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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time to bring the adults in the Room

I am an unabashed supporter of POTUS. Some of that is principle. Some of that is genuine admiration. Yes, the President is black. Barack Obama is a bit phlegmatic in his presentation. His humor is subtle. Yes he doesn't often directly address issues that I'm passionate about. Yes, he sometimes is on the "wrong side" of other issues I'm passionate about. Yes, the USA has been following bad strategy, tactics and policies on criminal, security and world policy fronts, and he's bought into some of it publicly. That doesn't make him weak, a tyrant, a bad president or mean it makes sense to impeach him or charge him as a war criminal. He's carrying out USA law. He reflects the zeitgeist that elected him. I believe he privately believes much the same as I do, and that shooting him in the back is counter-productive. Especially right now when we have a bully party that is driving all those policies we hate and that would do a coup against him at the first opportunity.

The Zeitgeist has shifted since he was elected. And he's responded to those shifts slowly. We were still in the grip of con conservative ideology in 2008. He'd have been shot by his own people if he hadn't supported the "war on terror" or talked too loudly and critically on the "war on drugs." Our establishment has been fighting the "war on terror" as a strategy for oppression and terror since Reagan used propaganda about the Russians supporting terror to justify his terrorism back in the 80's. I'm re-reading the book "Veil" in the light of material all about it this week. [Finally unpacked it from it's box] and Reagan discounted reports that contradicted his propaganda to make that case, just as the Bush Administration ignored reports that Al Qaeda was about to attack somewhere in the USA. Strategy is a moral game where folks often ignore morals on the grounds of the "ends justify the means." I would be naive to think that Obama doesn't have to consider strategy issues when plotting his own responses. Everything is timing. And Politicians are often in a no-win situation. If they move too early they lose and what they want to do loses. But if they wait too long it loses too.

Community Policing Strategy

But what is going on in Ferguson shows the value of strategy. I've been around the USA government enough so that I can detect the President's hand in what happened Wednesday. The current Governor of Missouri was responsible for intervening in that town when the city government decided to act like a third world country and repress demonstrators. It's obvious the Governor wasn't up to the task. But I think Holder and Obama hit him from behind the scenes, and he did the right thing. They sent in the adults. Not only are right wing policies bad for our economic, moral and social health. They are also obtuse, counter-productive, costly and stupid. The press has made a big deal about "getting things done" and the effectiveness of thugs like Giuliani or Bloomberg, but hard-ass policing (enforcing minor laws against "criminals") is ineffective and winds up labeling ordinary people (who might break the law) as criminals and alienating them. Community policing has demonstrated utility that dates to the invention of modern police forces. Police as occupying armies has been done before. It doesn't work. Going after "bad guys" gets difficult after a while as it is hard to tell bad guys from good guys. And when one is killing people without due process, that radicalizes their brothers and children. The tactics used in Ferguson last week were just an echo of the tactics used against groups like ISIS (by US) or Hamas (by Israel), but the response is as predictable as if it were an exegesis of the process of radicalization. Children will seek revenge for the unfairly killed. So if you want justice you have to distinguish between people who are breaking the law and those you might just be able to recruit to do the right thing.

Obama and the rest of us pushed on Governor Jay Nixon to do the right thing. And he almost literally "sent in the cavalry" and replaced the keystone cops handling Ferguson Demonstrators as an enemy with adults. Captain Johnson is a professional and did what was required, which was the right thing. And that also happens to be respectful, "community policing". Community Policing was invented by Sir Robert Peel in the 1830's:

"The history of modern law enforcement began 166 years ago with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police District in 1829. By creating a new police force, the British Parliament hoped to address the soaring crime rate in and around the nation's capital, attributed at the time to rapid urban growth, unchecked immigration, poverty, alcoholism, radical political groups, poor infrastructure, unsupervised juveniles, and lenient judges. The principles adopted by Sir Robert Peel, the first chief of the London Metropolitan Police, for his new "bobbies" have served as the traditional model for all British and American police forces ever since. These principles include the use of crime rates to determine the effectiveness of the police; the importance of a centrally located, publicly accessible police headquarters; and the value of proper recruitment, selection, and training."[http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cjs07.htm]

We need adults in the room in our other conflicts too. ISIS is really a collection of grown men living out fantasies of restoring the Caliphate style government that once ruled much of the Middle East. They are living a delusional ideal, but they are opposed by folks with no clear strategy, doctrine, or idea of an alternative. Yet there are basic principles that work and are not so harsh or violent, that we the people of this world need to start adopting. Yes, not all doctrines of community policing work in isolation. Yet the principles derive from Sir Robert Peel and community policing aren't just a strategy they are also requirements for a civil society. [Read more: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/commp.pdf] Kudos to Captain Johnson for showing how it's done.

Peace Making requires local democracy and power sharing

The USA constitution has a passage that says:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

I believe that "guarantee[ing]" states a republican form of government is a requirement that republican forms and democratic attributes be replicated down to the community. The adults are needed in the room. And the way you guarantee that is to ensure that people are engaged in local government as well as national government. And you do that by sharing power and collaboration in the legislative, regulative and requirement arena. If the USA would concentrate on empowering local people with local government. This limits the power of central governments. Central governments should have supervisory, oversight, and system ownership powers. But the members of the system are the local governments and an intelligent application of the principle of subsidiarity requires that they have republican forms of government and a say in the operation of those central systems. When you have that sort of robust local power, then it is harder for dictators to dictate and easier to create commonwealth. Representation reduces conflict and makes it easier to depose bad leaders, while making leaders respond to representatives makes them better leaders. If Israel really wants peace with Gaza it needs to help locals throughout it's area of control govern themselves. Every country needs adults in the room. Including ours, as demonstrated by the mess in Ferguson. The root cause of the problems in Ferguson are local governments with responsibilities but no control over revenues except those from local courts. Looking for revenue sources they take advantage of racism and prejudice. We need to reconstitute our country, and we probably don't even need an amendment.

Further reading:

https://time.com/3117241/ron-johnson/
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/police-captain-walks-ferguson-protesters
http://www.pitch.com/FastPitch/archives/2014/08/14/jay-nixon-finally-clears-up-his-schedule-to-tend-to-the-crisis-in-ferguson-but-only-after-getting-a-bunch-of-crap-about-it
http://online.wsj.com/articles/police-name-darren-wilson-as-officer-in-ferguson-missouri-michael-brown-shooting-1408108371

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