The terrible dilemma of whether or not to use torture in the TBS is a classic 'dirty hands' scenario. Torture, considered in isolation, is an unmitigated evil to be avoided at all costs. However, when faced with a context where the choice is between appalling options, the least terrible may be torture.Yes, and I bet the old brute only thought it was a regrettable necessity too. Every era has forces that can be presented plausibly as existential threats by partisans of one sort or other. This is why certain practices of the state are considered lawless in all circumstances. Introducing a “debate” about torture can only be a means of legitimising it. It puts advocates and opponents on the same moral level.
The framing’s interesting. Torture is a “taboo”. Those who oppose it in all circumstances are “absolutists” displaying “moral vanity.” In reality “both sides of the argument are right and both sides are wrong”. This is a suitably “nuanced” view.
Clearly, what we need here is a responsible, liberal approach to setting the appropriate limits. After all, it’s “where we are” right now. If we don’t have such a responsible approach, then the absolutists will have no-one but themselves to blame when unrestricted and unregulated torture takes place. It reminds me of this, somehow.
There’s some similarity here with the Bermanite argument that opponents of the war in Iraq abdicated their responsibility for supporting it critically and influencing Bush and Co towards more humane and intelligent conduct of the war. But then both the invasion of Iraq and movew towards the legalisation of torture are products of the war on terror. In pratice, the war policy and the torture policy are inseparable in the view of those actually responsible for prosecuting the whole enterprise , so it’s no surprise that a decentist journal should move from critical support of one to critical support of the other, though in both cases most of the criticism is directed at “irresponsible” opponents of both.
Oh, Christ, grown up liberals and their gruesome maturity…well, in the highly unlikely event that he saw it, I’m sure this would have been a comfort to old Augusto on his deathbead. Yes, at last, even the liberals are beginning to get it…