Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
It’s only natural for a leftist to quip “we are better than that.” That pretty much sums up the moral orientation of the liberal. The critique is little more than a wish for pleasant things that work. The self-righteous preener rarely has an answer to the question “what would you suggest to make us better than that?”
Comedian Evan Sayet has a test for identifying the liberal in the room: he’ll be the one who chooses evil over good. The test is extraordinarily accurate. On abortion a lefty will choose death over life. On economics he’ll see the maker as a greedy money grubber, and the taker as the victim who is denied social justice. He’ll defend the terrorists, who he sees as the oppressed, and who only behead because the imperialists have a foot on their necks.
At this point, I’ve read the initial Findings of Fact in the report, together with supporting footnotes. Some of it is pretty gruesome, and there may have been some serious lapses in discipline and oversight. Those are legitimate areas of concern. But on balance I have few qualms with the methods employed. But as the old saying goes, it’s best not to see how sausage is made. And if you’re going to demand the sausage maker be better than that, intellectual and moral honesty requires you to suggest an alternative means to the end.
Unfortunately, there likely is no alternative. The issue ultimately comes down to whether the end justifies the means. Except that is not the proper question. The end always justifies the means since the end sets the terms for its accomplishment.
The right question is “does the end justify any means?” The standard answer is that an intrinsically evil means can never be used even to achieve a good end. That, however, is colored by extant circumstances. Ordinarily it would be wrong to use excessive force to stop a bandit. But when the bad guy is gunning for your family such niceties must give way. If the assailant won’t stop his attack it is entirely permissible to shoot him in the arms, legs, and other sensitive body parts. That’s a form of torture, but your family is more important than subtle ethical pleasantries. You do what it takes to bring down the bad guy.
So, too, in the war on terror, the circumstances define the appropriate means. The first principle is that we are on the side of the angels.
The 9/11 attack was an act of war, and in war the combatants must inflict pain. A lot of pain. The Japanese would not surrender until the pain became agony. While abstract moral issues can be debated amidst the luxury of peace, but Truman didn’t have time to consult the sages when hundreds of thousand, perhaps millions, of US soldiers were sure to die invading the homeland of a nation of fanatics, Truman also knew that the Emperor had militarized the entire population, civilians as well as soldiers, to defend the homeland. Truman surely foresaw the blood bath in which women and children would be mowed down by US troops. He didn’t need a crystal ball. All he had to do was look at the Saipan Suicide Cliffs, over which Japanese women threw their children to their deaths, then jumped themselves. These civilians were promised immediate entrance to paradise. Sound familiar? Truman did what had to be done.
So must we.
So the question for Dianne Feinstein and her ilk remains: what would make us better than that?
The first, foremost, and fundamental function of government is to protect the lives of its citizens. In war that means bringing the enemy to his knees. It also means depersonalizing him. Soldiers are trained to hate the enemy. Christian love demands that we love our neighbor, even our enemy, but the question at hand is “who is my neighbor?” In times of war only the people who share our common purpose are our neighbors.
That doesn’t justify pointless cruelty. The military has rules against unnecessary barbarity. But in war you must be all in and do what it takes to achieve victory. As the Patton of the movie told his troops, “wade into the enemy, make him die for his country.” Make him suffer. Make his mother suffer. Break him that you may break his confederates.
If that upsets the leftists moral sensibilities then, it must be said again, let’s have them offer a detailed plan that makes us better than that. And have the intestinal fortitude to stand before the families of the dead and tell them to weep for the enemy. Then ask them to demand that the survivors praise America’s haters’ for their moral superiority. When they boo and throw rotten tomatoes tell them that they are moral inferiors. Self-righteous gasbags, however, rarely show such courage.
In the coming days we’ll hear complaints that we’re no better than our enemies. We should be better than our enemies. Better, I say, that we find out what they plan, where they hide, and where their weaknesses lie. If that means brutal interrogation techniques, we must learn to stomach the ugliness that is inescapable in the battle against an abject evil.
We’re on the right side and our actions should be judged from that perspective.