First, and most obviously,it's completely irrelevant [ [whether the Bush interrogation techniques were 'effective']. Torture is categorically prohibited by numerous laws and treaties. It's illegal. Indeed, it's a war crime. Ethnic cleansing may also be an "effective" way of accomplishing certain strategic goals, but that doesn't make it any less reprehensible or illegal. There are all kinds of "effective" strategies and techniques that are foreclosed by the law and by international treaty...Couldn't have said it better. In fact I think I said it somewhat worse.
to make a policy case for the use of such techniques, you would have to do much more than establish that they occasionally have produced actionable intelligence. Among other things, you would have to prove that 1) such information could not have been extracted using other means, 2) that the misinformation produced by such methods doesn't overwhelm the accurate information to the point of rending the whole exercise pointless, 3) that the strategic costs of using such techniques (international outrage, increased radicalization of the Muslim world, increased danger to U.S. troops, etc.) don't outweigh the benefits, and 4) the value of the information produced is worth the tradeoff of never being able to use that information (or the fruits thereof) in court and severely jeopardizing any hope of ever convicting that individual in any constitutionally compliant legal proceeding.
So even if we all check our moral faculties at the door (and choose to ignore the law), the defenders of these techniques have come nowhere close to making a compelling policy case for their continued us.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Strategic as well as moral clarity on the efficacy of torture from The Anonymous Liberal (h/t Andrew Sullivan):