Moral Thresholds

slacktivist: Threshholds

Defenders of this practice point out that A) these prisoners are suspected of being very, very bad people; and B) America’s torture regime is nowhere near as widespread, systematic or brutal as the worst examples of such regimes. Point A is factually suspect, but even if 100 percent true, irrelevant. I’ll get back to that point in a future post. I want here to deal mainly with point B.

In an earlier post, I described this as the “NABA defense” — Not As Bad As. The NABA defense is, for what it’s worth, arithmetically accurate. The American prison camps in Guantanamo, Bagram, Afghanistan and elsewhere are, in fact, not as vast or as brutal as Stalin’s gulags. The American camps are also Not As Bad As the contemporary torture facilities that the U.S. occasionally subcontracts in places like Uzbekistan.

But such comparisons are beside the point. The threshhold has been crossed and conventional arithmetic no longer applies. The only relevant and meaningful comparison is between those regimes that countenance torture and those that do not. Once a nation crosses that line any difference between it and other torture regimes is inconsequential in comparison to the difference between it and those nations which have refused to cross that threshhold.

The NABA defense correctly insists that Guantanamo is different in degree from Stalin’s gulag. It is different in degree, but not in kind. And that difference of kind is the only difference that matters. America has entered the wrong category. We have crossed a threshhold.

This quote is a good example of the view of the Left, or at least the view on this matter of people in protest, who agree in principle with Durbin.

It contains both the logic and the illustration of something that I was discussing in earlier posts. There is a fundamental difference in the concept of what Americas Civitas code consists of. This is a purely moral argument, which makes its point well- which is why I want to look at it.

What I am wondering at this juncture is not whether the Left ever felt that America had never engaged in such conduct, but whether they had expected that this would be the code which they embraced and could institute. And are extremely angry that it is broached.

I am not trying to rationalize American policy here. Please understand that. I want to look at why there is true rage on the Left. I don’t think this is simply politics, as some have surmised. I think there is a conflict between the sense of ethical conduct on the Right and on the Left. It is a clash of separate ideals of Civitas, perhaps aided by the fact that we have not fought an outright declared war since WW2. And during that time there has been much change in our moral foundations.

From reading this post, I sense that there is an accepted premise that Americans do not use torture under any circumstance. Does this jive with our history in war? Where does this ideal come from?

“It is different in degree, but not in kind. ”

I must look at this, and there is a point there. My question would be whether we can wage any act of war and not have something “in kind”? Is this why the outrage at the fact that there are some civilian casualties? Were there to be none?

I am not sure of what the expectations are in dealing with continued aggression by terrorist organizations or by Muslims in the Sudan, or any tyrant or oppressor. Are we viewing some impossible perfection standard?

I do not like the descriptions of the report from Guantanamo. I admit it. But I hate the descriptions of lawless terrorism and I hate the results of the suicide bombers as well.

It is all of the utmost ugliness and tragedy.

What is the expectation in all this? Because more often than not it sounds like the children in the market place”We’re piping the tune, why don’t you dance? We’re playing a dirge now, why don’t you mourn?”