To begin with, Sandy will do more to draw attention to climate change than all the candidates running for office in the United States this election cycle. While it's impossible to attribute her size or impact to human causes, it is also impossible not to wonder whether the recent frequency of large storms is related to the growing oceans of data about the reality of global warming. Sandy looks like what climate scientists have been warning about for years.
Remember Hurricane Katrina? She may or may not have been triggered by man-made climate change. But she certainly forced climate back into the national discussion for an extended period. Sandy will do likewise. Certainly, given our presidential candidates' sad virtual silence about the issue - which amounts to nothing less than a planet-wide risk of the first order - Sandy's intervention in this regard is welcome, if hugely and tragically costly.
Next, Sandy will also remind us and the world of the foolishness of some recent American fetishes. I live in Washington, ostensibly the nerve center of the U.S. national security apparatus and target No. 1 for anyone interested in attacking America. The city is surrounded by military facilities and is home to a Department of Homeland Security that spends billions of dollars seeking to protect America. Yet this storm, like virtually all others of any size, threatened to knock out power to many of our nation's leaders, and the infrastructure on which our government depends, for days, bringing the city to a standstill.
Could burying power lines and strengthening critical infrastructure prevent all that? Of course. But is it as sexy as buying more drones, waterboards, and stealth helicopters? Nope.
So, says Sandy, "Go ahead and protect yourself against low-risk threats. I want to remind you how vulnerable you are to the more predictable, commonplace variety."
Sandy also battered other elements of the region's infrastructure that America has failed to invest in for the past half-century or so: weakened roadways, bridges, and breakwaters; ancient port facilities; air-traffic control and railway systems that lag behind the world in their use of modern technologies.
She says, "Why aren't you spending your precious resources to protect your people and your economy? Why are you frittering away money building roads and airfields on the other side of the world when you should be taking care of business at home?"
She is also the first figure on the national stage to do something about the scourge of obscenely over-financed campaigns. Instead of merely complaining about them, she pulled the plug on them by turning off power to millions. While sitting in darkness may be a hardship, a break from campaign ads (and Twitter and Internet snark, faux analysis, and political hyperventilation) will be welcomed by many.
Finally, Sandy will have a direct political impact, though we are not sure what it will be. There seems to be a strangely otherworldly dimension to a giant storm that batters primarily blue states and involves the rare combination of circumstances that allow a hurricane to affect battleground territory like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Not only will ads be off the air, but early voting is being cancelled, and some of the lingering impact of power losses and infrastructure damage will certainly take a toll on turnout.
Indeed, as it happens, Sandy may be that rarest of political actors: one who reveals big truths and quite possibly has a lasting impact on world affairs. Because if, as seems likely, the U.S. presidential election is so close that one big thing might shift the delicate balance, Sandy just might be the one to do it.
David Rothkopf is the editor at large of Foreign Policy.