First, a common complaint of many law enforcement officers is that Congress and state legislators often avoid finding solutions for social problems by pushing them off on the police.
Example: politicians don’t have to wrestle with the thorny issue of unemployment if the police will lock up thieves who are unable to support themselves legally. They don’t have to provide drug addiction prevention and treatment programs if drug addicts can be locked up. If the mentally ill can be shut away in jail, there is no need to provide residential facilities that are subject to human rights complaints. The old saw, “There ought to be a law—” is lazy and stupid.
Governments have the responsibilities of protecting and providing for the people when problems are beyond the capabilities of individuals to address. Religious extremism is the resort of people when their government fails. The Arab Spring was about turning out corrupt officials in the hope of bringing in honest secular regimes. Unfortunately, the webs of corruption went deeper than individual tyrants.
Communism, for all its faults and injustices, put limits on official greed. Unfortunately, like other autocratic societies there were no serious institutions to counter the single party state. When the iron hand withdrew from society, it left an infrastructure ripe for corruption.
The greatest threat to civilization today is not radical religion, it is state corruption. The corruption of officials and institutions is the source of extremism in the Middle East, Russian aggression and the rise of intolerant populism in the West.
Walls and travel bans will not help us. They only alienate others and ultimately make us less secure. Like Victor Hugo is reputed to have said: “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” A world ruled by extreme religious tenets is big idea today. Instead of relying on force alone to beat back the radicals, we need to come up with a better idea that will starve them of new recruits.
We need to fight corruption and inequality at all levels. We must provide for innovation and make service to others more remunerative than exploitation. Government needs to always stand on the side of the little guy, because that is where the growth is. The rich will continue to get rich regardless, and whatever they have to pay for a just society will ultimately come back to them.
We need the protection of the police and the military—God bless them all—but the goal of government should be to generate enough good will to make those agencies obsolete.