What he said! And the “he” is GEORGE WILL!

I normally think of George Will as the prig in the bow tie lecturing down at us from a walnut-paneled club room in Olympus. Today, I’m thinking he’s a genius. Thinking conservatives– maybe help really is on the way. The whole damn thing is posted below, but a choice bit:

Americans tend to believe in God and to disbelieve in government. Time will tell how many are moved to rethink one or both of those tendencies in the aftermath of Katrina. It is, however, likely that the storm’s lingering reverberations will alter the nation’s mind far more than 9/11 did.

For some it will be today’s version of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, when perhaps 60,000 deaths stirred doubts about the existence, or at least the benevolence, of a God that could will or allow such random misery…. At any rate, until the raping, looting and gunfire abate, it will be difficult to continue this summer’s argument about whether we and our habitat have been intelligently designed.

…In the dystopia that is New Orleans as this is written, martial law is a utopian aspiration. Granted, countless acts, recorded and unrecorded, of selflessness and heroism attest to the human capacity for nobility. But this, too, is true: The swiftness of New Orleans’ descent from chaos into barbarism must compound the nation’s nagging anxiety that more irrationality is rampant in the world just now than this nation has the power to subdue or even keep at bay.

Which is to say, Katrina will condition the debate about Iraq. Here is why.

Really thoughtful and humane writing. I’m ready to welcome any conservative who puts down the talking points, leaves the spin zone, and expresses an independent idea eloquently.

Sept. 12, 2005 issue – Americans tend to believe in God and to disbelieve in government. Time will tell how many are moved to rethink one or both of those tendencies in the aftermath of Katrina. It is, however, likely that the storm’s lingering reverberations will alter the nation’s mind far more than 9/11 did.

For some it will be today’s version of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, when perhaps 60,000 deaths stirred doubts about the existence, or at least the benevolence, of a God that could will or allow such random misery. The theologically serious and mordantly witty Peter De Vries wrote in one of his novels about a Connecticut river flood to which a local pastor responded by praying “that a kind Providence will put a speedy end to the acts of God under which we have been laboring.” At any rate, until the raping, looting and gunfire abate, it will be difficult to continue this summer’s argument about whether we and our habitat have been intelligently designed.

Regardless of where individual Americans begin or end in fitting Katrina into their interpretation of reality, the storm’s furies and, even more, the social furies it unleashed will deepen Americans’ sense that, in Aristophanes’ words, “whirl is King, having driven out Zeus.” In the dystopia that is New Orleans as this is written, martial law is a utopian aspiration. Granted, countless acts, recorded and unrecorded, of selflessness and heroism attest to the human capacity for nobility. But this, too, is true: The swiftness of New Orleans’ descent from chaos into barbarism must compound the nation’s nagging anxiety that more irrationality is rampant in the world just now than this nation has the power to subdue or even keep at bay.

Which is to say, Katrina will condition the debate about Iraq. Here is why.

Politics is a distinctively human activity, but it arises from something not distinctively human—from anxiety about security, and fear of violent death. On the firm foundation of this brute fact, Thomas Hobbes erected a political philosophy that last week reacquired urgent pertinence.

In 1651, in “Leviathan,” Hobbes said that in “the state of nature,” meaning in the absence of a civil society sustained by government, mankind’s natural sociability, if any, is so tenuous that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Thoughtful conservatives—meaning those whose conservatism arises from reflections deeper than an aversion to high marginal tax rates—are conservative because they understand how thin and perishable is the crust of civilization, and hence how always near society’s surface are the molten passions that must be checked by force when they cannot be tamed by socialization.

Katrina drove from the nation’s television screens numbing pictures of daily carnage in Iraq, where—speaking of how quickly crowds can become mobs—last week perhaps 950 Shiite pilgrims were trampled to death in a panic induced by a rumor about a suicide bomber. Iraq’s insurgents, the creators of an atmosphere of deadly suggestibility, are now attacking the power grid and other elements of urban infrastructure, an attempt, not unsuccessful, to create a Hobbesian state of nature. Their hope is that Iraqis will demand a Leviathan—any authoritarian regime capable of imposing order.

America’s “reconstruction” of Iraq is an attempt, now in its third year, to conjure from the desert air something that Katrina dispersed in New Orleans in a few hours—civility. It will not be long until, and will not be unreasonable or mean-spirited when, many Americans wonder whether rebuilding schools and sewage-treatment facilities in Iraq competes with rebuilding them on America’s Gulf Coast.

Urban disasters can have beneficial effects. London’s Great Fire of 1666 cleared ground for genius—for a rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral and other Christopher Wren churches. The fire that swept central Chicago in 1871 produced three ingredients of that city’s architectural fecundity—many vacant spaces, an openness to builders with novel visions and an eagerness to build with nonflammable materials. Soon structural steel, plate glass and the elevator made Chicago the great pioneer of tall buildings.

But it is hard to imagine New Orleans benefiting in any way, or even recovering, from Katrina. The city relied for its prosperity too much on merchandisable charm—tourism, conventions, gambling—that may be impossible to revive for Americans who have seen the bodies floating in the sewage. Neither Newark nor Detroit has really recovered from the 1967 rioting.

In Katrina’s collision with New Orleans, the essence of primitivism, howling nature, met one of mankind’s most sophisticated works, a modern city. But what makes cities such marvels—the specializations and divisions of labor that sustain myriad webs of dependencies—also makes them fragile. Forgetting that is hubris, an ingredient of tragedy.

So Katrina has provided a teaching moment. This is a liberal hour in that it illustrates the indispensability, and dignity, of the public sector. It also is a conservative hour, dramatizing the prudence of pessimism, and the fact that the first business of government, on which everything depends, is security.