Monday, February 16, 2015

The Foolishness of letting your Enemies choose your virtues

     Another thing that I wish I didn't have to say, but to everyone that is sharing those pictures of the murdered civilians, the burned Jordanian pilot, or a politician or celebrity, while expounding on the virtues of Enhanced Interrogation and the comparison in what we consider cruelty-

External examples can NEVER be justification for one's own morals. 

     The Islamic State is one of the most vicious, ludicrously violent groups that I have ever seen.  I would say that they easily outstrip any of the other regional extremist groups, including Boko Harem, in sheer grandstanding barbarism.


     That has zero bearing on whether or not I consider waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques to be acceptable in intelligence gathering.  For now, I'm going to completely avoid explaining what my views on that subject are, in fact.  This isn't about what views I hold, but it is about using someone else' values to set our own.

     Morals, whether cultural or personal, cannot be applied with any consistency if they are set by an outside group. When you define yourself by your comparison to someone else, you relinquish the ability to set your own values.  We see this applied in politics on a regular basis.  The two major political parties can have functionally zero commonly held beliefs- the core tenets of the two parties are, on their face, mutually exclusive (exactly how this translates into identical outputs over the last few decades is curious, but not germane).  This puts the two parties in position to dictate each other's terms.  Their core values are defined by not what they stand for, but who they stand against.  If all the oppositional talking points are stripped away, it can be said that they stand for effectively nothing- by defining all their views by external sources, there can be no internal consistencies.  In the same way, justifying torture by virtue of it not being quite as torturous as the opposition is not taking a stand, it is simply saying 'but they're doing it MORE!' on the scale of a global war. 

Put it another way- I would never consider hitting My Lovely Wife.  NEVER.  It simply is something that would never happen.  There have been, in various places over the last few years, news stories of men and women who have killed their spouses, for various supposed reasons, using methods at varying degrees of cruelty.  Just because there are people in the world that do awful things cannot excuse or justify doing slightly less awful things.


  1. Well what is the worst thing you can do to a human? Kill them I would imagine. If they are your enemy and willing to kill you then it stands to reason you are already morally at the end of the chain if you would kill them first. Torture is just another step towards that total war. Point of fact the reason we don;t like it is because it really does damage to the torturer too in many ways. I sometimes suspect that people speaking out against torture are really doing it more for selfish reasons. I know it makes no sense but for many of us it is easier to outright shoot someone that is trying to shoot us than it is to torture someone who has information that would save lives if it was known.

    1. Considering that no small number of the current foe step into the wind with no intention of returning, I am not sure that killing them really qualifies as the worst thing to do to them, but the point stands. I still maintain, however, that the level of torture to which we allow ourselves to approach (and again, leaving out where exactly I think that line should be drawn) cannot be a reflection of the level at which our enemy operates. That is a matter we must come to grips with internally, because it affects how we deal with war. To use the actions of someone else to justify our own does not satisfy any internal more- if anything less than the barbary of our enemies is acceptable, we can go far beyond what I think is the just action of a threatened nation. 'The Victory of the Light is All!' is a lousy battlecry, and 'the ends justify the means' is an empty tenet.