Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Horrible, Horrible Analysis

From a TNR interview with Gil Kerlikowske's deputy, Tom McLellan:

Pollack: In fact the evidence we have, such as declining street drug prices since 1980, is not particularly encouraging. So how do we bring an evidence‑based perspective to thinking about that side of the ledger?

McLellan: I've noted that as well; we all have. Yet let's take a look at contemporary Mexico. I've just been down there. I haven't been to the most severely‑affected places, but I've been to several other places that have been affected… The fabric of society is quite literally coming apart. There's widespread corruption. There's murder; most of the murders are not even reported. The violence is unprecedented and vicious. Now if you were a citizen there, what would you want? I always ask: “Do you want group therapy, or do you want helicopters and flame‑throwers? “Give me the helicopters and flame‑throwers. I'll do the evaluation later.

This should be in the dictionary under straw-man arguments. I've never read or heard anyone arguing that there is a lack of group therapy in Mexico crime-fighting strategy. That's just stupid. Some in Mexico make abstract references to placing greater emphasis on the social causes of the war on drugs, but such comments are relatively rare and almost never hashed out. The perennial dilemma in Mexico is whether the government should focus more on acquiring hardware or reducing corruption. Now, if McLellan is saying that citizens want more firepower rather than more resources for anti-corruption measures, either he is talking exclusively with adolescent boys and idiots, or he's making that up. I have never spoken with anyone, not a single person, who has said, Wow, it would be great if the police had bigger guns. Never once. Complaints about police corruption, on the other hand, are as banal as banter about the weather. For the average citizen, dirty cops are what make the Mexican police a menace, not honest cops having puny pop guns. This is a near-universal fact of Mexican society that transcends expertise and education and geography and social class. To imply otherwise is to expose yourself as ignorant or disingenuous.

Also, most of murders in Mexico aren't reported? Come again? Perhaps he meant most crimes or most kidnappings or most cases of extortion aren't reported, but most murders are indeed reported. A murder typically (though not always) leaves a body behind, more often than not in a public space. Dead bodies in public lead to the police being called roughly 100 percent of the time.

On the plus side, kudos to TNR for doing far more on the drug wars in recent months than comparable publications.

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