Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Principle Over Security

Richard Cohen, who I almost always disagree with, has an op-ed up on the torture debate called, "On Higher Ground, but Not Safer." Cohen is strong opponent of using torture, says the recent memos remind him of the Nazis, and believes that we should not use torture because
it degrades us and runs counter to our national values. It is a statement of principle, somewhat similar to why we do not tap all phones or stop and frisk everyone under the age of 28. Those measures would certainly reduce crime, but they are abhorrent to us.
This is the moral argument against torture, that it is inherently wrong and therefore should not be used. I disagree, but I respect that position. Unlike many torture opponents, Cohen faces the real-world consequences of his viewpoint.
it is important to understand that abolishing torture will not make us safer. Terrorists do not give a damn about our morality, our moral authority or what one columnist called "our moral compass."
He recognizes that torture can and has worked, and also points out that
If Obama thinks the world will respond to his new torture policy, he is seriously misguided. Indeed, he has made things a bit easier for terrorists who now know what will not happen to them if they get caught. And by waffling over whether he will entertain the prosecution of Bush-era Justice Department lawyers (and possibly CIA interrogators as well), he has shown agents in the field that he is behind them, oh, about 62 percent of the time.
Such intellectual honesty is rare among torture opponents. It is nice to see someone simply make a strong moral argument against torture, without trying to bolster it with illogical, shaky, and outright false assertions.  Unlike most, Cohen understands that banning torture will make the U.S. less secure, but argues that principle is more important than security. 

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