than effective, and cites a reason:
it was because their African regional office isn’t staffed with the most capable people but with political appointees.
Details appeared an article in NDT, citing Medecins Sans Frontieres officials who say the regional directors of WHO simply didn't respond to Ebola. “In all the meetings I attended...I never saw a representative of the WHO,” said the deputy director of operations for MSF Switzerland.  WHO claims they didn't react because their subordinates didn't give them details of the bad news.

In a crisis the first instinct of bureaucracies is to maintain the appearance of control.

When a threat appears, bureaucracies usually go through 3 phases.  Denial, then confident half-measures, and finally panic. These phases are remarkably constant throughout history.

When reality finally overcomes denial a surprised and embarrassed bureaucracy applies half-measures to defeat the insolent threat.  Half-measures because taking fully effective steps--steps that would scare the public--would be a tacit admission they made a mistake in their earlier denials that there was a serious threat.

And admitting error is something they simply cannot bring themselves to do.  Admitting error is hard for most people and damn near impossible for bureaucrats and others who are accustomed to being "in charge" and to being deferred to by "ordinary" humans.  Thus the threat is treated as a minor nuisance and flunkeys are sent to deal with it so that the ballroom music can resume.

"Don’t worry ladies and gentlemen, we have the situation completely under control."

For example, having only recently assured Americans that ISIS/al-Qaeda was "a JV team" Obama could only bring himself to authorize a limited response of airstrikes against them.

Finally, when the half-measures don’t work there is finally panic;  full-blown, shameless panic which typically results in the demand by "authorities" for absolute power to contain a crisis which only last week they declared did not exist or wasn't a threat.  So now the very same WHO that denied a problem and then low-balled the numbers is now warning of catastrophe unless the world [?] gives it billions.

Whether it is the Blitzkrieg in France or the Fall of Singapore or Black April in 1975 or … perhaps today, the stages of a rout are depressingly similar:  Denial.  Confident half-measures.   Panic.

The elites assume everything is under their control.  When events show up to prove the error in their thinking, the shock is often paralyzing.

Always before, issuing a directive or executive order or sending an agency chief to do the Sunday talk show tour was enough to fix things--at least until they were safely out of office.

Eh, it'll probably work this time too.  You just have to have the right people in power.
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(Credit to Richard Fernandez for the basic ideas here.  His post is well worth reading in full.)

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