.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Bully Pulpit

The term "bully pulpit" stems from President Theodore Roosevelt's reference to the White House as a "bully pulpit," meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. Roosevelt often used the word "bully" as an adjective meaning superb/wonderful. The Bully Pulpit features news, reasoned discourse, opinion and some humor.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Vox on the Bully Pulpit

Missing here is the fact that I have repeatedly asserted that we are NOT in a survival situation due to Islamic terrorism. That is the context in which my two anti-torture columns were written and I think BP will recognize the logic in questioning the vital need for legalized torture sought by a government that sees no problem with annually importing hundreds of thousands of Muslims and millions of aliens. Moreover, I openly mocked the idea that torture will prove of any use even if we were in a survival situation.

Given the amount of evidence amassed that the central government is working against traditional morality and personal liberty regardless of which political party is in control of it, I think BP is right to seek an answer from Sowell. I believe I have already provided one, on the other hand.

Fair enough. Dr. Sowell asserts we are in a survival situation and whatever we do is justified to survive. Vox asserts we are not in a survival situation and even if we were, torture isn't an effective weapon. So the first point of contention is really whether we are in a survival situation or not. Both have offered their thoughts on how they arrived at their assumptions. Vox (and those of us who agree with his assessment) must deal with the unfortunate logical dilemma of attempting to prove a negative.

We can offer characterizations of the jihadists as internationally inept, from a purely military point of view, but the media will still run pictures of collapsing skyscrapers, mud and dust covered firemen, and video of people jumping to their deaths to avoid burning. The fearmongers win because they have the tools to make the potential horror personal.

But beyond the point of the context in which we find ourselves, my original assertion was that the sides are talking past one another. And in doing that, each side assumes its predicate and moves on to the issue they find more important: Vox to the moral and cultural slippery slope and the ineffectiveness of torture, Dr. Sowell to the dichotomy of moral posturing versus the criticality of security and defense. My complaint is that there is little or no convincing discussion on whether or not either predicate holds. Vox offers that the probability of being killed by a jihadist is significantly less than that of being killed by a member of the United States government (or a drunk driver, I might add). Dr. Sowell offers that the jihadists have been successful at killing Americans in larger or smaller numbers, but death by a thousand cuts produces the same end result. On balance, I find both arguments equally convincing and unconvincing. That is, both arguments have some validity, but they seem to be simply talking points. I'm not faulting either Vox or Sowell for this, I'm just using them as examples of what I see to be the missing element in the whole discussion.

I don't, however, find Vox's dismissal of torture as an effective weapon completely convincing. If one consents to the predicate of a survival situation against an enemy with no scruples whatsoever, the only detriment to using torture against such an enemy is the moral downside. If some crazy is driving around Manhattan with a suitcase nuke, attaching his co-conspirators' testicles to a boat battery is possibly going to work more quickly than battalions of firemen and cops with rate meters. Arguments on the viability of suitcase nukes and whether or not any particular group of crazies can pull such a feat off are largely academic at that point. In such a situation, the only trade-off to be considered is the moral one. The balance to be struck is on the morality of using torture against that of not using it.


Post a Comment

<< Home