The Corner

Okay Andy

I’ll give you this: If we assume that Ignatius believes that we are throwing away worthwhile interrogation practices but has come out in favor of same because he wants to be seen as admirable, then I suppose your critique makes sense. He’s engaging in “moral preening.” If that were true, then it would be incumbent on him, I guess, to write the families of people who died as a result of his posturing and say, hey, sorry about that but my image needed the help. If you are going to assume that kind of bad faith, however, I don’t see how you can complain that your opponents are assuming bad faith on your part.

If, on the other hand, we instead have honest error (or disagreement), then I think the original jibe has no force. Everyone believes that our conduct of the war should adhere to some moral standards that might cost American lives. We can argue over what the right standard is, but it gets us nowhere merely to observe that it might cost lives, and to describe someone else’s moral view, however mistaken, as merely “preening.” You could make that critique of any moral view other than a utilitarian one.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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