Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Waterboarding, Torture, and Defense

I stipulate, only for the sake of argument, that waterboarding is torture.

Some argue that torture is unconscionable -- even when done sparingly, as a defensive act, and not for its own sake -- because it "lowers us to the enemy's level." This is non-torture for its own sake, regardless of the consequences of such a policy: the killing and maiming of innocents.

Others conjure the specter of rampant torture in their zeal to discredit the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. I disregard such views because those who hold them are either dupes, or enemies themselves, if they are not simply pseudo-rational academics.

The question remains whether we should commit (or allow) isolated, controlled acts of self-defense that might be called torture. I say "yes," for these reasons:
  • In spite of our national descent into statism, we (most of us) remain morally superior to our terrorist enemies.
  • I do not believe that our "national character" can be diminished by isolated, controlled acts of torture. (Just as I do not believe, for example, that our "national character" was diminished by our wise use of the A-bomb to end of World War II and avert millions of casualties, Japanese and American.)
  • It is folly to tell our enemies that we will not do what it takes to defend ourselves. [UPDATE, 02/13/08: Like this.]
  • If we fail to defend ourselves, we enable our enemies to harm us and gain more influence in the world. Those are not conditions in which we (most of us) would choose to live.
Related posts:
"Torture and Morality" (04 Dec 2005)
"A Rant about Torture" (16 Feb 2006)
"Taking on Torture" (15 Aug 2006)
"Torture, Revisited" (26 Dec 2007)