Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Moral Superiority a Winning Strategy?

Barack Obama was at CIA yesterday, preening about America's restored moral superiority, which his administration demonstrated by airing the spy agency's dirty linen in public, with release of the so-called "torture memos." He stood there, with the Book of Honor as a backdrop -- each star there representing a CIA operative killed in the line of duty -- offering those assembled forgiveness for the misdeeds they had done on a previous president's watch.

He was an exorcist, purging Langley's demons, so its agents can go out into a ruthless and nasty world not as morally-compromised spies, doing dirty deeds for noble causes, but as moral crusaders, bearing the shield of "American values." Have we had a modern president, have we had any president, including Clinton, who was such a shameless poseur?

Whether moral superiority will work as an anti-terror strategy remains to be seen. When the next mass murder occurs, the pendulum will swing wildly back, no doubt, as an enraged and fickle public demands to know why stronger measures aren't being taken against the enemy. We'll be thrown back to 9/12/2001. We'll care less about moral superiority when they're shoveling up the body bits. "American values" will seem less important than American survival. Obama's school master routine will stand exposed for what it is -- undiluted naiveté.

And what of those torture memos? Do they really demonstrate that "enhanced interrogation" techniques, more than just being morally repugnant, simply don't work? Not according to this op-ed in today's Washington Post. Marc Thiessen -- whose association with that administration makes anything he might say on the subject suspect, at least among the liberal lumenati -- points out that a close reading of the documents suggests that such measures did produce actionable intelligence.

Thiessen writes:

"In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists "did not make us safer." This is patently false. The proof is in the memos Obama made public -- in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media."

Then he goes on to detail how interrogation uncovered terror cells and foiled plots, before concluding:

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

This is the secret to the program's success. And the Obama administration's decision to share this secret with the terrorists threatens our national security. Al-Qaeda will use this information and other details in the memos to train its operatives to resist questioning and withhold information on planned attacks. CIA Director Leon Panetta said during his confirmation hearings that even the Obama administration might use some of the enhanced techniques in a "ticking time bomb" scenario. What will the administration do now that it has shared the limits of our interrogation techniques with the enemy? President Obama's decision to release these documents is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible acts ever by an American president during a time of war -- and Americans may die as a result.

1 comment:

Joe Gokaho said...

I would argue, any rational person will agree that US is already exercising higher moral superiority than our enemies. Because we don’t do what enemies do to captives.

Americans have not:
1. Decapitate captives
2. Dragging captives on the streets
3. Allowing remains of the captives to be mutilated
4. Using captives for propaganda purpose
5. Using captive as human shields
6. Killing captives without trials

I will reconsider the “moral superiority” argument when our enemies stop doing immoral acts.