29th April 2009
Jim Manzi, with whom I ordinarily agree, discusses the topic du jour.
Any decent society needs to defend itself from armed aggression without becoming a society not worth defending. This is never simple to accomplish.
This is his basic premise, and it exposes the essence of the question: What is the definition of “a society not worth defending”?
The fact that it keeps being reinvented or rediscovered in various wars, and used repeatedly over time in these conflicts by troops that want to win, is excellent circumstantial evidence that it provides at least some tactical benefits.
This statement is, I think, beyond question. Given a technique the effectiveness of which is strongly supported by the available evidence, the burden of proof would appear to be on those who advocate not using it. The way he attempts to satisfy this burden is to look at the sort of regime with which this technique is popular.
Do you notice a pattern? These are either dictatorial regimes, or actions of basically democratic governments in arenas of imperial border occupation. For a democracy, waterboarding is a corruption of empire.
This is, of course, a variant on the “If Hitler liked it, it must be evil”, which is nonsense. War practices must be evaluated on their own merits, not on the basis of “guilt by association” — such would be an abdication of responsibility.
I stand with Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root and the United States military, and with a 100-year tradition of our nation, against the specific practice of waterboarding captured combatants as strategically ineffective and morally repugnant. It is beneath us; beneath our dignity, and beneath our enlightened self-interest.
This is akin to a Secretary of State refusing to look at radio traffic intercepts on the grounds that “gentlemen don’t read other people’s mail”. It is the sort of effete fastidiousness for which our current ruling class is notorious. The reductio ad absurdam of this approach is the soccer mom who refuses to be in the same building with a gun, no doubt on the theory that she might get gun cooties. Such people are a Darwin Award walking.