Conventional wisdom on the left (see Nathan Newman and Avedon Carol, for example) seems to assume that even thinking about the future of New Orleans is some sort of nefarious (as if there is any other sort) right-wing plot. I differ and will be encouraging discussion of if/how/when New Orleans should be reconstructed. (Btw, I more or less take for granted that other cities/towns in the Gulf should be rebuilt, and with national aid. It is solely's New Orleans's elevation relative to the surrounding waters which offers long-term concern.)
Here's a good start to the discussion:
Should New Orleans Get Rebuilt And Who Should Pay For It?
(and don't miss the comments to the post.)
In the coming debate on what to do about New Orleans keep in mind that another category 5 hurricane could hit the city next year or 5 or 10 years from now. Should billions of dollars in federal aid go into rebuilding the city? Or should the rebuilding aid be held back with money first spent on building levees and other anti-flood measures? Or should the homes in the flooded parts not get rebuilt and should the city just shrink in size into defensible borders?
Keep in mind that it would be a whole lot quicker to rebuild the houses of NO than to rebuild levees or, more importantly, rebuild the wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi. Assuming for a (wild!) moment that money is no object, then it would seem to me that the logical process would be to wait to rebuild the destroyed neighborhoods of NO until the area is reasonably flood-proofed. Since wetland reconstruction seems to be an integral part of that process, and such wetland reconstruction would (I assume) take decades...well, do you see the issue? You can't rebuild the flooded parts of NO for years. It is not as easy as simply saying "Of course! Shove it, Denny Hastert! Let's rebuild." It would be criminal to encourage people to move back into flood prone areas until they are safe -- and that will take years and years. So the practical problems of reconstruction, once you strip-away the comforting rhetoric, are not easy.
UPDATE: And it seems to me that the key principle -- and I find it amusing that I would use this usually cant-laden word -- to inform such rebuilding of New Orleans is that it should be "sustainable" -- both economically and ecologically.
Economically: New Orleans should not expect, nor want to expect, that on an-going basis, once the reconstruction is more-or-less complete, support for its civic infrastructure would need particular subsidy from the rest of the nation above that level of Federal support given to every city & town.
Ecologically: The people of New Orleans should not be subject to the terror of floods and such flood-proofing must be done in a manner which works with nature rather than attempting to contain such enormous forces. So the rebuilding of the wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi, which seem to be without dispute a major factor, must be part of the rebuilding.
Do these principles make sense?
I am not trying to create preconditions which would discourage or make impossible the rebuilding of New Orleans but merely trying to think through the process.