Jim Manzi asks an awfully provocative question — even more so if you actually read his post (which many of his commenters seemed not to have). Every time I try to answer it to myself I end up devolving into utilitarianism: We have signed various treaties abstaining from torture because we do not want our own men to be tortured. But that says nothing about why torture is inherently wrong. Something I need to think about so I don’t just answer “Because it is.” (Again, read the question, read the post, read the comments.)
Meanwhile, Pete Wehner writes the most comprehensive essay I’ve seen thus far that closely approximates my own feelings on the topic of waterboarding as it relates to the last eight years.
So I do not accept for a moment that the last eight years constitute a “dark chapter” in our history. Quite the opposite. Michael Gerson points out that our history is replete with actions – the firebombing of Dresden, dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and (I would add) Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans in World War II – which certainly raise more morally problematic issues than what the Bush Administration pursued.
There are of course serious-minded critics of enhanced interrogation techniques. But to pretend, as some critics do, that the morality of this issue is self-evident and that waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques are obviously unacceptable and something for which our nation should be ashamed is, in my judgment, not only wrong but irresponsible. When a nation is engaged in war, you hope to find in government sober people who are able to weigh competing moral goods and who take seriously their obligation to protect our nation. They may not get everything right at the time – hardly anyone does in the heat of the moment – but they should not have to face a lynch mob years after the fact (especially those in the lynch mob who blessed the activities at the time they were being used). The American public, one hopes, can see through all this. And as Nancy Pelosi might well discover, playing a role in inciting a mob can come at a cost.
Read the whole thing.