Broken Windows…A Powerful Strategy, When Applied Robustly


“Public order is a fragile thing, and if you don’t fix the first broken window, soon all the windows will be broken.”~James Q. Wilson

There is an terrific article from 1982 on the Broken Windows theory By GEORGE L. KELLING and JAMES Q. WILSON in the Atlantic Magazine. Mr Wilson who died March 2nd 2012 and Mr. Kelling had some great ideas and insights into crime and violence and on how to reduce it. The “broken windows theory”  is very familiar to cops working the street and is the catalyst to “community policing” and its evolution in law enforcement over the past 30 years. The term “broken widows” is a metaphor for all crime, crime problems and violence as well as quality of life issues people relate to a productive society. The theory is very sound most especially when translated, practiced and applied on the streets. Broken windows and community policing leverages the mutual trust factor between police and the community and builds upon it so collaborative efforts are made in solving hosts of problems within a community. The theory, has been proven in the locations that had adopted the theory and translated it robustly to their philosophy of policing and to their communities. In other words they, “community and cops” lived and breathed the strategy and implemented problem solving methods to see it through. In doing so they saw results, a reduction of crime and violence and a better quality of life.

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Interacting Tactfully and Tactically: Is This a Strategy, Law Enforcement Can Use?


"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." ~Mark twain

Dr. Michael Asken has a great piece I read a couple of weeks back titled; “Being simultaneously tactful and tactical”  Tactics is “the art and science of winning engagements and conflicts. Tactics refers to the concepts and methods we use to accomplish a particular objective. Can you be both tactful and tactical and accomplish law enforcement objectives? Will the combination of tactful communication and tactical skill give you the edge you need to win on the street? I believe so!

The Friendliness Factor can it be deadly?

Being tactful, too many of us in law enforcement forget about. Many cops believe if they show compassion and follow the golden rule of treating others like they want to be treated; it is some form of weakness. That somehow magically because we use a tactful approach, the person we are dealing with will get the upper hand. Some of this attitude may come from what’s known as “the friendliness factor” which is well known attribute in the law enforcement community and has been studied since 1992 by the FBI in three major studies “Killed in the line of Duty (1992)”, ‘In the Line of Fire (1997)” and “Violent Encounters (2006) which list behavioral descriptors of officers killed and assaulted.

  • Friendly
  • Well liked by community and department
  • Tends to use less force than other officers felt they would use in similar circumstances
  • Hard working
  • Tends to perceive self as more public relations than law enforcement
  • Service oriented
  • Used force only as last resort (peers claimed they would use force at earlier point in similar circumstances)
  • Doesn’t follow rules, especially in regard to (arrests, confrontations with prisoners, traffic stops and waiting for back-up)
  • Feels he/she can “read” others/situations and will drop guard as result
  • Tends to look for the good in others
  • Laid back and easy going

Friendliness alone does not lead to an assault. Instead it is the deadly combination of all or some of these traits including a naïve form of friendliness. Friendliness can be a powerful tactic when used appropriately in combination with superior situational awareness. Friendliness and tact, the ability to show respect, empathy and concern for another, even as a false front has a powerful effect and can wear down an adversary, even dangerous individuals. Tactful communication is as powerful a tactic as in other tactical concept we have in our moral, mental and physical tactical bag of tricks. Tactical communication combined with awareness and tactical ability to position ourselves to a more advantageous position, of strength through persuasion and understanding there may be a need to escalate. 

Tactful and tactical approaches should be a central part of our strategy when dealing with emotionally charged people or people in circumstances where an anxiety and stress are high. a great method, when constant adaptation to shifting conditions and circumstances in a world where chance, uncertainty and ambiguity dominate. The essence of winning and losing is in learning how to shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic towards our success. Continue reading

War and the impermanence of order

There was once a time when liberal democracy appeared to be an idea with an expiration date. To some intellectuals looking back at the past three centuries from the twenty-first, this seems impossible. From the Glorious Revolution to the collapse of the Soviet Union, history seems very obviously to favor the rise of liberal democratic states, along with peace, economic integration, and the general rise in respect for human rights. As a matter of crude description, this is so. But what is more useful is the question of why it has occurred.

Bernard de Jouvenel, in his On Power, discussed sovereignty and government in the context of a terrible titanomachia scouring the modern world. In 1944, he despaired:

We are ending where the savages began.  We have found again the lost arts of starving non-combatants, burning hovels, and leading away the vanquished into slavery.  Barbarian invasions would be superfluous: we are our own Huns.

Jouvenel was no doubt underestimating the sheer pervasiveness of violence in those primeval days. But his perspective, and point, are unsettling. To Jouvenel, and many other intellectuals of the time, the world was increasingly dominated by states with multifarious and complex bureaucratic machinery, operating under a single will, and even democracy, interlinked as it became with mass politics, served not as a force for individual liberation per se but as a force to clear away the last restrictions on the reach of the state. In a world then dominated by continental giants -Roosevelt’s America, Hitler’s Germany, and Stalin’s Soviet Union – the most obvious trend in world history appeared not to be the advancement of human rights and individuality, but the triumph of the Hobbesian homo magnus. Continue reading

The Unsung Concert?

A while back, Dan Nexon posted a thought-provoking suggestion at the Duck of Minerva:

I wonder, though, if our unipolarity fixation obscures some important aspects of post-Cold War security order. In the early 1990s another image of world politics seemed plausible: that of a new great-power concert. After all, the United Nations was constructed with an embedded concert architecture via the United Nations Security Council, and the 1991 Gulf War suggested a reinvigoration of that latent aspect of international order.
… [F]oreign-policy pundits debate whether the US should pursue some kind of new capital-c Concert  as the fundamental component of a post-Iraq grand strategy. Sometimes the Concert in question is supposed to be composed of democratic states, and other times not.
My suggestion is different: it is that we are already living in a Concert system, albeit it one deeply inflected by American primacy. The argument that we aren’t, I submit, is based on a flawed conception of just what the Concert of Europe did. The Concert did not preclude deep disagreements among its members. The great powers of Europe often acted without consensus. They even fought wars with one another during the lifetime of the system. But they did coalesce to manage a number of crisis within Europe and on its periphery and otherwise to function as a kind of geo-strategic cartel, and lack of agreement did sometimes constrain one or more of the members of the Concert system.
This sounds a good deal like the current order–with the notable difference that we haven’t seen any great-power wars. Indeed, it sounds more like the last twenty years than we sometimes realize. We tend to focus on the “big” disagreements between, for example, Russia and the US. But beneath those disagreements remains a great deal of “managed” international order made possible by something like a great-power cartel with a focal-point in the United Nations system.

In the conventional U.S. narrative, global peace and order is some product of either interlocking institutional arrangements by institutions, norms, and economic or social forces which constrain states from beyond the realm of so-called old geopolitics, while much of the hard geopolitical constraints are the product of U.S. power. What Nexon effectively points out is that much of the sources of international agreement today are in fact the products of a degree of great power cooperation. That cooperation does not exist because of ideological agreement – as Russia and China certainly do not buy into liberal values or human rights – or a natural belief in the benefits of the liberal international order – China and Russia have stood against its supporting security components when they encroach on their own areas of interest – so much as a modus vivendi enabled by the United States’s clear predominance in the system and relatively balanced zones of great power competition where the U.S. lacks outright hegemony.

As Nexon notes, this cartel – and cartel really is the right word – of great powers, is for the most part enshrined in the United Nations Security Council. As Hayes Brown has persuasively explained, the primary point of the UNSC is to affirm the basic rules of the road when it comes to great power behavior. It is not that the UN itself is a binding force so much as the UNSC is an arena for competing geopolitical interests and ideological proclivities, and provides, as Richard K. Betts once described, a sort of out-of-court settlement to potential crises of great power relations. Continue reading

Predictive Policing With Big Data

Police Departments nationwide have been using data and statistics to drive policing since the 90s in an approach founded by the NYPD named CompStat was credited with dramatic reductions in crime and increases in efficiency. CompStat, a process and philosophy rather than a single technology or software, uses databases and GIS to record and track criminal and police activity and identify areas that are lagging or need more attention. While it provides much more information than “primal policing”, CompStat has advanced little beyond simple spreadsheets and mapping software. Inspired by recent innovations in Big Data and Apache Hadoop and businesses like Walmart or Amazon using analytics to determine future demand, departments across the country and worldwide are looking to take this approach to the next level and go from tracking crime to predicting it. Continue reading

The Cyber Power Index

The Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton recently released their Cyber Power Index, which compares the G20 countries in their ability to resist cyber attacks while simultaneously leveraging information technology in their economy. The nations are ranked based on 39 indicators combined into 4 weighted attributes: Legal and Regulatory Framework, Economic and Social Context, Technology and Infrastructure, and Industry Application. The Cyber Power Index is in interactive tool so users can custimize the weighing as well as drill down into the details, but the default has all four factors as roughly equal, with slightly less emphasis on Industry Application. With these settings, the index holds a few surprises. The United States is second, behind the United Kingdom, and some of the countries often characterized to be cyber powerhouses like China and Russia did relatively poorly, 13th and 14th place respectively. Continue reading

Navalism, limited war, and American strategy

Intervention and military force are legitimate tools of the state interest. While I have written many posts arguing against poorly thought-out present-day American interventions overseas, I have also consistently defended the legal precedent for many U.S. interventions, and noted that these trends are far more persistent in U.S. history than many other opponents of modern doctrines of humanitarian intervention and Responsibility to Protect are often willing to acknowledge. Recovering our understanding of limited interventions in defense of U.S. interests and adapting the U.S. policy planning and military capability to undertake them is a critical task – one which makes avoiding unnecessary, distorting, and draining interventions all the more important.

As is easily apparent from even a brief overview of American military interventions, the United States engaged frequently in limited, expeditionary actions to protect the lives of American citizens and U.S. interests abroad. While many of these interventions were undoubtedly imperial in nature, in many cases they were far more limited in scope and intent than the supposedly post-imperial actions the United States and other Western powers pursue today. Here, though, it is important to distinguish actions where the U.S. was directly concerned with gaining territory from the protection of U.S. interests.

As outlined in Federalist No. 8, Alexander Hamilton explained something of a core rationale in American geopolitics. The preservation of an open, liberal society was necessitated by the exclusion of potential military rivals from an American sphere of interest. American union was necessary both to prevent each state or grouping of states, without a sovereign federal authority, from sacrificing their liberty in the compelling interest of achieving safety from each others potential military threat. Hamilton saw the development of a maritime-centric U.S. military, under the auspices of a federal government, as a critical task for U.S. national security. For, without it, the U.S. would find itself in a dangerous neighborhood, and more likely in need of a strong army: Continue reading

DC Area Police Use of Force

Police use of force isn’t necessarily bad – we give law enforcement tools, training, and mandates to use force on behalf of polite society for a reason. It also isn’t common, with less than 1% of all calls for service resulting in use of force. It is, however, always alarming, at best a sign that officers encountered an extremely dangerous situation and at worst, in the case of deadly force, short-circuiting the justice system. So when police use of force spikes, as it did last year in the DC area, my own backyard, we must take notice.

Prince George’s County reported 8 fatal police-involved shootings in 2011, up from only one in 2010, and the Metropolitan Police Department of DC saw 5 people killed in police-involved shootings with none in the previous year. Officials say that this is due to officers getting attacked more often, but statistics on violence are mixed. In both DC and PG County, homicides decreased last year. While assaults on police officers in PG County stayed roughly constant, there was some increase in assaults against officers with guns and three officers were shot and wounded, which a spokesperson called “unprecedented.” In DC, while statistics for 2011 were not available, the FBI recorded assaults against police increasing slightly from 969 in 2009 to 998 in 2010. If this trend continued into 2011, the increase in assaults would be much smaller as a proportion than the increase in lethal force employed by police, so what might be driving these numbers, and how can we reduce them? Continue reading

Credibility, Ends, and Means: Part I

Lavrentiy Beria’s son Sergo published My Father: Inside Stalin’s Kremlin in 2003. Sergo portrayed his father as an anti-Communist Georgian patriot who was trying to free his plucky little homeland by destroying the USSR from the inside out, a loving husband and father, and a man maligned by history. Sergo Beria’s rosy picture stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom on Lavrentiy Beria. The conventional Beria was the head of Josef Stalin’s NKVD, the father of the Soviet atom and hydrogen bomb projects, and one of the great monsters of the twentieth century. Stalin (demonstrating what passed for Stalinist humor) himself mortified the elder Beria to by introducing him to Franklin D. Roosevelt as “our Himmler”.

Young Beria’s book had a large credibility gap to clear. And it fell short. Sergo Beria’s portrayal of his father within the Beria family may be the truth as he remembers it. History records almost as many examples of men who were monsters at work but saints at home as it does of men who were saints at work but monsters at home. Sergo Beria’s portrayal of his father’s political views may reflect what his father told him they were. They may even be what the elder Beria believed his views were. But within Pa Beria’s mind there were many compartments. The extant historical record convincingly demonstrates that the elder Beria kept many of them compartmentalized away from his family. The younger Beria may know more about what was in those hidden compartments than he lets on. He may simply be ignorant that those compartments and their sordid contents even existed.

We don’t know, hence Sergo Beria’s credibility gap.

With that large asterisk in mind, Sergo Beria’s tale about one of the great mysteries of twentieth century history hints at how credibility is managed within the overall framework of statecraft. The circumstances surrounding the genesis of Operation Barbarossa and Stalin’s peculiar (for him) behavior before and after June 22, 1941 have baffled many observers. The conventional narrative is that Stalin obstinately refused to heed the many warnings provided by his world-class intelligence services and others, trusted Hitler too much, and refused to put the Red Army on alert, leaving it open to the massive damage it and all of Russia suffered at German hands during World War II. The biggest problem with this version is that credulity and trust are not the species of personality trait that Stalin normally displayed. So the conventional narrative asks us to believe that, for much of 1940-1941, Stalin ceased to be Stalin.

The leading counter-narrative about the beginnings of Operation Barbarossa was popularized in the 1987 book Icebreaker by V. B. Resun, a Soviet military intelligence apparatchik who defected to the West in 1978 and published many books under the pseudonym “Viktor Suvorov”. In Icebreaker, Resun claimed that the Red Army was thrown into fatal disarray because it was forward deployed in an offensive and not defensive posture. Stalin was planning on doing to Hitler what Hitler did to him with the only difference being that Hitler beat him to the punch and attacked first. Stalin was surprised because he’d finally met a man as duplicitous as he was.

Sergo Beria’s account of what happened in June 1941, if accurate, provides a bridge of understanding between the conventional and revisionist narratives. The younger Beria claims that Stalin knew that the Germans were going to attack but that Stalin wanted the Germans to attack first since Stalin pull off one of the greatest reverse flip-flops in human history. While the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia on August 23, 1939 had cleared the way for Stalin to partition Poland with German, sweep up the Baltic states, and extract territory from Romania, it’d left many in the West disillusioned with Stalin and his USSR. During the 1930s, a significant slice of Western opinion thought that Soviet Communism was the future. After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact however, many were shocked out of this opinion since they’d seen the future and, whatever the future was. it didn’t re-partition Poland, annex the Baltics, or attack Finland. While Stalin’s hardened cadre of fifth columnists, fellow travelers, hidden agents of influence, useful idiots, and true believers reliably pivoted 180 degrees and relayed the new official Comintern line without deviation and with perfect devotion, a crucial swing constituency within Western public was lost. After Germany’s surprise conquest of France in May-June 1940, Stalin foresaw that he would need to win back this constituency if the Soviet relationship with the now more powerful Germany went south.

Sergo Beria claims that Stalin was fully aware of the panicked reports coming in from Richard Sorge and other Soviet intelligence assets. But Stalin calculated that the USSR would never regain its credibility in the West unless Germany clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that it was the aggressor. The younger Beria further claims that Stalin believed that all the expensive weapons produced by all those Five-Year Plans would enable the Red Army to absorb the initial German attack at the border and then immediately go on the offensive against the Wehrmacht. Sergo Beria implies that the Red Army was deployed in a defensive offensive formation. Whichever formation it was in, however, Stalin underestimated the tactical potency of the Wehrmacht and was shocked at the destruction wreaked on the Red Army in the first weeks of Barbarossa. It was this shock which, if Beria’s account is credible, explains Stalin’s well-attested absence during the first week of the German invasion.

Stalin was successful in regaining his credibility in the West but his success didn’t come cheap: it came at the cost of 25 million lives, untold destruction of property, and, for those that lived, suffering on an unprecedented scale. Even the incorrigible old reactionary Winston Spencer Churchill was forced to concede that, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” and play along with his old enemy. The swing in public opinion was dramatic enough that, at least for a time, large swaths of Western public opinion could credibly mistake the architect of the Great Terror for kindly Uncle Joe. In this, the darkest hour in Russia’s history and his own career, Stalin enjoyed a rare moment of general, and positive, credible influence among people who didn’t happen to be his avowed or covert personal creatures.

But the one form of credibility that Stalin never lost was his negative credibility. From the moment that the Bolsheviks seized power during November 1917, they credibly demonstrated to incumbent power elites outside of Russia that communist revolution or conquest meant that they, their property, and their culture would be inevitably, efficiently, and utterly liquidated down to the last man, woman, child, and book entry. As Japan’s fortunes faded during World War II, Hirohito saw hints of revolution in the faces of Japanese civilians as he was driven through the burnt out remains of Tokyo. He and the Japanese imperial establishment saw the threat of quiet fifth columnists at home meeting up with the oncoming Soviet juggernaut. Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave them an excuse to throw the Japanese Army and its extremist nut jobs overboard and conditionally unconditionally surrender.

The Americans were erratic and prone to unpredictable swings between rage and sweetness. However, with the Americans there was always the possibility of hanging on until there was a favorable turn in policy. There was no such hope with the Russians: the Soviets consistently lived up to their reputation for wanton brutality. The threat of Soviet annihilation was more credible than the schizophrenic Americans promises of absolute destruction and absolute mercy.

Credibility, like all constructs of human imagination, is a mixed bag of deceptive simplicity and unfathomable complexity. If it were as simple as some leaders promise and much of  the public believe, establishing credibility would be easy. Consent would be manufactured as the inevitable byproduct of a sort of credibility by algebra where X end  + Y means = Z certain result. People could instantly tell you were credible: after all, your lips were moving.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

War endures… The way it was, and the way it will be.

My boss and co-author Daveed Gartenstein-Ross recently wrote a post at Gunpowder and Lead responding to the question of whether major armed conflict had come to an end. In his explanation, he notes that not only is major armed conflict still a possibility, but that the United States should be skeptical that it can pick and choose what sort of military engagements it will become involved in:

The unpredictability of armed conflict is one reason that, when it comes to current debates about counter-insurgency, I’m skeptical of the idea that the singular lesson of our recent experience is that we should never again put ourselves in a position where we are fighting against an insurgency. Surely, the position that we should be extremely hesitant to do so is reasonable, worthy of discussion; so too is the position that our current military posture is not worth its costs. But, at the end of the day, is never getting involved in another counter-insurgency situation our choice alone? Or not getting involved in another large-scale armed conflict?

This point is unfortunately lost in a lot of commentary on war and warfare. Even wars against state opponents can involve irregular actors. For example, in a potential strike against Iran to disarm its nuclear program, Israel or the United States could find themselves embroiled in retaliatory attacks by Iranian proxies in the Gulf and Lebanon. While such an attack would be a voluntary act on America or Israel’s part, it demonstrates the point. Such expansion of the battlefield is nothing new, and while the Iranian case is voluntary, states have long records of attempting to foment insurgencies and irregular threats against each other during wars. More importantly, though, dealing with irregular threats does not inevitably involve nation-building, state-building, or the exact replication of the population-centric COIN which serves as the boogeyman of the “irregular war, never again” crowd – although such changes would be significant departures from our current strategic and foreign policy assumptions.

This brings me to another one of my pet peeves – the so-called “old wars” and “new wars” paradigm that we are stuck with in the strategic studies literature. Old war, as defined by state-versus-state or “industrial” warfare, is actually a very new phenomenon. The total war arguably evolves between the Napoleonic Wars and the Crimean War and comes into full fruition during World War I. In other words, in historical terms, so-called industrial war is very new, and the modern state for state-versus-state warfare not much older. Irregular or “new war” on the other hand, is ancient, as wars against insurgent groups for the purpose of state-building and consolidating authority were present at the formation of states themselves. The insurgent, the private military contractor, the autonomous religious organization, the ethnopluralist and loosely networked polity and ungoverned space, the transnational corporation – these are old ideas. Their reassertion in global politics is less a return to the medieval than a return to reality. Continue reading