Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Executive Wisdom

President George W. Bush was often characterized anywhere from no smarter than the average bear to a complete idiot, depending on which side of the political spectrum someone happened to be on. For his supporters, he wasn't some sort of eggheaded brainiac, out of touch with the "average Joe six-pack." For his detractors, he was barely a step up from a drooling moron. As far as I'm concerned, both of these pictures are wrong. Average Joes don't manage to be President of the United States of America, and I'll believe an idiot, no matter how well guided and coached, can pull it off only when I see President-Elect Alvin Greene take the oath of office.

But because no-one seemed to respect the former President's intellect, it didn't attract much of the right kind of notice when he actually made a very good point. To wit:

"I don't think you can win [the War on Terror]. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
President George W. Bush. (NBC's "Today" show, 30 August, 2004.)
I bring up this particular piece of genuine Presidential wisdom because we tend to think that somehow we can alter the laws of the Universe when it suits us.

One of the big stories in the news recently is yet another workplace shooting. Now, as pretty much every time there's a workplace shooting, there is an outcry to ban the personal ownership of firearms. And that what brings me to the President Bush quote. To re-cycle his logic, the "War on Violence" is more or less unwinnable. But creating a society where the use of violence as a tool strikes me a being an achievable goal.

Which makes it kind of a shame that the President never really got any traction with that quote - Democrats immediately accused him of being "defeatist." Because even if you do manage to somehow ban people from having weapons, they will still find ways to hurt each other. (And often with weapons - no ban yet has ever been able to simply banish an item from existence. And if you think that a ban will completely halt the illegal trade in guns in the United States, I'll bet you 20 pounds of cocaine that you're wrong...) So it seems to me that making violence less socially acceptable is really the way to go. Easy? No. But I think that it will pay off, and to a much greater extent than the idea that you can simply outlaw the tools that people use to hurt one another, and see real results.

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