Last night CBC News interviewed an anthropology professor on the Virginia Tech shooting who had an interesting take on the incident. He suggested that in long periods of war, violent crime tends to increase as people become more and more desensitised to violence. Therefore, this shooting may presage an increase in the rate of violent crime in the United States after a lengthy decline throughout the 90s and the first part of this decade. I’m intrigued and will be looking to see if this prediction begins to fulfill itself as the Iraq war drags on (of course, one incident like this tells us nothing statistically), and wondering if the same applies here in Canada as the mission in Afghanistan drones on.
If this idea is true, then it lends a new dimension to the argument over whether or not to remove troops from Iraq by a set date. If the war drags on for years then, even if it can be claimed that Iraq is under control and not the terrorist hub that it is now, the safety that Americans will enjoy from having transformed Iraq into a functioning democracy may be cancelled out by the increase in violent crime on home turf. Consider: the homicide rate in the U.S. has declined by about 50% since the early 90s; a decline on the order of 10 000 homicides per year (these numbers are purely from memory, but the order of magnitude should be correct). The number of lives lost to terrorism is much smaller, even factoring in 9/11 and overseas attacks on Americans. It strikes me that if this is seen as purely a matter of minimizing human casualties, then if the professor’s idea is valid the U.S. should pull out of Iraq at once. Of course, there’s more to it than minimizing human casualties – to my mind the most important aspect would be whether or not leaving Iraq now leaves the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism, and how that could lead to the further erosion of civil liberties, as well as the impact that leaving would have on the rest of the Middle East.
So should the Americans pull out of Iraq to possibly prevent a sharp increase in violent crime in the U.S. itself? Just a thought.
I wonder if the recent increase in violence in the U.K. can also be attributed to the British involvement in the war.