Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beaning, torture, and leadership

I was just watching Pardon the Interruption on espn and the topic was beaning. Ryan Braun got hit with a pitch and fearing retaliation, the Mets manager pulling David Wright from the game. The whole unwritten rule thing in baseball where you have to retaliate if a pitcher is shown up or if the other team throws at your guy for some reason is stupid. Since it's been going on for decades it obviously doesn't work. Not to mention it puts players at risk of injury. Part of the reason it continues is because the people in leadership positions in every organization either allow it to happen or actively encourage it to happen. That's also the reason torture occurs and why political leaders should be held accountable for it.

Baseball players are (likely) taught from at least the time they get to the minors within an organization the unwritten rules of the game involving when you throw at a batter and when to expect to be thrown at. Or if I'm wrong and they aren't taught, they learn it by watching the game. Either way, managers and executives who preside over managers allow it to happen. If they wanted to stop it from happening they could do so, mainly by establishing harsh punishments for doing it. Setting the example that you will be punished for throwing at a batter and then making it clear that it is unacceptable throughout the organization would end it. And while players could theoretically do this, in the end it's the responsibility of the manager and executives because they have power over the players.

The same is true of torture. When we first learned of Abu Graib (I probably butchered that spelling), some (mainly conservatives) suggested that it was the act of a few renegades and didn't reflect the policy of the country or the people in charge of the prison. Latter we learned that the torture was encouraged by those in charge and that leaders all the way up to the top of the Bush administration endorsed torture. If you are a soldier or intelligence officer and you are encouraged, or even ordered, to torture you face serious consequences if you don't follow that order (I'm sure pitchers are scorned for not throwing at people when they are "supposed to). So you are faced with the decision to break the law yourself or refuse and risk being disciplined for not following an officer's or superior's orders. Or if you are in a situation where things are unclear, you risk people taking things into their own hands and establishing a de facto torture policy.

Just like with the baseball example, the best way to ensure that torture doesn't take place is to punish those who do it, condone/endorse it, or who willfully ignore it. If, as is currently the state of affairs, the people who were responsible aren't punished then future tortures won't feel much fear any consequences for their actions. After you establish the punishment, you have to set forth a clear policy against torture from the top on down. You have to educate people as to what is appropriate in every situation and then hold them accountable for straying from the set policy.

As far as I can tell, the Obama administration has only attempted the second step. Thus far we have no evidence that torture has continued. So maybe it worked for the time being. But since they haven't addressed step one, Republicans don't have much to fear when they gain control over the executive branch and reestablish the torture policies they continue to say they favor. Hopefully our leadership (and by extension, us) do the right thing and avoid a situation like they have in baseball where a stupid policy carries on for years.

No comments:

Post a Comment