Friday, December 03, 2004

Fighting Insurgents in the 'Hood

As mentioned in my previous post, Annie Sweeney of the Chicago Sun-Times has written some excellent articles recently. First, she did a series of three articles from Iraq. Then came her article on Chicago’s declining murder rate. In each are insights that support my thesis that fighting the Iraqi insurgency is akin to fighting violent street gangs in Chicago. I arrived at this conclusion during all the lamentations about the loss of 1000 Americans in Iraq. My initial insight was that the number of Americans killed by hostile action in Iraq was quite close to the number of Americans murdered in Chicago during the same period. Ms. Sweeney is projecting 418 murders in 2004 with one month to go. The figure from 2003 was 599 murders. So over the period of 2003-2004 we project 1017 murders in Chicago. The current count from Iraq is 1098 and counting. So if it is fair to put pressure on President Bush to suppress the insurgency in Iraq, it is also fair to put pressure on Mayor Daley to suppress the street gangs in Chicago. The good news is both men are succeeding! (I’ve had comments that ask why not include Iraqi casualties, I’d say why not include Columbian casualties of the drug war? The broad answer is that if we succeed by my metrics, we will also succeed in reducing civilian casualties).
Having had decades of experience in listening to why we couldn’t reduce murder rates, it is interesting to learn how we can actually do it. Let’s review some comments from Ms. Sweeney’s article, Iraq's separate peace.

“On a Saturday afternoon in Iraq, between Baghdad and Camp Anaconda, the countryside looks a little like Wisconsin. There are farmers tilling fields and women walking on roads. Freight trains and major highways.
This wasn't exactly what I expected when I left for the war-ravaged country the first week of September. And initially, it made me feel lousy.
Here in Chicago I tend to cover breaking crime stories where the action is intense -- grieving victims, burned-out buildings, angry neighbors.
I expected this type of human drama in Iraq, and apparently others did, too. When I came back after three weeks, all everybody wanted to know was how scared I was.
Iraq was hot and smelly. It was dirty and dusty. Mortars sometimes boomed in the distance.
But I can't describe it as scary. I didn't see the hard-core stuff, and a lot of soldiers who live and work there don't, either.”

“Sgt. Timothy O'Brien, 40, has been fighting both here and in Fallujah, another hotspot. He has taken gunfire regularly and calls what he has been involved in "the worst war movie you'd see on TV.''
He describes the fight as a chase of sorts. As soon as the United States shuts down one area, the insurgency moves to another.
O'Brien's words made him seem almost like a Chicago cop characterizing the gang problems that spark hundreds of shootings here each year. Police shut down a drug market on one corner, and up pops another.
"It's like you trace it from one area to another,'' O'Brien said of the insurgency he deals with each day.”

“But Mahmood also has been working with the military long enough to know this: There are good soldiers and bad soldiers, and the bad ones are giving America a bad name. In his words, some are "crap'' who insult the Muslim religion and are too heavy-handed.
"Always,'' he said. "The U.S. Army use too much power in the raids. Always. . . . Every time they kill innocent guy or raid a house they make new enemy.''
This makes me think of the people I've seen lined up at Chicago Police board meetings to complain about the conduct of certain cops or the young black kids who have been rounded up on a corner, searched and interrogated, only to be let go.”

Do you see what I mean? Strong parallels between Chicago and Iraq. Notice also how different her voice is from that of the wire service accounts. This is reporting, not regurgitation. So how are things on the front in Chicago? Once again, Ms. Sweeney in her own words.

“After Chicago was branded the nation's murder capital in 2001, city leaders traveled to New York and Los Angeles to pick up crime-fighting tips.
Now those cities might want to take some tips from us.
Chicago will likely end the year with its lowest murder tally since 1965 thanks to a huge decline in killings in some of the city's toughest neighborhoods. There were 418 killings through Tuesday -- 25 percent fewer than the same 11-month period of 2003, police said.”

“…Chicago Police Department, which borrowed some New York crime-fighting strategies, is more narrowly focused on violence, said Dennis Rosenbaum, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor of criminal justice who is studying the department's approach.
"I think it's a very impressive story," Rosenbaum said. "It's about the superintendent (Phil Cline) getting everybody on the same page. That page is focused on violence reduction, focused on gangs and guns and drugs; really trying to take out the drug markets. The deployment is more efficient and surgical."

“Homicides have fallen most sharply in police districts where violence has been the most entrenched over the years. The Harrison District on the West Side has seen homicides fall by 54 percent; the Deering District on the South Side by 46 percent; and Austin District on the Far West Side by 25 percent. Shootings have fallen sharply, too, officials say. There were 5,417 aggravated batteries and aggravated assaults by firearm in the first 10 months of 2003, compared to 4,483 for the same period of 2004 -- a 17 percent drop.”

My conclusion is we are winning in both places and can expect to see the insurgencies fail. The initial reports of massive arrests of gang members is another step forward. But it should be noted that along the way, there can be very tough days. Laura Washington of the Sun-Times wrote an article on 2/2/04 (available through their archives @ $2.95) about the jump in the use of lethal force by the Chicago police in 2003. There were 17 such incidents. But the numbers suggest that those 17 helped save 599 - 418 = 181 other lives. A better than ten-to-one tradeoff.

I highly recommend the article Let's Get Serious About Stability by Commanders Henry Hendrix II and Darryl Centanni in the current Proceedings (subscription required). Here are some other viewpoints of interest from Bob Weir and Doug Hanson in The American Thinker and James R. Rummel in Chicagoboyz.

Update 12/4
Tom Ridge personally delivers $48 million in anti-terror funds to Mayor Daley and thanks both him and his son Patrick for their efforts.


Blogger TigerHawk said...

This is a very thought-provoking post, and I largely agree with it. My only observation is that the comparison of American casualties in Iraq with all murders in Chicago is a bit misleading -- there have been massively more Iraqi casualties than American, even discounting the deaths of the insurgents themselves. American casualties in Iraq are but the tip of the iceberg.

Still, it does appear as though we are winning in Iraq, at least (I haven't lived in Chicago for almost 11 years, so I'm losing touch with its policy issues), and many of the other comparisons hold up very well.

2:26 PM  

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