instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The enemy of my enemy

"Waterboarding Wins": That's how NRO's Marc Thiessen characterizes Scott Brown's electoral win in Massachusetts yesterday.

Thiessen writes:
As I point out in Courting Disaster, polls show the American people are with us on terrorist interrogation.

An April 2009 Pew Poll found that 71 percent of American said there were circumstances in which they would support the use of enhanced interrogation ("torture" they called it, of course, but that makes the number even more stark).
The less significant point to make is that the first quoted sentence reiterates the claim that political conservatism in the United States is defined in part by advocacy of torture.

Thiessen would deny this, since he denies that waterboarding is torture, based on the syllogism:
  1. Torture is bad.
  2. Waterboarding is good.
  3. Therefore, waterboarding isn't torture.
Scott Brown, meanwhile, seems to follow the Bush Syllogism:
  1. Americans don't torture.
  2. Americans waterboard.
  3. Therefore, waterboarding isn't torture.
Be all that as it may, Thiessen's "with us" should be repudiated by all political conservatives in the United States who hear of it and who don't think torturing prisoners is a non-negotiable plank of political conservatism.

The more significant point to make is that Thiessen completely misreads the April 2009 Pew Poll. He thinks the fact that 71% of American think "torture," and not merely "enhanced interrogation," should be safe, legal, and rare is a good sign about what Americans think about what he sees as a position that is part and parcel of political conservatism.

In fact, it is a sign that a great majority of Americans are gravely immoral.

That the population is morally depraved in a direction that helps your candidates win elections is not something to celebrate.

UPDATE: Perhaps Thiessen was thinking along these lines: "The poll asked people if the use of 'torture' against suspected terrorists can be justified, but everyone understood 'torture' to mean 'techniques up to and including waterboarding.' So the people who said yes weren't saying they support torture as such, they were saying they support enhanced interrogation techniques as practiced under Bush and were confident enough in their support to say yes even when it was being called 'torture.'"

That would explain his complacency, even if it's a pretty flimsy line of reasoning.