Saturday, October 08, 2005

THERE ARE AT LEAST TWO broad ways to view the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohammed ElBaradei.

The first:

The second:

I'm sympathetic to the Jekyll and Hyde argument. It's true that the IAEA's reason for being is to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear power -- which doesn't sound like a bad thing to do, but as Greenpeace notes, you can't promote nuclear power, peaceful or otherwise, without promoting the components of nuclear weapons.

The agency is tasked with policing the spread of nuclear weapons at the same time it is charged with promoting the very technologies and materials used to make nuclear weapons.

It's a job worthy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

In opposing the Iraq war and championing a nuclear-free Middle East, ElBaradei has in recent years been a voice of sanity in the world of nuclear non-proliferation. Here's what he had to say about nuclear weapons in The Economist in October 2003:

"I worry that, in our collective memories, the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have begun to fade. I worry about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or ruthless dictators. I worry about nuclear weapons already in the arsenals of democracies - because as long as these weapons exist, there is no absolute guarantee against the disastrous consequences of their theft, sabotage or accidental launch, and even democracies are not immune to radical shifts in their security anxieties and nuclear policies. I worry, but I also hope. I hope that a side-effect of globalisation will be an enduring realisation that there is only one human race, to which we all belong."

Spoken like a Peace Prize winner.

But the Mr. Hyde side of his job is to be the UN's front man for the nuclear industry, peddling more nuclear power to more countries.

That, Mr. ElBaradei, is the part of your job that worries us. You see, we worry that, in our collective memories, the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have begun to fade. We worry about nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists or ruthless dictators. We worry about nuclear materials that are already in nuclear power plants and reprocessing plants and storage facilities. Because as long as these materials exist, there is no absolute guarantee against the disastrous consequences of their theft or sabotage, and even democracies are not immune to radical shifts in their security anxieties and nuclear policies.

It's hard to argue against this. I admire and respect Mr. ElBaradei for his personal dedication to supporting diplomacy and preventing nuclear war; but there's no way to get around the fact that the IAEA's reason for being makes it a walking conflict of interest.

But that doesn't mean the IAEA is "one of the biggest jokes in the world today," as Wizbang says it is.

On their watch:

* India announced it officially possessed nuclear weapons.

* Pakistan announced it had nuclear weapons.

* Libya announced that it had a highly-developed nuclear weapons program, and turned it over -- lock, stock, and barrel -- to the United States.

* North Korea has continued violations of the treaty and is unabashedly seeking nuclear weapons.

* Iran has repeatedly violated the treaty and is unabashedly seeking nuclear weapons.

* Pakistan has helped spread what it has learned about nuclear weapons throughout the Muslim world.

And what about the United States? Somehow that country didn't make it onto Wizbang's list, but the U.S. has more nuclear weapons than all those countries put together; it's unabashedly seeking to strengthen its nuclear arsenal; and the Pentagon recently drafted a revised version of U.S. nuclear use policy to allow preemptive first strikes on countries or organizations the White House "thinks might" use nuclear weapons against us. The U.S. violates international treaties left and right, and preemptively invades countries that "absolutely, definitely" have weapons of mass destruction -- and later turn out to have no such things. So maybe Iran is just doing what we do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you know.

Outside the Beltway suggests that Rudy Giuliani would have been a better choice for the Peace Prize because of the drop in the violent crime rate in his administration. (Robert Tagorda wrote an OTB post about a New York Times op-ed piece by someone who submitted Giuliani's name to the Nobel Committee back in June; and James Joyner in his piece on OTB today links to Tagorda's post.)

Here is Tagorda's quote from the op-ed:

TODAY I will send a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee nominating the former mayor of New York City, Rudolph W. Giuliani, for the Nobel Peace Prize. As a former member of the Swedish Parliament I have the right to submit nominees -- in the past I nominated Elie Wiesel, who won in 1986 -- and I selected Mr. Giuliani because I believe that he has, through his political efforts, saved more human lives than most people alive today.

Mr. Giuliani took office in 1994, when the city was rife with gang violence, rundown neighborhoods, robbery, graffiti and litter. The police had lost the daily battle against serious crime. The mayor brought with him a policy of rethinking the fight against crime -- a policy that proved to be effective even after he left office: a quick comparison of crime rates collected by the Police Department in 1993 with those from last year show that murders went down by 76.2 percent; rapes by 41.1 percent; robberies by 74.2 percent; assaults by 57.5 percent; burglaries by 77.3 percent; grand larcenies by 45.7 percent; and car thefts by 84.5 percent.

Or, in more human terms, it would appear that over the last 12 years the policies Mr. Giuliani put in place have spared New York perhaps 10,000 murders, 15,000 rapes and 800,000 robberies. This is clearly a humanitarian accomplishment of great magnitude.

Amadou Diallo's parents might disagree with the NYT writer that the reduction in NYC's violent crime rate makes Giuliani a peacemaker. That NYC's crime rate has dropped significantly over the past decade is absolutely true. But how has that drop been achieved? The NYPD will tell you that they "got criminals off the streets." And undoubtedly they did. By targeting entire neighborhoods that all had one thing in common: they were poor and heavily minority. Rudy Giuliani got his crime reduction for middle-class and wealthy white New Yorkers by sanctioning the terrorizing of low-income, disenfranchised New Yorkers -- most of whom had not done anything wrong -- through mass arrests of young black males, intimidation, harassment of harmless street people who had no home but had not done anything wrong, physical brutality, you name it. The results might look like peace to the more economically advantaged New Yorkers who lived in other neighborhoods. But to the Amadou Diallos of NYC, it was the peace of the grave.

Here's a Salon article from February, 2000 that discusses the specific philosophy behind the NYC crime reduction success story.

The plainclothes neighborhood-sweeping squad known as the Street Crimes Unit, to which Boss, Carroll, McMellon and Murphy were assigned, was established as a vehicle for Giuliani's crime-reduction strategy -- a strategy he claims is responsible for a reduction in crime so drastic that the city is now among the safest in the U.S. After being elected in November 1993, Giuliani and his new police chief William Bratton declared that no offence was too small -- not begging in doorways, single-joint marijuana sales in public parks, squeegee hustles in traffic -- and no offender too low-level to escape police attention.

More than a strategy, their approach has become a law-enforcement faith, variously known as zero-tolerance policing, broken-windows policing, or quality-of-life policing (depending on whether the speaker wants to appear tough, intellectual or socially concerned). It is emulated by police departments from New Orleans to London.

Diallo's death is the dark side of the zero-tolerance movement -- as are New York City's soaring numbers of police brutality complaints and $25 million annually in out-of-court settlements in brutality cases.

In his press conference after the Diallo verdict, Giuliani inveighed against those who hold "different standards for cops." Yet for months New York's Civilian Complaint Review Board has been at odds with the NYPD over the small number of legitimate complaints which even rise to disciplinary hearings. It is still the NYPD, not the critics of brutality, which evades an even standard for officers' behavior.

It's not too much to say that Diallo's death can be traced back to the founding document of the zero-tolerance faith, its Sermon on the Mount: a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Police and Neighborhood Safety," written by James Q Wilson, a conservative political scientist, and George Kelling, a criminologist who had studied foot patrols in Newark.

Wilson and Kelling's central argument was simple, centered on what they called their "broken windows" hypothesis. If a factory or office window is left broken, passers-by will conclude that no-one cares, no-one is in charge -- and will soon shatter the other windows as well. Soon that decay will extend to the surrounding street, which will become menacing and hostile. Said Wilson and Kelling, it is the small, seemingly insignificant signs of disorder -- graffiti, loitering by the homeless, subway fare-jumping by teenagers -- which lay the groundwork for more serious street crime and social decay.

The graffiti artists and fare-jumpers themselves, getting the message that social norms will not be enforced, become likely candidates for more dangerous lawbreaking; while citizens, feeling threatened by homeless beggars and squeegee-men, withdraw from the civic arena. So police, Wilson and Kelling argued, should go back into the business of aggressive order maintenance.

With its vivid central image and its implied rejection of economic or social explanations of crime, the broken windows hypothesis proved instantly appealing to policitians like Giuilani. And it is grounded in a sensible core perception: an environment of physical safety is one important element of any civil society. Few urban dwellers have not raged against the absentee landlord down the block whose crumbling tenement shelters crack dealers in the cellar. Few have not felt some relief when a police officer quietly intervened with a deranged, intoxicated stranger.

The only problem is that on the New York streets, "order maintainence" quickly became a synonym for brutal neighborhood sweeps and generous employment of the truncheon. One of New York City's first broken-windows success stories, for instance, the cleanup of streets around Grand Central Station, was soon discredited after large-scale beatings of the area's homeless by a privately-employed goon squad were exposed by the press.

And as the huge gulfs in political perception opened by the Diallo case show, such zero-tolerance strategies brought another unintended consequence: vast erosion of police legitimacy. "The larger concern about zero tolerance," warned a 1998 study commissioned by the decidedly law-and-order US Congress, "is its long-term effect on people arrested for minor offenses ... The effects of an arrest experience over a minor offense may permanently lower police legitimacy, both for the arrested person and their social network of family and friends." [Emphasis mine.]

ElBaradei may not be a perfect choice, but he's a lot better than someone who sanctioned goon squads to solve the crime problem.

1 comment:

Animal_Rollins_D-Menace said...

You provided a very nice, in-depth analysis of El Baredei. Thank you.