Against Torture

I don’t often write about affairs of state in this space. This is not due to a lack of interest. It is due more to the fear that I hold many of my political views rather too strongly to communicate them effectively. However, there are issues that I think it would be immoral not to oppose publicly. Torture is one of those things.

Mr Krulak and Hoar have written good piece about the practical downsides of torture over at the Washington Post (go read it, I’ll wait). Their basic argument is that torture enhances the ability of terrorist groups to recruit new members, which is the opposite of what is needed at this time.

If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

I think they are correct that, even on a strictly functional level, torture is huge net loss for us. However, even if torture where an effective weapon against terrorist organizations I would still be against it.

Arguments in favor of torture generally hing on the assumption that when the terrorist lose we win. Unfortunately, this assumption is completely false. The world is not a zero sum game. Every combination of winners and losers is possible.

By allowing torture we lose, regardless of it’s impact on terrorists. We lose the respect of the rest of the world. We lose our right not to be torture. We lose the very essence of ourselves.

As Gregory Djerejian points this out in his commentary on Mr Krulak and Hoar’s piece

history doesn’t advance in linear fashion defined by consistent progress, but perhaps moves more cyclically, with advances in human civilization constantly threatened by reverses.

Hopefully, we can regain what we have lost in the last few years. It would be shameful if my generation were the one to allow the start of a long slide backwards.