Saturday, December 03, 2005

Moral Authority

Hanson (the man, not the mm-bop boy band) has some interesting thoughts on the torture debate in this country. He makes some good points, but his best point is also the simplest one, and one that, at the end of the day, is probably the number one reason for my own anti-torture stance.

Hanson, illuminate us:

The question, then, for a liberal democracy is not whether torture in certain cases is effective, but whether its value is worth the negative publicity and demoralizing effect on a consensual society that believes its cause and methods must enjoy a moral high ground far above the enemy's....

...we might as well admit that by foreswearing the use of torture, we will probably be at a disadvantage in obtaining key information and perhaps endanger American lives here at home. (And, ironically, those who now allege that we are too rough will no doubt decry "faulty intelligence" and "incompetence" should there be another terrorist attack on an American city.) Our restraint will not ensure any better treatment for our own captured soldiers. Nor will our allies or the UN appreciate American forbearance. The terrorists themselves will probably treat our magnanimity with disdain, as if we were weak rather than good.

But all that is precisely the risk we must take in supporting the McCain amendment--because it is a public reaffirmation of our country's ideals. The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.

I disagree with Hanson's assertions regarding the effectiveness of torture, and for his blanket reasoning that Europe and the rest of the world will judge the United States, no matter what it does. But essentially, I'm disagreeing for "moral" reasons. At the end of the day, I don't believe that my country ought to be torturing people. It's antithetical to our professed ideals.

We're better than torture. As Americans, we should be willing to sacrifice a little security for a little liberty, as Benji Franklin once said. Is that an easy thing to do? Of course not. It requires acceptance that, for an unseen, intangible ideal we would be willing to die. But isn't that sort of the defination of "sacrifice"? And isn't that precisely what our forefathers did when they founded this country?


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