The president's impulse to want to end the carnage in Chicago is an honorable one – it really is. We need a sense of urgency around ending the death and violence otherwise it just fades into the background as a problem that is “not in my back yard.” Indeed, if we mobilized enough federal troops across the most violent parts of Chicago, we could keep the violence from breaking out. There is just one small problem: they could never leave. If they did, conditions would revert right back to where they were before they arrived. We could apply the concept of America First to the use of our military, but I believe we already decided to not do this for some very good reasons (think British occupation of the American colonies). We need presidential urgency to end the violence immediately with a “state of emergency” mindset. But calling attention to ending the violence immediately is the easiest and sexiest part of the solution to this complicated set of problems. We also need presidential urgency around a large scale and holistic solution that includes a blend of not only force, but education, rehabilitation, jobs, and community engagement.
Similar to any other armed conflict (i.e. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), the problem is not so much forcing the peace, but having it continue after troops have left, unless we would be OK with permanent military occupation of our nation's most troubled areas.
However, the brute force to stop and deter violent acts in progress is not really the problem. Chicago police actually are quite good at split second response and brute force. The real problem is the need to apply a sustained sense of urgency to solving the problem, not just the stuff that steals headlines. And the police are only one player among many needed to solve this problem. You can keep locking up all the bad guys and that is certainly a part of the solution. However, like any other hotspot (i.e. many places in the Middle East), violence keeps re-erupting and the police (or military) will just end up in an endless game of whack a mole without many many other players coming to the table to do their part.
Folks caught in the cycle of violence and poverty not only need police and judges, but community leaders, mayors, school administrators, mental health care providers, public assistance directors, teachers, principals, counselors, community college leaders, corporate partners, judges, police, and politicians. Many players must come together to permanently end the carnage. And, that is the key problem – they simply don't come together because there is not enough sustained, long term, political will to make it happen. I hope our president will consider changing that.
Think of it as a sort of pyramid with security and stability at the base. The next layer needs to be stable access to housing and food followed closely by a powerful mix of rehabilitation, trauma recovery, anger control, and other services needed to help folks in the throws of violent conditions to become ready to get themselves back on their feet through education and training. High quality schooling and training opportunities become the jumping point for being ready to work. And, of course, this means there needs to be jobs. Surrounding all of this needs to be a strong community support system.
I applaud the president's outrage and push to do something now. I want to make sure we go all the way and solve the problem of carnage in our most troubled areas for the long haul.