The president met for nearly two hours with leaders of eight law enforcement groups Monday, informing them that he considered the killing of the five police officers in Dallas on Thursday “a hate crime” and that he would work actively to serve as an intermediary between minority activists and police.Once more, it's all about him and his unique and pivotal role in human history. I'm reminded of his comments at the time of the financial crisis that he was the 'only one between the banks and the pitchforks.'
“I’m your best hope,” Obama remarked at one point, according to the Fraternal Order of Police’s James O. Pasco, one of the meeting’s attendees.
The far more dangerous misunderstanding is the idea that this was a "hate crime." This was not a crime in the ordinary sense of the word. It was an act of war. It was not a terrorist attack either, but a guerrilla attack that was consonant with most of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions -- especially if you include Protocol I, which the United States has not ratified, but which intends to clarify the status of guerrillas in the laws of war. The only questionable provision is the one requiring them to be under the command of a central authority: this group may have had a commanding officer among them, but it does not appear to have been part of a larger movement. Their status is therefore unclear pending the resolution of that question, and whether a 'central' authority can be derived from such a small group.
The reason this is important is not to say that the shootings were morally better or worse than a terrorist attack or a hate crime. That's a debatable question at best, and one that can be set aside completely at the moment. The reason that it's important is that the solution set is different. If it's a terrorist attack, you kill the terrorists. Terrorists are hostis humani generis. They target civilians, destroy the infrastructure on which life depends, and so forth. This attack waited until civilians dispersed, and targeted only armed agents of the state.
If it's a hate crime, you can be satisfied with merely arresting and prosecuting the hateful criminals. That sets a standard of what is acceptable within the community that will be persuasive, such that even those who are hateful will mostly be motivated by the fear of punishment not to commit such crimes.
A guerrilla swims in a sea of popular support, however. A guerrilla movement cannot exist without such a sea, as Mao pointed out. If you are dealing with a guerrilla movement, you need to address the underlying problems that are giving rise to the support for the killers.
It should be clear from the reaction nationwide that there is a sea for these fish to swim in. Likewise, the fact that "20 to 30" people brought rifles to the BLM protest suggests that there is a strong message being sent to the government that it has reached the limits of patience, and that armed force is the next option. I support such armed, peaceful protests. It's true that armed protesters can confuse police in the case of an actual attack. In that case, the police are justified in treating armed protesters as shooters until they prove themselves otherwise. But it is important that the government recognize that this willingness to take that kind of risk onto one's self is an indicator that political legitimacy has become strained. Legitimacy derives from consent of the governed. A polity that brings rifles to confront the government is still consenting to be governed: they are lawfully protesting and not shooting. But they are an important warning siren that the limits of consent have been reached, and the government should reform itself.
Ultimately I think it would make more sense for the armed protesters from the III% movement and the ones from the BLM movement to get together, and present a unified challenge to a government that has grown accustomed to exceeding its authority. A shift to a more consensual model of government would benefit all of us. There is a common flaw in the approach that gives rise to BLM -- that's "Bureau of Land Management" -- abuses out West, and the shift by localities into using police to generate revenue through the constant extraction of fines.
Nor have I any patience for the liberal/progressive tendency to sing songs of love for BLM -- that's "Black Lives Matter" -- while suggesting that they should definitely disarm themselves and pursue only fully peaceful and nonviolent resistance. If you really respect what they're doing, have the decency to recognize their right to arms. Free citizens don't submit to tyranny, nor are they under any moral obligation to endure it peacefully while begging for relief. Martin Luther King, Jr., was as successful as he was in part because he could point to the crazy radicals like Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. 'Deal with my movement of Christians adhering to ordinary middle-class morality,' he did not even have to say, 'or, if you will not work with us, deal with the radicals your resistance to change creates.' If you really want to see change, rich white progressives, you should be glad to see this dynamic emerging. Your attempt to marry gun control to loud public signalling of your support for BLM sounds to me like an attempt to slip in submission to your own preferred moral scheme -- a centralized, powerful government with authority to regulate all aspects of American life, and with the sole claim to the legitimate use of force. If you really care about this as you claim to do, progressives, have the courage to dare a potentially revolutionary conflict.
Sometimes violence is a good thing. Violent resistance to overbearing authority gave us Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. None of those things would have existed without men taking up arms to fight for liberty against powerful authority. Political violence also often leads to bad results. You should recognize, however, that this particular moment is not a moment of crime, or hate, or terrorism. Those solutions aren't adequate or appropriate to this situation.