Can We Win This War?

The other day someone asked me if I thought we could win the war in Afghanistan. I responded in the usual way by asking the questioner to define exactly what he meant by “winning” that particular war.

End of conversation…

I think that in general, if more people took the time to envision outcomes before taking action, there
might be a lot fewer problems in this world. You always hear pe
ple lamenting outcomes by saying things like, “if I had only thought it through…” or “I can’t imagine what I was thinking”.

I think that if we made our elected leaders specifically define objectives before taking action, we would all be a lot better off. Politicians tend to make reactive decisions based upon what is expedient at the moment. They rarely think long term. Take for example the current meltdown of our economy. Congress encouraged mortgage lending to people who couldn’t afford those mortgages and killed attempts to stop such craziness. Both Democrats and Republicans saw the advantages of keeping the mortgage market humming. It created jobs and gave people the opportunity to own a house and maybe even build some equity savings. They didn’t look long-term or think long-term of what could result when the derivatives market they sanctioned crashed because of junk mortgages palmed off by banks and brokers. When the crash came our politicians were busy pointing fingers at each other and scrambling around looking for yet another quick fix to solve the crisis, once more neglecting to consider long-term implications associated with those proposed fixes.

In fairness to politicians, sometimes the long-term aspects of an issue can be elusive. Take for example the issue of police officers. Most people would think that if you had a problem with crime in your city, the best way to deal with it would be to increase the amount of police you have on the streets. In fact however, that isn’t true. Increasing the amount of police officers will more likely increase violence within a community. I know that most mayors and every cop is likely to disagree with that assertion, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In 1994, New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani initiated a community policing policy that told cops to become more aggressive in pursuit of misdemeanors. By 1996, the number of complaints alleging police misconduct nearly doubled and the amount of money paid by the city to settle lawsuits alleging police misconduct nearly doubled as well. More cops on the street meant more competition from police officers that wanted to advance their careers or be selected in a competitive process for more favorable assignments. Statistically, more cops will naturally result in more incidents of police violence. When you take into account a mayoral directive to “get tough’ on crime, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the community policing initiative led to more civilian hostility and less citizen cooperation with police.

Eventually, more illegal activity and violence results from the increased police presence, not less. The city of Chicago is another example where, despite a steady increase in police officers to what today is a force of nearly 14 thousand, homicide rates are out of control and the only response from elected officials is calls to hire yet more police.

Hiring more police officers diverts money from programs that actually can prevent crimes from occurring. Such types of community programs that target the reasons why people turn to crime require a long-term commitment from people who typically deal in expediency. The police always want more cops and the politicians always want to be reelected, which they feel requires them
to do something now, even if
what they do makes little or
no sense.

Gun control is another issue difficult to
fully grasp. Most
people would think
that letting people
keep handguns or carry handguns concealed on their person would lead to chaos. In fact, however, the opposite appears to be true. According to a study conducted by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz and published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology at Northwestern University School of Law in 1995, American citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals about 2.5 million times every year in this country. That means that a handgun in this country is sixty times more likely to be used to protect life than to commit a crime. The report also suggested that American women use guns more than 200 thousand times each year to prevent sexual assault and citizens shoot and kill about nine times more criminals than police do every year. According to the most recent data, crime rates have not increased in states where concealed carry gun laws have been enacted.

As for the assumption that citizens are more likely to shoot the wrong people, Newsweek magazine published a report indicating that citizens are actually considerably better than cops when it comes to the issue of accidental shootings. According to the story published in November of 1993, police had an error rate of about 11 percent when it came to shooting the wrong person while citizens had an error rate of just 2 percent. According to this report, cops are five times more likely to shoot the wrong person than an armed citizen.

So while cops and politicians insist that the problem is all about guns, the statistics actually seem to indicate that the cops and politicians might just be using that as an excuse for their own failures in addressing increases in crime. Putting alternative solutions in place would require taking money away from law enforcement and putting it toward long-range strategies that could actually be effective.

When a politician insists that crime problems stem from the availability of guns, he or she is, in effect, simply pointing a finger elsewhere and walking away from the responsibility they have to find a workable solution. Let’s get real here, does anyone think that outlawing handguns will have a better outcome than we now experience from the laws making possession and use of marijuana and cocaine illegal?

The United States has spent over one trillion dollars thus far in the so-called, war on drugs. This year, they will spend billions more fighting a war that, over the course of the past ninety years, has not made an iota of measurable difference in the number of people using illegal drugs nor the amount of illegal drugs entering into or being manufactured in this country. I would love to hear a politician or the country’s drug czar define what victory in the war on drugs would look like. If victory to them means that no illegal drugs would be used in the United States or any of its territories – does anyone in their right mind believe that victory to be achievable? And if that is not their measure for victory, than what is it and when can we anticipate the celebration?

The war on drugs is very similar to our war on terror. We were told that if we invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban we would be safe from foreign-
sponsored terrorism. Then it became Iraq that we had to invade to be free from terrorism. As a result of our invasions, today we have more nations aiding and abetting terrorists than ever before. As a result of leaked documents, we now know that Pakistan, traditionally one of our closet allies in the region, harbors and assists terrorists to hunt and kill Americans in Afghanistan.

Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Syria – the list of countries that now support terrorists keeps getting longer and longer because nobody ever seemed to take the time to look down the road before dropping bombs and committing the US to yet another war that defies any definition for victory. Ask yourself what would constitute a victory in the war on terror? Is it the complete and total elimination of all terrorists worldwide? Is that a reasonable or even rational expectation? And if that is not our nation’s measure for victory, than what is it and when can we anticipate the celebration?

I don’t know when it became all right for politicians to screw things up and still feel it okay to stand for reelection instead of standing in front of a firing squad. I think if a mayor says he wants to hire more cops to reduce crime he or she should be made to provide the public with a timetable showing just when that crime rate will drop. If the mayor does not make that timetable, or the plans fail, I think the mayor should tender his or her resignation.

I think if the President wishes to commit our country to war, then he or she should produce a timetable and written plan that outlines the reasons for the war, an outline of how the war will be prosecuted, paid for and what achievable conditions must be met
to declare victory and end
the war. If the President
fails in meeting the deadlines established or fails
to secure the victory
promised, then he or she
should resign.

I also think the press and the public should stand up to a mayor or other civic leader who pops up in front of microphones following the slaughter of another child in the streets and implies that there is nothing he or she can do because guns are not outlawed. I think such statements are an insult to the families of those killed and the intelligence of the general public. It’s time that the press and public tell these buffoons that such malarkey will no longer be tolerated. If they are incapable of developing and carrying out plans that reduce crime in the streets, they should resign.

We can no longer afford to be wasteful as a nation, state or city. Americans are on the hook for trillions of dollars owed in debt simply because the people we put in public office failed to do their jobs. There are more effective and far less costly ways to stop the violence in our streets, protect ourselves from foreign terrorists and put our nation on the road to full financial health. All we really need to do is demand accountability and stop rewarding incompetence.

Posted by on Aug 18th, 2010 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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