Sunday, August 30, 2009

There's some debate going on whether what is being called 'torture' yielded worthwhile information... to some people, if indeed valuable information was obtained, it supposedly lessens the crime, to others, it doesn't matter, torture is bad, bad, bad, and should never be used, no matter how many American lives might be saved from the information procured via these techniques.

And I think both sides have it wrong. Keeping our enemies from harming us is very, very, very important to our health. To accomplish this task, our side has a range of options, from surrendering and appeasing our enemies on one side to nuking them out of existence on the other.

Torturing our enemies falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, somewhere between sticking out our tongues at them and killing them along with their families and neighbors and sowing their lands with salt. While they'd probably prefer the former (for those having trouble following, having us stick out our tongues at them), given the choice between the latter and being abused a bit, I reckon our enemies would probably prefer to accept a little torture.

Torture can also (and should) be looked at as a tool our side can use to help keep us safe, along with bombs and bullets. Taking tools away from our craftsmen makes as little sense as taking bullets away from our infantrymen or bombs away from our pilots. No commander should ever send men into battle with one hand tied behind their back, and voluntarily taking tools out of the arsenal is doing just that.

Abusing detainees is a tool that can be used by our side to help keep our side safe. It is no different than bullets and bombs.

In this context, it doesn't matter whether a particular session of enhanced interrogation gains us something of value, any more than it matters whether a particular bullet or artillery shell hits its target. No weapon works all the time, and holding enhanced interrogation to such a high standard is as silly as punishing a soldier for not hitting a target with every shot.

What matters is whether the cumulative use of a weapon program produces results. Just as it would be a problem if every bullet fired missed its mark, so too would it be a problem if no 'torture' session produced worthwhile information. But it wouldn't be a problem because 'torture' was inherently bad, it would be a problem because it doesn't do any good to use a weapon that has zero reliability.