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Re: Torture, Tactics, and Strategy II


Rich — Thanks for your characteristically reasonable, practical, and insightful comment on my post. I agree with the vast majority of what you say in it.

You end with this:

Inevitably, there’s going to be a gray area. Now, you can argue that we should never stray from the Army Field Manual because once you do, you’re going to have to make tough calls in a murky area and risk crossing the line. As a realist, I think those kind of tough calls in murky areas are inevitable in foreign affairs, and especially in a shadowy war against lawless extremists. Sometimes there are no good or easy answers.

I agree with this. In my posts, I’ve never advocated any specific answers to such questions; ultimately, I’ve argued for specific points of methodology for getting answers to them. I have not put forward methodological recommendations for answering the intermediate (and semantic) question of “Is waterboarding torture?”, but instead methodological recommendations for answering the operational question of “Should the U.S. systematically waterboard prisoners as a matter of policy?” 

Like you, I think this is a very hard question to answer. I distrust abstract reasoning to answer it. I distrust some interior monologue based on my personal experiences and emotions. I distrust table-pounding. I distrust opinion polls. As per my reply to Jonah, I place my trust in American tradition, settled practice, and the wisdom of our forebears for guidance in such a difficult situation. Among other things, this strikes me as the obviously conservative approach.


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