The rescue of the 33 Chilean miners last Wednesday and Thursday from their 69 days of entrapment following a cave-in provided a welcome break from the dismal news of the days. It also begs the question: Would a similar rescue of trapped American miners be undertaken with the same resolve and success?
It’s an unfair question, but one has to wonder if the American government could move as quickly and efficiently in response to such a disaster. We’ve watched a hugely inept response to Hurricane Katrina and been forced to endure three months of BP’s massive oil spill, both of which raised questions about government’s ability — and desire — to respond to disaster.
The scope of the American disasters, which covered thousands of square miles and affected hundreds of thousands of people, was far greater than the Chilean mine collapse. They required broader, more comprehensive, longer and more costly responses, and in the case of the BP spill, forced Americans to trust the perpetrators of the disaster with ending it. So, perhaps a comparison is unfair.
But Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera, could teach American leaders about how to react. He became personally involved from day one in marshaling the country’s resources and helped the rescue become a matter of national pride. As a result, Chileans came out of this misfortune with a perception that their government cares about their lives. That’s a concept unfamiliar to most Americans.