Why We Tortured, Why We Shouldn’t

And if he isn’t so fearsome, then I think Manzi’s ultimate conclusion, with its invocation of “reasoned courage” in thinking through how far we should go in counterterrorism, should be much more widely argued for and shared. It doesn’t ask the public to reject waterboarding on abstract moral grounds that seem to set cost-benefits issues aside entirely (I speak from long experience as a Catholic when I say that such arguments don’t usually suffice in contemporary American debates), and it doesn’t ask them to go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out definitively whether this hypothetical attack or that potential plot was in some way foiled or furthered by some piece of intelligence with some connection to enhanced interrogation. Instead, it asks them to look with clear eyes at the actual landscape, the actual threat, and to recognize that whatever danger they might think justifies compromising our moral standards for security’s sake, what we know now about our post-9/11 situation calls instead for keeping calm and keeping our principles intact.