Monday, November 23, 2009

Does the sledgehammer work all the time?

A good negotiator, a professor once said, is one who ensures that both parties leave the table satisfied with the deal reached. I couldn't agree more. His reasoning was that the world is much too small to make enemies, and that try as one might, one cannot avoid anyone forever. Paths just simply have to cross. Given that premise, how much of hardball can one actually play?

Ok, dealing in narcotics is wrong. Why am I stating the obvious? Well, because I recently came across a couple of articles that took on narcotics dealing and described how two separate law enforcement agencies have dealt with the issue and how the results as expected were antithetically different.

This was a case in a US state, which was dominated by African Americans, wherein the drug peddlers and addicts freely roamed the streets. Leaving children on the streets to walk to school, was totally out of the question, since there was no idea what the kids might come across. One option was to apprehend these criminals and put them behind bars. But this was not effective, since many more new criminals would come out into the open. Besides, some were hardened criminals and some were still softer offenders. The free male population started literally dwindling, as more and more men were being locked up! So the civic authorities realized that hardball tactics were falling flat on their faces! So they decided - 'if you can't cure them through force, try persuasion'. The age old grandma tactic of 'emotional appeals' were used. Pastors, elders of the area rounded up the petty offenders and coached them about their wrongdoing. The hardened criminals were locked up, and rightfully so, while those guilty of misdemeanors were given a chance to get back on the right track. Surprisingly, the method showed results, and crime rates there are significantly low.

So, is the model easily replicable?

Try the case of Brazil. Now, that a parallel economy exists in Latin America that flourishes on drugs and narcotics is a given. Well, no use fighting the fact, you might as well just accept it. So, these drug gangs, the article went on to say, operate parallel economies that provide electricity, and also go on to run a parallel justice system that punishes by the bullet. Meaning to keep these gangs in check, and at least not ostensibly violent, the police 'encouraged' the parallel justice system and the parallel civic services! But this complicity soon grew out of hand, and as recession struck, each gang's profit margins started shrinking, encroachment on another's sacrosanct territory increased and violence skyrocketed. So clearly, this model is not really replicable!

So what is the point of this discussion? Well, let's suffice it to say that every problem need not be solved by brute force alone. In some cases, the power of persuasion is a lot more than the efficacy of the stick or the bullet. So while Maoist violence in Eastern India is absolutely abhorrent, tackling them through brute force or counterattacks could only perhaps cure the symptom temporarily, and not nip the canker in the bud. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And more often than not, desperate measures lie outside the box. So we need to figure out a way for all of us to leave the table satisfied.

1 comment:

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