Debate Magazine

The World According to Jim, and Why He Is Wrong

Posted on the 10 August 2011 by Mikeb302000
Jim appears to have a simple one-size-fits-all solution to difficult problems - shoot them.
Doesn't seem to really matter what the issues are or the circumstances; Jim and those who think like him believe that guns are a solution, all the time, any time, and where they don't appear to be working, the answer is MORE guns and more shooting.
As a person with a better grasp than average of strategy and tactics, and good analytical skills, I evaluate the spectrum of possible solutions to achieve the desired end goal. 
In the case of the London rioting, where I just heard on the national broadcast news that the police are considering using plastic (not rubber) bullets, it occurred to me that an explanation of that thinking, to think out loud essentially, might be useful.
The goal in London is to end the rioting, not to spark more rioting - not more locations, not more people, not rioting that continues over a longer period of time.  History has not reflected well on shootings of unarmed people by authorities, particularly if those people were acting out in protest of an inequality.  To their credit, the Brits tend to take the long view, and have been criticized by students of history internally and externally, when they resorted to simple brutality.
More than that, historically it has not worked.  I would point to the past year's events in places like Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in northern Africa and Asia minor.  It is a failing strategy in Syria, it has not been successful in Yemen, it is not successful in Libya.
I would suggest that those stupid, simplistic fools who think the answer to the riots in London is simple brute force, and that anything less is simply being namby-pamby towards criminals should acquaint themselves with the very important work of an author by the name of Gene Sharp.  Probably the most useful of his writings for purposes of analyzing and problem solving the riots would be "From Dictatorship to Democracy", which can be read online for free - just click on the title.  This was one of my posts in response to discussions over on MikeB's blog; if I recall this was before I formally joined as an admin and author.
To apply more subtle and complex analysis than the ' ya just gots to shoot 'em, shoot 'em all, then shoot some more' approach of Jim, look first at the catalyst for the riots.  A man was shot, by a police officer.  That man shot at the police officer, embedding a bullet in his cell phone.  The police officer shot back, a move which, if the police account is correct, seems fairly justified.  But right or wrong, THIS is what started the riots, this is what touched off simmering, unresolved tensions into full blown conflict.
So........what do you think would be the response if the police (or military supporting the police) were to start shooting civilians, a mix of old and young, male and female, who were unarmed except for the most primitive use of the occasional bottle or rock?  There is a finite number of police in London; there is a finite number of police in the countryside surrounding London.  There is no abundant surplus of resources here, and there is a growing, not declining, number of people with whom they have to contend in opposition.  IF someone were stupid enough to incite further violence by more shooting - the likely outcome given the catalyst events - then those forces would be overwhelmed.  Further, there are limited resources available to the police; budgets have been cut to the how would people like Jim propose to fund the massive escalation of people and material required to respond to a massive escalation on the side of the rioters?  How much of London and the surrounding area, metro and beyond, would be left vulnerable to other crime or violence?
How many people on either side, police/ authorities or rioters would be dead or injured? How much MORE property would be damaged in an increase in rioting.  And the ultimate question - would that move the conflict closer or further away from any kind of resolution.
If the authorities did take the resolution that Jim seems to favor, I guarantee you that the Cameron government would topple, and be replaced - and NOT by another conservative either.  Any number of upper level authorities in the police and in civil government would be tossed out on their collective asses, because of the likely unpopularity of that kind of largely avoidable escalation in violence and increased instability.  It would further raise the risk of a marked increase in sympathy and support for the rioters, against the police and/or military.  Whenever either is required to fire on people, people with whom they identify, you further run the risk of a breakdown in the discipline of authority forces due to identification with the people who are the targets, especially if they include women and children - as these riots do.
There is sometimes a great deal of truth in the axiom that violence begets violence.  Sometimes a solution of force cannot be avoided; but when it is the solution that is necessary, it must always be minimal, and surgical in precision.  The solution Jim appears to advocate is neither of those.
Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them; Jim appears to be one of those who is history illiterate, as are those who think like him.  Whereas the less violent solution is cost effective, and it is far more likely to produced the desired ending of the riots, sooner, and with the least risk to all parties involved.
You can work rough, or you can work smart.  The Brits work smart, and more power to them; this is a rough and dangerous situation for them to get under control.

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