The High Road and the Low
Across a whole range of problems there’s a class of responses I’ll dub the “low road” and another class I’ll call the “high road.” Examples of the former include war, torture, sanctions and blockades, imprisonment, aversive conditioning of all types (spanking; “dominance”-based animal training). Examples of the latter include diplomacy, rapport-building, civil disobedience, the free exchange of goods and ideas, decriminalization and rehabilitation, positive conditioning (of humans and animals).
I don’t presently care to argue that there is never any “need” to go down any given low road. In some cases I may support some low roads for some purposes. Locking up murderers, for instance. In other cases – torture – I have a much easier time saying “Never go there.” But what we see over and over again is that we judge high-road approaches as failures unless they produce nigh-instant and complete favorable results, while we show nearly infinite patience for journeys down the low road.
Nine years into the invasion of Afghanistan we have to agree that pulling out after a decade is just too soon. Back in 2001, the Taliban’s failure to turn over Osama bin Laden within a couple of weeks showed the hopelessness of diplomacy…
The war on drugs will surely work at some point – we’ve only been at it for 90-odd years, trillions of dollars and countless deaths and humiliations. But should anyone anywhere decriminalize anything, a single death or inconvenience in the first week would condemn the entire effort.
The examples are too many to mention.