Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
The Value of Deterrence
Anything goes unless it’s against the rules and the rules mean nothing unless they’re enforced
One of the foolish conceits that people who are good at communicating tend to have is that we believe that everything can be fixed with more and better communication. Your marriage isn’t doing so well? You guys just need to talk it out! Two countries about to go to war? They just need to chat about how they can turn the situation into a win/win! Two people are angry at each other? Just have a good discussion and fix all that!
I still remember a class I took in college where the professor, unironically, suggested we should get rid of the US military. When I raised my hand and asked what would happen if say Cuba invaded the United States and made slaves of everyone, he said something like, “Then people should invite them in for a bowl of soup, let them see that we’re human just like they are, and ask them to leave us alone.” Even as a very naïve 20-year-old, that sounded just as dumb to me then as it does now.
Good communication skills are genuinely helpful, but they are not reality-altering magic. Again, contrary to what a lot of naïve people tend to think, everyone isn’t essentially the same. People have different wants, desires, and value systems. Even when we do have similar value systems, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be expressed in the same way. After all, a wolf and a sheep both care a great deal about getting enough to eat. The difference is the sheep fulfills that need by eating grass while the wolf fulfills it by eating the sheep.
SOMETIMES, in a relatively small, like-minded group, communication about shared values and gentlemen’s agreements can be enough. However, even that isn’t going to cut it most of the time. After all, what could better describe a small, like-minded group than a family? Yet, as the Bible says:
Why does the Bible say that? Is it because it wants people to be mean or cruel to children? No, it’s because that’s how the world works.
Kids are little barbarians who naturally tend to want to fulfill their wants at everyone else’s expense unless they’re taught the error of their ways. One of the best ways to teach them is with a belt, paddle, or switch. Those messages tend to stick in a way that just trying to explain why mommy and daddy don’t want him to eat all the cookies and break the TV with a hammer “because it’s funny” never will.
What it all comes down to is this…
Anything goes unless it’s against the rules and the rules mean nothing unless they’re enforced.
Let me repeat that for the slow people in the back, the idealists, and the liberals who don’t want to believe it.
Anything goes unless it’s against the rules and the rules mean nothing unless they’re enforced.
Talking it out, trying to understand how the other person views the world, and having a chat about shared values are all fine, but ultimately, for the world to function, someone has to lay down rules.
You can’t play any game from Monopoly to Baseball, if people can make up their own rules on the fly. You can’t build a business, a neighborhood, or a culture if anything goes. It’s a house of cards built on a foundation of sand in an earthquake.
Now, rules can be enforced in different ways. Potential violence isn’t required in EVERY situation. Simply the thought of having your parent or spouse see you do something that makes them think less of you may be enough for you to avoid a lot of behavior.
Ironically, given that so many people think they’re “free thinkers,” most people are tremendously impacted by the opinions of people around them. Human beings are desperate to fit in and be well thought of by their peers and that goes a long way toward steering their behavior. These impacts are not small either.
Whether a neighborhood embraces the idea of a “neighborhood watch” or “snitches get stitches” probably tells you a lot about how much crime there is there. If all your kid’s friends get caught shoplifting, I hate to tell you this, but your kid is probably shoplifting, too. How a child behaves in school is dramatically impacted by whether mom and dad will take their side if they misbehave in class or punish them for not listening to their teacher.
Yet and still, these behavioral and family cues aren’t enough in all cases.
If people can benefit from doing “the wrong thing,” some people are just going to do it. Some people also just have low impulse control. You or I might have a violent or foolish thought, pause, realize it’s a bad idea, and move on while someone else already did that dumb thing without a second thought. We also can’t forget that according to some estimates, around 4% of the American population are sociopaths and/or psychopaths who simply don’t care much about right or wrong.
With these groups of people, we can go all the way back to Machiavelli’s most famous observation and his reasoning for it to understand how to deal with them:
“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.”
“…Men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared because love is held together by a chain of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken on every occasion in which their own interests are concerned; but fear is sustained by dread of punishment which will never abandon you.”
Ultimately, crime isn’t stopped with social workers or by handing out free needles. It’s stopped because criminals fear being caught and punished.
It would be EASY to dramatically reduce illegal immigration into the United States, even without building a wall. Just make it so that anyone caught here illegally would be ineligible to ever become a citizen or come here legally while promising a couple of years in jail doing unpaid labor for the people who are caught. If people face real consequences for being here illegally, suddenly, it won’t look all that appealing.
How is it that Rudi Giuliani, much to the eternal chagrin of liberals, was able to famously clean up New York City in the nineties? It was through “zero tolerance” policing. The police went after even small crimes hard and as people felt safer and the graffiti, along with the broken windows went away, the criminals started to conclude they couldn’t get away with it anymore. That caused the crime rate to plunge.
Why is Singapore so safe that stores can leave merchandise out where people can grab it after hours without it being looted? There are a number of reasons for that, but one of them is that they will publicly cane you for stealing and hang you for things like drug dealing.
When you get to the national level, deterrence becomes critically important because it’s a big part of what keeps your country safe. We could debate whether all countries have “enemies,” but what could not be debated is that all countries have other neighbors in their vicinity who would either like to control them or take what they have. This is just the nature of humanity.
Ronald Reagan, who was one of America’s greatest presidents, understood this whole concept well and has several famous quotes related to the subject of deterrence:
The moment your enemies look at your nation and think they will BENEFIT from attacking you is exactly when you will get attacked. If anyone makes that mistake, then you need to show the world that they were wrong or they will only be the first attack, not the last.
It’s worth considering the “war on terror” in those terms. We went 1-1 in two major wars during that period and there’s much that we did worth criticizing. Of course, we also systematically obliterated Al-Qaeda and ISIS, bombed countries around the world, and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan for long periods of time. Is that something that would make a lot of nation-states and terrorist groups think twice about if they wanted to start a war with the United States? Yes, it is.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we will never be challenged again. In fact, it’s worth noting that when Hamas hit Israel with what could fairly be called their 9/11, more than 30 Americans were killed. Others were taken hostage.
Did Hamas set out with the intention of killing that many Americans? Probably not, but they did, which means our nation will be judged in part on whether they pay a severe price for that.
For that reason alone, even if Hamas hadn’t killed a single Israeli, Americans should want them to pay a devastating price. That goes double for Israel. Their neighbors, including the Palestinians, have attempted genocide multiple times. If they conclude the Israelis are unwilling or unable to defend themselves, not only will Hamas continue raping and murdering Israeli civilians, their neighbors will finish what the Nazis started.
That’s why the protests and complaints you see around the world don’t mean much to the Israelis right now. Their continued survival literally depends on whether they can hit Hamas hard enough to deter them and their neighbors from genocide.
What it all comes down to is that communication, getting to know each other, and trying to find common ground is nice, but it’s not even close to a fix for all the world’s problems. In fact, without realistic deterrence for bad actors, none of that means much at all.
Criminals are not deterred by politeness and dead men living in burned-out, looted homes, don’t find common ground with anyone at all.