What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Unseen Chasms of Perdition

What follows is a post I have long and devoutly hoped that I would never fell compelled to write. I intend no recondite ratiocinations to follow, though there may or may not be a few florid turns of phrase - this, because I will compose my thoughts through the medium of composing this brief entry - but only to intimate something of the abyss that now lies before vast swathes of the conservative movement, and particularly social conservatives and sympathetic fellow-travelers. Perhaps what I propose to say will be dismissed, on the grounds that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I think that such a response, if and when it is given, will be profoundly misguided.

The burden of my post may be succinctly stated: the embrace by the political right of torture, whether as a matter of principle or as an expedient invoked to defend an indefensible administration, has contributed to the obloquy the right now bears; moreover, the cultural and social conservatives, through the instrumentality of a variety of apologias and apparent temporizations on the subject, have yoked the defense of torture and the pro-life movement, and social conservatism generally, in the minds of a substantial percentage of the rising generational cohort. I can point to at least half a dozen friends and acquaintances who have, though previously politically conservative or libertarian, and all inclined to social conservatism to one degree or another, more or less walked right out of the political right, and social conservatism, in consequence of this yoking together of conservatism and torture. Now, this is not to state that they refused to vote for the Republican ticket on account of the torture question; they would have refused, as I did, to vote for the Republican ticket on other grounds altogether. No, the significance of their alienation is more profound than matters of electoral politics: the political and cultural right is dead to them, as, having been discredited in practice by the calamitous misgovernance of the Bush administration and the Congressional GOP, the intellectual contortions undertaken to support, simultaneously, social conservatism and torture have indelibly branded this failure with the mark of intellectual unseriousness, hypocrisy, partisanship, incoherence. In their minds, the political right stands foursquare for a failed foreign policy, the rote incantation of failed politico-economic dogmas, and torture, and indicates not the slightest inclination to introspection; and the social conservatives now represent, again in their perceptions, those who prattle on about the dignity of human life, except, perhaps, when the utility function of derogating from that dignity is sufficiently high. It is no defense to contend - which is unexceptionably true - that, even assuming the intrinsically evil status of both abortion and torture, the former is manifestly graver, for this is merely to argue that one should keep the camel's nose out of the tent but to permit the donkey to enter.

At this point, it is all but certain that some readers are snorting their coffee and whinging on about anecdotes and data. But the trouble is that the sentiments expressed by my friends are mirrored in the political sources they now consider more congenial, the proliferating variety of progressive internet outlets and forums. They have undergone, or are still undergoing, political transitions, but what is salient is that torture was the last push, that last of the efficient causes, and the synecdoche for the entire transition. The proverbial straw. The last outrage that finally pushed them to mutter, "Farewell to all that."

It will also be objected, doubtlessly, that none of this addresses the substantive and theoretical considerations that have arisen over the past week, and that is certainly true of some of those considerations. But time stretches out before us as an indefinite horizon, and there will always be additional opportunities to entertain disquisitions on the subject, casuitical parsing of circumstances, and the like. For the present it suffices to note that the social conservatives have consigned themselves to political perdition, among other forms of potential damnation, not merely by yoking themselves to the eight-year odyssey of incompetence that was the Bush administration, but by the manner of their defenses, and the disputed issues defended. To my friends, the association of torture with opposition to abortion is an obscenity. Frankly, I concur. For this we sold our souls? Torture? Lord, have mercy.

Comments (109)

I stopped calling myself a conservative over a year ago. Most folks now a days, including I would imagine the bulk of contributors here, consider me a liberal now. Oddly enough, giving up utopian ideals (the economic conservatives mentioned above and their meritocrasy) pushed me out the door of American conservatism, but I ain't responsible for labeling. It may not have been torture that broke the camel's back, but it certainly isn't an argument to stay. A tribal affinity with America, particularly her government, and a desire to be counter-cultural have always been a contradiction in modern conservatism. But here I think the tribal affinity has won out.

An excellent post, however, this is too kind, "substantive and theoretical considerations".

All I have seen so far is an inability to understand basic concepts like due process coupled with political hackery and unresolved PTSD from 9/11.

Still Jeff, watching ones adversaries march off a cliff is a wonderful thing, so I eagerly await the comments that are sure to follow your perceptive post.

...having been discredited in practice by the calamitous misgovernance of the Bush administration and the Congressional GOP...

And amidst all this seemingly self-assured, precisely defined black/white framework that you, Zippy, Shea, Lydia et al would have the general populace believe; pray tell, what in heaven's name shall we do to all former inhabitants of GITMO and the like?

My humble suggestion: put your seemingly superior Christian charity where your mouth is, form a "Friends of Terrorists" network, and provide accomodations for such folks at your residence.

If such evil men are to set foot on American soil or be released at all, better on the immediate property of those who would dare fight on behalf of their Cause so that these seemingly virtuous heroes of Christian Charity would be amongst the first to reap what they have dared venture to sow.

SOURCE: Obama's Gitmo Mess: So where is the Pentagon going to send the Yemenis?

EXCERPT:

On his second day in office, President Obama ordered the Pentagon to mothball Guantanamo within one year, purportedly to reclaim the "moral high ground." That earned applause from the anti-antiterror squadrons, yet it is now causing all kinds of practical and political problems in what used to be known as the war on terror. This mess grew even more chaotic this week, when Democrats refused the Administration's $50 million budget request to transfer some of the remaining 241 Gitmo detainees to a prison likely to be somewhere in the U.S. and perhaps to a new one built with taxpayer dollars. "What do we do with the 50 to 100 -- probably in that ballpark -- who we cannot release and cannot try?" Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently asked Congress.

The best answer is Gitmo. But the antiwar left wants terrorists treated like garden-variety criminals in the civilian courts or maybe military courts martial. The not-so-minor problem is that even states that send leftists to Congress don't want to host Gitmo-II. Think California, where Alcatraz could be an option. The abandoned San Francisco Bay prison has Gitmo's virtue of relative isolation -- but Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, claims it is a national treasure. The terrorist-next-door problem is also rising to a high boil in Kansas politics, given that Fort Leavenworth is being eyed too.

More urgently, the Administration risks losing all control once enemy combatants set foot on formal U.S. soil, which the courts could determine entitles the terrorists to the same Constitutional protections as U.S. citizens. One federal judge has already ordered that 17 detainees -- the Uighurs, a Chinese ethnic minority -- be released domestically. Another judge has ruled that the Supreme Court's 5-4 Boumediene decision, which granted detainees the right to file habeas petitions in U.S. courts, extends to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where the military is holding three times as many prisoners as Guantanamo.

In his Boumediene dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts indicted the majority's "set of shapeless procedures to be defined by federal courts at some future date," and was he ever right. How will judges prevent the public disclosure of classified material? What about Miranda rights, or evidence obtained under battlefield conditions? Such questions nearly scuttled the Justice Department's case against Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, which flamed out last week with a sentence of only 15 years. According to the plea agreement, al-Marri entered the U.S. on September 10, 2001 on orders from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to begin research on chemical weapons and potential targets. Prosecutors were hampered by the possibility of disclosing intelligence sources and methods, as well as (yet another) political flare-up about interrogation and detention.

The hardest Gitmo cases are those prisoners who are known to be dangerous or were actively involved in terror networks but haven't committed crimes per se. Others involve evidence that is insufficient for successful prosecutions but sufficient enough to determine that release or transfer would pose a grave security risk. Many of these detainees are Yemeni, and the Yemeni government is demanding that Washington repatriate them. That would be an unmitigated disaster, whatever Yemen's promises of rehabilitation. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently reported that Yemen "is re-emerging as a jihadist battleground and potential regional base of operations for al Qaeda to plan internal and external attacks, train terrorists and facilitate the movement of operatives."

I am among those who argue not only that torture is not intrinsically immoral, but it also is, under certain strictly defined but *real* circumstances, 1.) moral, 2.) proportional, 3.) prudent, and 4.) possibly imperative. I regard this as a matter of moral truth. If some people accept the truth on the matter of abortion, contraception, etc., but reject it on the matter of torture, that is no reason not to argue for the true position. Scandal should be avoided, but not at the cost of truth.

Do you friends still have their faith? Are they still pro-life? Do they still defend tradtional marriage? I assume the answer to all three questions is yes, and if such is the case, what harm has been done? That they now know what they should have known long ago; political and social movements, which are at best imperfect vehicles for obtaining limited and transitory ends, come and go?

Please, the whole "conservative movement" has been wheezing and gagging for decades now under the weight of many unresolveable, internal contradictions. As a temporary electoral coalition it was too shallow to address the cultural conditions that dictate the mental and spiritual make-up of the electorate. Our society is in a state of dissolution brought on by de-Christianization and a fading ability to understand or communicate by the printed word. Instead, sensation, visual images and technology guide the dramatically impaired "decision-making" capabilites of our fellows.

As pilgrims in a strange land of electronic illusions and memory-erasing excitements, we cling to one Person and joyfully continue the trek. Nothing else matters beyond that simple, bracing truth.

Maximos,

It seems to me you employ a great deal of purple prose in order to lay out a very simple thesis: so-called "social conservatives" are leaving the political right over the torture issue. When stated so simply, is the thesis true? Is it relevant. Does it make any difference?

I answer "no" to all the above. Anyone who would abandon genuine conservatism, the great treasury of tradition and metaphysical verity, over something as minor as this, must not understand what conservatism is really about, and must, frankly, have been looking for an excuse to leave. Sorry, I don't buy the "torture pushed me out of the party" line; nor do I believe that waterboarding and abortion are similar enough to warrent mutual inclusion under the generic heading, "dignity of life issues."

But if the social conservatives whom you speak about are so concerned about eliminating both - fine. Let them leave the political right. Let them become conservative Democrats, if that's their fancy. They will enjoy the company of Colin Powell, Scott McClellan, and Christopher Buckley; but I wouldn't expect even vestigial traces of their erstwhile conservatism to survive for very long in that acid bath.

Should the political right really care if they go? Should they fear the diminished (and doubtful, and at any rate temporary) probabilitiy of electoral success that results from not having these clowns in the party? Not at all. We stand for a body of truth and ideas that we proclaim both in season and out of season; truths that will ultimately carry the day because they issue from the wellspring of life itself.

By all means, go off and enjoy it. Comfort yourselves with the nostrum that you've rigorously adhered to principle (we all know it was just an expedient for expressing sour grapes). The political right will still be here when your little fad has run out of gas. We'll even take you back when you come to your senses. We'll be more than happy to overlook your transgressions and restore your reputation. We're like that; we're the forgiving sort.

Kevin:

As pilgrims in a strange land of electronic illusions and memory-erasing excitements, we cling to one Person and joyfully continue the trek. Nothing else matters beyond that simple, bracing truth.


Indeed, we continue to strive and persevere in our joyful trek to reach certain places in both political & theological thought, ever embracing in this seemingly Christian enterprise such high & noble ideals, all in our efforts to boldly go where no Man has gone before; apparently, even insofar as our wont for creating notorious (and, need I say, delusional) fictions of a supposedly rigidly defined black/white world -- in that case, perhaps some real estate in the Delta quadrant might interest you?

"...Should the political right really care if they go? Should they fear the diminished (and doubtful, and at any rate temporary) probabilitiy of electoral success that results from not having these clowns in the party? Not at all. We stand for a body of truth and ideas that we proclaim both in season and out of season; truths that will ultimately carry the day because they issue from the wellspring of life itself..."

Thank you, Matt Beck. To those who do, in fact, leave the political right, just to whom will you go? Regardless, ti voglio bene.

I'd like to ask all my Catholic brothers here, what would you have done differently than I did? What did I do wrong to earn the titles: The Hammer of Heretics, The light of Spain, The saviour of his country, The honor of his order?

--Tomas

I stopped calling myself a conservative over a year ago.

As did I. If questions of political orientation even arise, I avow only that I am a man of the right, a decentralist and localist, and, in certain circles, a distributist. For my part, it was the unreconciled contradictions between "conservative" commitments to the political economy of creative destruction and the conservative commitment to traditional, rooted cultures, between the "conservative" valorization of the foreign policy of creative destruction and the conservative commitment to the nation-state and the American form of subsidiarity (now attenuated to meaninglessness), federalism, and.... torture that brought me to the realization that my presence was an incongruity at the movement soiree.

Al, thanks for your generous comments.

Ari, we've hashed out on this very site the Boumediene ruling; I probably - if memory does not now fail me - wrote the post. From the difficulty of resolving the status of these detainees follows neither that the Gitmo policy was prudent and in conformity with the law nor that the governance of the Bush administration as a whole was other than ruinous. The disarray of the right should stand as sufficient proof of this latter point.

Kevin, Matt: My friends retain their social conservatism, with a handful of exceptions on certain issues. The salient point for the purposes of the present discussion is that, regardless of their convictions, they will not associate with any organized movement, party, sect, faction, etc., that attempts to conjoin torture and social conservatism. The point is that the movement has lost them. As for those discrete defections, well, what can one say but that moral insanity has a tendency to discredit the insane, even if the insane might happen to be correct about an issue or three; and this will inevitably lead to a metamorphosis in certain of their political commitments, by virtue of association with those who do not share the specific, efficient insanity that pushed them out. We can decry the irrationality of this sort of political (d)evolution, but it is both a function of ingrained, probably evolved psychological mechanisms, and utterly typical of both left and right. Ask any member of the initial cohort of the neoconservatives.

The political right will still be here when your little fad has run out of gas. We'll even take you back when you come to your senses.

I've come to my senses, and the political right, by doing its utmost for their lowest, is labouring mightily to prove itself a generational fad. Political conservatism is more or less dead among my generation and that immediately following, largely because of the omni-incompetence of the Bushies, whereas, at the dawn of the Bush era, political allegiances among my generation were within sight of a rough parity. The (eventual?) failure of the Obama administration will, more probably, not augur the renascence of the political right, but rather then disillusionment and disaffection of the body politic - if that is, the people do not sink ever deeper into their postmodern version of bread and circuses, and neglect the entire sordid spectacle.

To those who do, in fact, leave the political right, just to whom will you go?

To my parish and my family. There is no hope in the princes of this earth.

Ari,
I don't think the Chrsitian life is about reaching "certain places in both political & theological thought". We know how we are to live, and if we truly want to see the face of God, no new theological insights are needed.

What is scary, are comments like those made by Boniface and visitor, which reach a crescendo in the latter's parody of Scripture below. Conservatives aren't suppose to make a religion out of ephemeral political concerns. Liberals do that.

"To those who do, in fact, leave the political right, just to whom will you go?"
Visitor 5-7-09

"Jesus said to the twelve, "Will you also go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
John 6:67-69 RSV

Maximos,

I appreciate what your comment and agree. I, too, remain with my parish and my family, but I will remain in the conservative party, as imperfect as it may be--just as I will remain Catholic, as imperfect as the Church may be. Of course, God certainly trumps any political party (as even Thomas More would agree).

Credit where credit is due. Kevin, that's a fine comment (1:47pm). I agree that anyone who loses cultural conservatism or theological orthodoxy because of recent Republican politics needed a wake-up call to show him his idolatry--though if it's true that they're simply switching political sides, it would seem they haven't learned their lesson, in which case I hope their inevitable disappointment with the political Left gets the fact of their idolatry through to them.

Though I myself believe it is immoral to torture as a means of getting information, I think that anyone (unintentionally) epistemologically arrogant enough not to accept criticism of their own moral theological conclusions is a bit foolish.

Also, what's with the utilitarian appeal to popularity? Win the argument first, then win over the people.

When asked:

To those who do, in fact, leave the political right, just to whom will you go?


Maximos made the rather poignant reply:

To my parish and my family. There is no hope in the princes of this earth.


Yet, therein lies the rub.

As concerning the former part of the admirably profound statement made by Maximos, to whom would you then go once (God forbid) your parish and family have all become but unfortunate victims of these evil men who violently seek our own destruction through subsequent terrorist attacks?

It would be wise for all to recall the tale of Job.

Maximos, you place the causes for the failure of conservatism in its popular, public and visible mode far too recently and far to simply to bear any resemblance to a fair description. The causes all have to do with the fact that popular, public, and visible conservatism has rested on almost all of the same techniques of persuasion that the liberals have: a facade instead of substance. Hardly 1 "conservative" in 10 can rattle off 3 amendments in the bill of rights; hardly 1 in 10 knows the difference between a "right" and a privilege. Their ignorance is abysmal, because in spite of their veneer of conservatism, they went to public schools like their liberal peers, (or corrupted parochial schools which cost a lot more but did little better in producing principled graduates) and they imbibed liberalism in their daily subsidized milk. It continued unabated in college, where over half of students lost their family faith (if they had it going into college), and many of the ones who survived that ordeal had 4 years of being trained to not think independently or intelligently.

If the recent discussion blew away the veneer for a few of these people who didn't even know that they were not principled conservatives, then their discovery is good for them and may, just possibly, begin a journey that will end up at principled conservatism. The U.S. may not exist at that point, but God can pull good out of that loss just as he pulled good out of the ancient destruction of Israel. I'll trust in God and truth before I trust in Republicans.

I would rather trust in the validity and soundness of truth wherever it may lay, in any discussion aimed at uncovering the truth, than pusillanimously refuse to take on the effort of uncovering the truth because that truth may push someone away from some political movement. A political movement! But did it push them away from the Church? Are you placing a movement above the search for truth? Or are you saying that the discussion was not a sincere effort to find truth?

they would have refused, as I did, to vote for the Republican ticket on other grounds altogether

By your own admission, then, torture issue or no torture issue, you and the friends you mention are all Democrats (or possibly those mythical creatures called "Independents").

So what we have here is, basically, a bunch of Democrats voting for the Democrats (or at least against the Republicans).

Why, again, is this supposed to bother conservatives so much?

Are we expected to believe that the reason all these poor disillusioned well-meaning broken-hearted young folks you speak of object to waterboarding and the like is that they share (at least deep down and in a confused way, bless 'em) the moral premises enshrined in natural law, tradition, and the Christian faith?

I guess that's why they're also all so hostile to abortion, same-sex marriage, fornication, pornography, sodomy, pacifism, drug use, relativism, "animal rights," etc. And they just can't stand how the GOP is selling out to the Schwarzeneggar/Giuliani wing.

Puh-lease.

As Ralph McInerny has noted, when you discuss capital punishment with people of a certain "rising generation," you soon find that what they object to is not the capital part so much as the punishment part. Same thing here, coupled with the stuff about the West in general and America in particular as Oppressor of the World. Even if the Zippy-Shea line were manifestly correct, the "rising generation" would have arrived at it by totally independent, and morally indefensible, means. They were lost to the GOP anyway. The "Gitmo as Gulag" stuff is just a rationalization, something else to scrawl on a placard, which could just as well have read "Keep Your Laws Off My Body!" (and probably will say it at the next protest).

It's fascinating that many of Maximos' critics are assuming that any motion away from "movement" conservative is inevitably a list to port, and that anyone who flees the "colossal goatf--k" (thank you, Cormac McCarthy!) which is the Republican party must ipso facto become a Democrat.

Did it ever occur to them that many of us are dumping both, not because we're too liberal, but because neither of those is, anymore, conservative enough?

I remain a registered Republican for one reason, and for one reason only: I live in a closed primary state, Pennsylvania, and want to have a voice in the primary elections. (Now that that opportunistic clown Arlen Specter has fled the party, largely because he knew he was going to have his arse handed to him on a plate in the next GOP primary, I don't even have the pleasure of voting against him anymore). But I'd be an idiot to believe that I, as a Kirk/Weaver/Modern Age type of conservative, and a pro-life religious one to boot, have any kind of home in the GOP or in the "mainstream" conservative movement.


"...To those who do, in fact, leave the political right, just to whom will you go?..."

My comment here is not referring to a political movement (yes, though the word 'political' appears). I am referring to the right: as in right, moral thinking; right, moral action; right, moral aspirations--which is why it is followed by St Peter's retort to Christ. So I don't appreciate my comment being interpreted as though I'm bowing to any political party while also being used as a springboard to pounce on the conservative party. Obviously, I was not clear enough and apologize for that. However, to be conservative does not necessarily equate to advocating torture anymore than to be a democrat equates to advocating abortion.

I am a registered conservative, and will remain so until I, personally, find reason to leave the party. The essay here, though brilliantly written, has not provided me with that reason.

Tony, this is not a matter of a disincarnate, intellectualized conservatism, such as may lovingly linger upon certain Constitutional phrases or protections, but of the more or less organized conservative movement, to the success of which most conservative intellectual firepower has been committed. Yes, conservatism has failed politically on account of the ignorance of its ostensible custodians; but the reality of both human psychology and politics is that the failure of obstreperous incompetents will taint the prudent conservators of the tradition. Moreover, it is a category mistake to assimilate political discourses, let alone conservatism, to religious categories, intoning, in effect, that they went out from us because they were not of us; those who affiliate themselves with a political movement will have a welter of reasons, many incompatible with others, for so affiliating themselves, and it is not desirable to expect subscription to both a programmatic politics and an articulated epistemology for the totality of that politics.

Warren, I was not cognizant of the interesting fact that a refusal to vote for the GOP ticket entailed one's allegiances to the Democrats, that not-R entails D.


Are we expected to believe that the reason all these poor disillusioned well-meaning broken-hearted young folks you speak of object to waterboarding and the like is that they share (at least deep down and in a confused way, bless 'em) the moral premises enshrined in natural law, tradition, and the Christian faith?

I guess that's why they're also all so hostile to abortion, same-sex marriage, fornication, pornography, sodomy, pacifism, drug use, relativism, "animal rights," etc. And they just can't stand how the GOP is selling out to the Schwarzeneggar/Giuliani wing.


Their reasons were as principled and cogent, or not, as those of the average conservative or pro-lifer, which is to say well-formed in certain instances, inchoate in others, and mistaken in still others. I perceive no necessity in damning them for this, as I expect neither that the average member of a political movement will attain to the perspicuity of the philosophers, nor that any political movement can be predicated solely or primarily upon the deliverances of the philosophers.

As for the rest of it, the order of causation has been reversed: they did not become marginally more likely to reject torture because they had previously bought into "America as Oppressor of the World (can we add proletariat, too?)" agitprop, - which, having known them for the larger part of my life, they had never embraced - but became marginally more likely to listen to progressive critiques of American foreign policy because they had arrived at the conclusion that torture is illicit, and that on various grounds. As for the matter of rationalizations, well, I think it best that this thread not go there, as most, though not all, of this controversy, and the passion animating it, owes solely to the partisan divide over American foreign policy.

I lean more and more towards identifying as a paleo-libertarian. I am beginning to believe more and more that one has to take the road pointed out by Hans-Hermann Hoppe to once again make room for Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver. Indeed, men like that are exactly the kind of natural aristocracy needed to allow such a human community to flourish. Otherwise it all falls apart, something history has demonstrated over and over again.

I came to this blog several weeks ago after reading Feser's 'The Last Superstition." I was impressed with many of the posts and so kept coming back. Regrettably, I had the misfortune of coming here during "The Great Torture Debates" and foolishly posted on the topic. What I have come to see in this site is far too much overwrought, pretentious, self-righteous garbage.

"The burden of my post may be succinctly stated:..."

Ahh Maximos, you carry the burden for us all! Onward, ever onward Brave Maximos! (By the way, your post sounds much better when read in fake English accent. Try it, its true).

Adios, or as Maximos might say,

Adieu! I abscond to ratiocinate in the sequestration of my own domicile,

Scott

Tony:

Are you placing a movement above the search for truth?
If you cannot possibly be wrong about a certain truth claim, then there's no need for a search for truth concerning it. Indeed, the search may itself be immoral.

Apparently.

I am referring to the right: as in right, moral thinking; right, moral action; right, moral aspirations--which is why it is followed by St Peter's retort to Christ.

Does any political, philosophical school of thought have sole claim to the Truth? Leaving a political movement is not the same as losing one's ardor for Christ. In fact the latter can make membership in a whole host of associations rather uncomfortable.

Christians will always make alliances, often odd ones at that, in order to advance causes compatible with their faith. The trick is in not falling to the modern temptation of letting an earthly cause become a substitute for faith.

What I have come to see in this site is far too much overwrought, pretentious, self-righteous garbage.

Would it be pretentious and self-righteous if it were instead intended as a critique of gay "marriage", feminism, or any other such shibboleth of the left? If not, why not? The special pleading on behalf of the torturers is rather pretentious. And tedious.

Everything becomes pretentious and self-righteous when we strongly disagree with it. Nothing new there. That's a fact about psychology, and not argumentation.

Indeed, the search may itself be immoral.

Indeed. I'm being told that questioning the torture regime is immoral. Should I go to confession, to unburden myself of the sin of disbelieving in torture?

If you cannot possibly be wrong about a certain truth claim, then there's no need for a search for truth concerning it. Indeed, the search may itself be immoral.

Well done ALbert.

"I am beginning to believe more and more that one has to take the road pointed out by Hans-Hermann Hoppe to once again make room for Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver."

Hah! As I and my friends are fond of saying:

Take Kirk!
Take Weaver!
Take Hope!

Warren, I was not cognizant of the interesting fact that a refusal to vote for the GOP ticket entailed one's allegiances to the Democrats, that not-R entails D.

I suggested other possibilities - twice - in my brief post. Your reading and comprehension skills somewhat lag your composition skills.

Although in purely practical terms, not-R does indeed entail D, like it or not.

Ed Feser said what I was trying to say far better than I did anyway, so I'll obey Zippy now and just shut up.

You suggested one other possibility, namely, that they were/are political independents, since the other possibilities all reduce to the alleged fact of them being Democrats. Why they vote for the Dems hardly matters.

Although in purely practical terms, not-R does indeed entail D, like it or not.

LOL! This is analogous to the cretinous and invidious "objectively pro-Saddam" arguments advanced in the lead-up to the Mesopotamian Bungle, round II (This time, it's a quagmire!).

Maximos:

Indeed. I'm being told that questioning the torture regime is immoral. Should I go to confession, to unburden myself of the sin of disbelieving in torture?
You'll have to ask someone who believes questioning a particular regime or claim concerning torture is immoral, and so the questioner should "shut up." I don't believe that, so I have no answer for you.

Scot shall abandon us because of the demands of Maximos' prose? Say it aint so, man!

I'll let Dylan handle that:

You got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend
When I was down, you just stood there grinning

I always found a special bite to these lyrics;

you say you've lost your faith, but thats not where its at
ya have no faith to lose - an' ya know it

Dr. Ed writes:

"Are we expected to believe that the reason all these poor disillusioned well-meaning broken-hearted young folks you speak of object to waterboarding and the like is that they share (at least deep down and in a confused way, bless 'em) the moral premises enshrined in natural law, tradition, and the Christian faith?

"I guess that's why they're also all so hostile to abortion, same-sex marriage, fornication, pornography, sodomy, pacifism, drug use, relativism, "animal rights," etc. And they just can't stand how the GOP is selling out to the Schwarzeneggar/Giuliani wing."

Well, what could I possibly add to that?

Except that Chesterton is no substitute for Aristotle or Aquinas, and rhetoric is no substitute for philosophy.

And the first requirement of philosophy is the ability to understand & appreciate the arguments of one's opponents, at least as well as they do themselves.

I'm sorry to say that, in this case, Maximos, you fail that first requirement. You name no names, you quote no sources, & you show no sign of interest in the views of your opponents.

Anyone fatigued with the torture debate is very heartily welcome to read the many other posts on the site, including several that are up right now--for example, Paul's on The Christendom Review and mine on referrals for abortion. And as time goes on, there will of course be many more on many other subjects, as our long-time readers know. And our archives are top-notch, if I say so myself. Find your favorite author and browse, Scot.

And the first requirement of philosophy is the ability to understand & appreciate the arguments of one's opponents, at least as well as they do themselves.

Inasmuch as I explicitly disavowed the intention of addressing those points in this post, I fail to perceive the appropriateness of the criticism. The post was about the political consequences of yoking support for the torture regime with political conservatism, and the pro-life movement particularly. It is logically possible - though I obviously think it untrue - for it to be the case both that torture is teh awesome and that it is imprudent, impolitic, or inutile to speak this truth. Even if torture is justified, we should shut up about it, because it's one of the things driving nails into the coffin of political conservatism, and causes far more important than whether we can torture Islamists, right now. Not all truths need be spoken. Not all people are entitled to, or capable of bearing, the truth at all times.

Perhaps I'll post some of my reservations concerning the pro-torture case at some later date. But I'm quite tired of torture, frankly, and I'd like to see other discussions unfold before anyone returns to torture.

Scot shall abandon us because of the demands of Maximos' prose? Say it aint so, man!

I'll let Dylan

handle that:

You got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend
When I was down, you just stood there grinning


Again, the unremittingly fervent (as well as fantastic) desire for some synthesis of high culture (i.e., Maximos) with low -- pop -- culture (i.e., Dylan). Unfortunately, such a project is inevitably doomed from the getgo.

et tu, Kevin?

"...Does any political, philosophical school of thought have sole claim to the Truth?..."

No, Kevin, political and philosophical schools of thought have no claims to the Truth and I'm well aware of the fact. Politics can never nor should supersede faith. I was simply suggesting that a political party need not be abandoned because of the fault found in it.

Anyone fatigued with the torture debate is very heartily welcome to read the many other posts on the site, including several that are up right now--for example, Paul's on The Christendom Review and mine on referrals for abortion.

An inquiring reader virtually voices out a seemingly stern complaint about "torture" and what is Lydia's solution?

Subject the man to episodes of even more torture! They sure know how to rack'em at this site! ;^)

What's Wrong With the World? It isn't tortured enough.

Ari, I laughed at that almost as much as Mark the Torturer video.

Lydia, you are, of course, quite right. We HAVE been a bit overwrought, and the solution is to take up other aspects of What's Wrong With the World.

LOL! This is analogous to the cretinous and invidious "objectively pro-Saddam" arguments advanced in the lead-up to the Mesopotamian Bungle, round II (This time, it's a quagmire!).

Cretinous and invidious reverse-Marxoid claptrap indeed. About as cretinous and invidious as calling someone "objectively pro-torture" because he doesn't share Mark and Zippy's Excellent Intuition about the "obvious" immorality of waterboarding KSM.

Yes, I realize no one's used that expression yet. Just its logical equivalents.

"I'm quite tired of torture, frankly, and I'd like to see other discussions unfold before anyone returns to torture."

Fair enough.

Jeff:

Amen and amen! The spectacle of seeing Judie Brown going to bat for torture over at the Vox Nova blog was too bizarre for words. Why is the American Life League, of all things, throwing its weight behind defending this. It's like many in the prolife movement and religious right have lost their minds. No wonder James Carville is urging the GOP to a tighter relationship with the RR. He knows you don't stop your enemy when he's destroying himself.

Why is the American Life League, of all things, throwing its weight behind defending this.

Could it possibly be that saving innocent babies from mass murdering medical doctors a similar mission to saving immensely populated cities which include not just innocent babies but entire American families too from vicious mass murdering terrorists?

Too bad they don't think like you, Shea, and confuse saving innocent babies from harm with doing likewise for the terrorists.

But, then again, there's still the matter concerning what exactly constitutes "torture".

In all the debates about the religious right that I've heard, I've NEVER heard anyone say that the RR is bad because it (allegedly) supports Gitmo, torture or the like.

Honestly, I don't have a clue what the leading pro-lifers think about torture.

I haven't yet perused the other comments, but let me see if I have this correct: The pro-life movement is being destroyed by "torture supporters". No doubt because those who see absolutely no problem with executing innocent life in the womb will be scandalized, scandalized, by those who don't see a major problem with putting the guilty through discomfort if (and only if) it will help to protect innocent life.

Riiight.

No, No. It is because committed pro-lifers are turning away from being pro-life because they want to save terrorists' lives.

Wait. What was that again?

Oh, I've got it: People who were pretending to love babies are going to stop pretending to love babies because other people who pretend to love babies don't really because they don't love terrorists.

Well, that can't be right either, can it?

Maximos,

With all due respect, your friends sound like a bunch of sissies.

Bad enough there was a Tony the Tiger... now, apparently, there's a Tony the Torturer. =P

All this because Maximos just had to write a torturous article concerning yet again the topic of "torture" just so that he can lament on the sad and sorry state of conservatism today (or rather concerning an ersatz conservatism) and just how sadly tortured his poor (previously "conservative") soul was wont to produce but another laughably lugubrious lamentation on what's wrong with the world, unwittingly ultimately becoming the very subject of his own thesis.

With all due respect, your friends sound like a bunch of sissies.

If I stipulate this purely for the sake of argument, it nonetheless remains that they do not, at least, sound like the demented Colonel Jessup, and that counts for a great deal with me.

Oh, I've got it: People who were pretending to love babies are going to stop pretending to love babies because other people who pretend to love babies don't really because they don't love terrorists.

Y'all need to stop pretending the the formation of a political consciousness is some purely rational, discursive process, such that all of these issues can be slotted into discrete little boxes, and then caricaturing the arguments or observations of those who point out that this image is absurd and quasi-utopian. When people say absurd, preposterous, and wicked things in one area, others tend to distrust them more generally. It is as pointless to damn them for this as it is to damn them for not being philosophers, or to damn the unintelligent for having been born with low g quotients. We should expect people to strive for virtue, but not to be as punctilious in drawing distinctions as philosophers.

I almost hesitate to say this, but is it possible, Maximos, that your friends had been drifting away from involvement with the pro-life movement already for some time because they felt too many of the people in it were "neocons"? You yourself have noted--and kudos to you for doing so, seriously--some of the uncomfortable things that are happening on the paleo right in terms of distancing themselves from the pro-life position. (I'm thinking of Fleming, here.) Heaven knows that in some of those circles the pro-life issues haven't exactly been front and center for quite some time, and knowing what most of my actively and enthusiastically pro-life friends are like, I can imagine that a really impassioned paleo would feel uncomfortable around them anyway (on matters of foreign policy, for example). Now, if they were already spending their time hanging--on-line and in person--with people for whom abortion, euthanasia, etc., simply are not frequently talked-about, super-important issues and for whom the endless retailing of the iniquities of the Bush administration and the neo-cons _are_ frequently talked-about, super-important issues, then perhaps it's no wonder that they eventually said "goodbye to all that." With or without torture involved in the mix. Seriously. Who we hanging around with influences us.

It is as pointless to damn them for this as it is to damn them for not being philosophers, or to damn the unintelligent for having been born with low g quotients

And it is just as pointless to take those who are trying to be principled to task for identifying principles that the unprincipled and/or stupified insist on abusing. The only alternative to trying to be principled is to be willingly without principle.

By the way, Maximos, just as a curiosity, you say that you have ceased to call yourself a conservative. Did other people consider you a conservative before that? I could never discern that the positions you held were consistent with what the great unwashed masses of conservatives generally hold all that well.

Now that you are not a conservative by your own naming, what do you name yourself?

It is as pointless to damn them for this as it is to damn them for not being philosophers, or to damn the unintelligent for having been born with low g quotients

Actually, this is yet another reason to damn the education system. It used to be that ignorant yokels knew that they were pretty ignorant of things requiring real education, so they looked up to those who had education for guidance. Now everyone thinks that they are educated, and everyone who has taken PHIL 101 think he understands philosophy, so he lacks the humility to seek to be guided by those who have real wisdom. But if a person lacks humility, whose defect is that?

"...When people say absurd, preposterous, and wicked things in one area, others tend to distrust them more generally..."

Well, y'all need to stop damning the whole good for the few bad, or even the many bad, for that matter. This essay can be applied to a great deal more than the conservative party and torture, and your statement above can just as well be applied to you and the comments made on this blog, depending upon what one considers to be absurd and preposterous (although I would like to think everyone clearly recognizes wickedness).

The simple fact is that you do not appear to be open to opposition of opinion--which is much of what's being written here. Lively discussions don't need to escalate into spitting debates. And when we step into a ring, and most blogs are basically, we have to be prepared to be knocked about, somewhat. That's life, man.

Times are difficult. Yes, we should all strive for virtue, Maximos, but we should also help each other along, as well. For crying out loud, calm down.

I'm already disappointed. I've only just begun reading this blog, and it only took two weeks for it to utterly betray its promise not to give in to the fashionable sin of despair. If you wish to borrow Chesterton's disdain for optimism and placard it on the blog's mission statement, you could have done him the justice of a proper reading. It can only be by the shallow whitewashing optimism Chesterton deplores, that you could have only just realized that the roof of "social conservatism" is leaking. It might even have fallen in, but the tone of this article is just the sort that will never make Pimlico--or whatever rises in its place--beautiful.

Lydia, who they've decided to hang with online is purely and simply a function of their revulsion at the excesses and failures of the Bush administration. Not one objected to the role of the Bush administration or the Congress in the Schiavo affair, for example, but rather gradually disaffiliated with movement conservatism, and in the process affiliated elsewhere on account of Bushist foreign policy & etc. In fact, virtually all had been solid GOP voters, quite often for cultural reasons. This was simply a matter of coming to believe that, if the GOP and conservative movement were saying insane things in one area, and progressives were saying sane things in that area, perhaps the pattern would hold in other areas altogether. Similar processes of political acculturation have been observed with respect to the influx of socially-conservative Democrats into the GOP in the 70s, pro-lifers and the GOP, and so forth, so it is mystifying that the process should be thought problematic in the case at hand. We ought not discount the effects of revulsion upon the psyche, and upon the rational faculties; if one concludes that someone is a rank hypocrite, for example, one often forms a strong psychological association between the condition of being a hypocrite and issues x, y, and z advocated by the hypocrite. There is quite enough of this sort of below-the-threshold-of-reason "thinking" in popular conservatism, which in demeanor and with respect to policy positions often enough does little more than invert whatever it is that liberals are doing, or thought to be doing, because liberals are The Other.

And it is just as pointless to take those who are trying to be principled to task for identifying principles that the unprincipled and/or stupified insist on abusing.

It is quite pointless to insist upon pressing truths, real or imagined, that your interlocutors are unprepared to receive. Many people will not take seriously the proposition that abortion is an unmitigated horror while torture is the Lord's work if the utility function is sufficiently high, and that for a variety of reasons, rational and otherwise; browbeating them will accomplish only the hardening of a new wrinkle among our cultural fault lines. One side argues, in essence, that torture is an outrage upon human dignity that objectifies, depersonalizes, and instrumentalizes the person, and is deemed to have offered nothing more than a non-obvious intuition (which is to say that no reason to prefer this perspective has been offered, in the minds of its critics); the other side argues many things, most of which are utterly discreditable, but the intellectually serious among them say things - with which I disagree - amounting to alternative ways of conceptualizing the act of torture, but without any reason to prefer those conceptualizations. If any members of the latter group insist upon browbeating the former group as unprincipled, they ought not be surprised when they are not taken seriously.

I could never discern that the positions you held were consistent with what the great unwashed masses of conservatives generally hold all that well.

Whoever said that masscult movement conservatism was actually conservative? That's a massively begged question.

Now that you are not a conservative by your own naming, what do you name yourself?

A man of the right, a decentralist and localist, and a distributist.

Now everyone thinks that they are educated, and everyone who has taken PHIL 101 think he understands philosophy, so he lacks the humility to seek to be guided by those who have real wisdom.

This is a category mistake, that of attributing to the phenomenon of the uppity proletariat what is more accurately described as a more complicated series of phenomena, most critically, I think, the question of which philosophers people should heed, and when.

The simple fact is that you do not appear to be open to opposition of opinion...

Er, no. I've argued that some opposing opinions should be withheld voluntarily when contingent circumstances suggests such reticence as prudent.

A simple, 'I disagree' would have sufficed. My comment was not an attack, Maximos, and I don't appreciate your sarcastic, "Er, no."

In truth, whether we are all educated or not (having taken Philo 101 or hold a doctorate in it) we all lack humility--there's only one Source of 'real wisdom' and the wisest among us wouldn't claim to be wiser than the rest of us. While we're on our way to reaching for that guidance, we'll all just have to trek along as best we can.

I appreciate and thank you for your thoughts.

You can't be "a man of the right, a decentralist and localist, and a distributist" -- unless, of course, you don't give a spit about cognitive dissonance.

How you expect to get things effectively and efficiently distributed in a decentralized and localist manner?

So it appears there is a danger of alienating people from the pro-life cause due to "hypocrisy".

What about the danger of alienating people from Catholic Orthodoxy via holier-than-thou thunderous pseudo-ex-cathedra pronouncements regarding "torture" that go against the common sense of regular law-and-order kind of folks, the kind who are, in fact, pro-lifers, but have no desire to associate with self-righteous holy rollers who can't seem to distinguish between justifiable coercion and the slaughter of innocents?

Isn't it a two way street? Given the dangers of souring people on "orthodox" Catholicism, why isn't it your side that should be doing the "shutting up"? After all, we need to be considering the moral consequences of our speech acts, yes? And not causing the least of these to stumble?

But that's your logic, not mine.

The lead post was entirely overwrought. The lead sentence made one wonder if what were to follow would be equal to the Democrat Senators taking leave of the US Senate, after their respective states declared for the Confederacy.

Take a deep breath.

Feser comments are far better grounded in history, morality and reality, than that the fantastical projections of others.

This isn't a world of angels, and letting creatures like KSM and Atta work their plans to to the ruination of all, is hardly something for any "Catholic" to boast of.

Seen some weird things of late, "Catholics" defending Saddam, portraying Saddam's Iraq as another Eden, decrying the leader of the Free West challenging Tehran's nuclear program, pretending that the legal fiction of "international law" actually protected the mendacious and the malevolent, and all the while, making this great play of their "Catholicism."

How do some of you think Vienna was held? How was Lepanto won, how was it that Istanbul took that name, who held it before, how did they lose?

Just a bit of history here should inform the moral discussion.

And how much damage has resulted from these emotional flights from reason, these overwrought hysterics?

The GOP has now been rendered unable to stand against the most radical pro-abortion administration in history, an administration hardly sworn in before it started snubbing the Vatican!

Well some of you have got your guy in, and when Catholics who work in the health care field start getting pressured for "referrals," when Catholics across America see their tax dollars used to advance a Godless agenda, and an anti-human as well, ----------- take a good look in the mirror, and recall well your hysterics about Bush, about Gitmo, about waterboarding, about Abu Gharib, recall how often some of you went to the mattresses for Saddam, and the reign of him and his sons, mass murderers and rapists.

Take a good look in the mirror.

Some of you need to do some serious thinking, and stringing together citations from conventions and laws, and religious documents, that's its increasingly clear you barely understand, does NOT consist of SERIOUS thinking.

One can always tell when an opinion from our high court was written by a clerk or the justice whose name is above it. And that's by the number of citations. Clerks are fond of string-citing, but justices, whose understanding of the law usually far exceeds their clerks, simply state the facts and commence with their ruling.

What really puzzles me is why, whatever one may think of the underlying moral issues, so many in movement conservatism are so willing to die on this hill. Because die they will.

when Catholics who work in the health care field start getting pressured for "referrals," when Catholics across America see their tax dollars used to advance a Godless agenda, and an anti-human as well, ----------- take a good look in the mirror, and recall well your hysterics about Bush, about Gitmo, about waterboarding, about Abu Gharib, recall how often some of you went to the mattresses for Saddam, and the reign of him and his sons, mass murderers and rapists.

Dan, did you say Maximos was overwrought and then decide to top him?

Being opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq wasn't going to the mat for Saddam, it was taking our Church's teaching on Just War to heart and heeding the call of Pope John II. The ruthless utilitarianism behind abortion and stem cell research also informs the assault on human dignity found in renditions, Abu Gharib and many other aspects of the GWOT.

We know Liberalism's final destination is in the anti-human Total State. We also know the practices you defend not only hasten the day of its arrival, but will constitute the tools used against those determined to resist Leviathan.

Instead of making self-defeating political compromises, try thinking with the Church on all matters and developing the trust that come with faith.

Why is there such a preoccupation with the fate of a political movement here?

And why the weird compulsion to identify each other within some sterile taxonomy; "I'm a Hayekian libertarian with low Church tendencies", or "I'm a paleo-conservative with an exotic taste for monarchism mixed with the Southern tradition", and of course, "I'm an unreconstructed Reaganite and proudly own the leather-bound works of Jonah Goldberg"

Lord, it reads like a dating site for lonely political science majors and couldn't be farther from the spirit of Chesterton or orthodox Christianity.

**You can't be "a man of the right, a decentralist and localist, and a distributist" -- unless, of course, you don't give a spit about cognitive dissonance.**

Really? What about Chesterton, Belloc, several of the Southern Agrarians, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Russell Kirk, Marion Montgomery, Tobias Lanz, Maclin Horton and the other folks at 'Caelum et Terra,', etc., etc.? Granted, a lot of this depends on how one defines the terms in Max's description, but still, do you really want to accuse all these guys of "cognitive dissonance" simply because they (we) didn't/don't buy into the currently fashionable notions of what "the right" is?


I will just say this much: We need to be girding our loins and fighting what's coming down the pike. We're about to get hate crimes legislation extended to homosexuality at the federal level (believe it or not, this is new), health-care rationing on a massive scale, the drafting of all public-schooled children into Kids for Dear Leader Platoons in the schools, the release of Muslim terrorists with no intent to prosecute them directly into the populace (probably in Virginia), and on and on and on. The evil Obama is up to is so multifarious as to boggle the mind, it's new stuff that Bush didn't do (and wouldn't have done), and they're not going to leave people alone just because they say, "Oh, I hated the Bushies, too" or "Oh, I don't call myself a conservative anymore." Couldn't we all leave the past behind us a little more and make common cause for the future?

I'll say right here: I didn't vote for McCain. It was chiefly over the ESCR issue, though I think his actions since in, for example, publicly dissing Sarah Palin, vindicate the instinct that he was a traitor and no conservative from the beginning. I don't regret not voting for McCain. I am not going to "repent," just because Obama is as bad as I always knew he would be.

So if people are going to be mad at those who didn't vote for McCain, you'll have to count me in. And I ask _those_ people to set that bit of the past aside.

But by the same token, some of my fellow too-conservate-for-McCain people seem to think that our A#1 priority in May, 2009, needs to be continuing to go on and on about the iniquities of the Bush administration! I worry about this. The Bush administration is _over_.

Don't we have other things, even, more urgent things, to focus on than tearing each other to pieces over who is to blame for the election of Obama? He's in, guys, and we're for it--hanging separately for sure if we don't hang together.

Maximos, if you don't want me to say stuff like this any further on your thread, I'll respect that.

...some of my fellow too-conservate-for-McCain people seem to think that our A#1 priority in May, 2009, needs to be continuing to go on and on about the iniquities of the Bush administration!
I'm not sure that is a fair characterization, Lydia. There is a whole putsch within mainstream conservatism to sanctify the Bush torture and illegal war regime, and to cast everyone who opposed it into the outer darkness. I could go document that, but I'm not sure that doing so would really improve the conversation; though you can see elements of it even in the comboxes here, which just parrot some of the things said in conservative media. The attitude isn't exactly one of repentance, nor even of prudent silence.

You can't stand together until you know what you stand for. And if what you (a generic you, not you Lydia) stand for is the obscenity of linking "enhanced interrogation" to the pro-life movement, you can count me out. I'm sure a number of commenters here will say "OK, and good riddance". Fine. Good luck with that.

Question: To what extent is the phenomenon you're noting, Zippy, triggered by Obama's release of the memos? That's certainly what's put the issue into the news. To my mind, that has a couple of practical implications. 1) It means that the phenomenon you are noticing has a good chance of dying down with time _if_ the Obama admin doesn't try to do anything more with it, 2) It means that to some extent what you are seeing may be a reaction to an attempt on the part of the Obama administration to conduct a witch-hunt or purge against the former administration. I'm not saying that supporting torture is right or good even under these circumstances. It's not. But I am saying that the putsch may be coming first and foremost from the other side--specifically, from the left--and is probably intended by the left as a distraction from the mischief they themselves are up to at this very moment. "Join us in hunting out the torturers and war criminals from the previous administration! Down with the evil Bushites! To the lamppost!"

Frankly, I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to jump on that bandwagon, whatever his views are on torture. I won't jump on it myself. And while we're talking about what prompts what, sociologically, I don't think it's at all surprising if that sort of thing prompts a defense of torture, wrong though that is.

To what extent is the phenomenon you're noting, Zippy, triggered by Obama's release of the memos?
That definitely increased it, though it is just as definitely not the source of it.

I've no objections to the 'evolution' of the thread in directions that might be considered threadjacking in other contexts. Random comments and observations to follow.

It is exceedingly difficult to stand with a conservative movement that has repeatedly engaged in a sort of postmodern, print-journalism show trials and purges, replicating in its own way the ideological instincts of the left (where, if you are progressive down the line, but don't subscribe to the gay "marriage" orthodoxy, you are automatically excommunicated). Opposed the Iraq war? Out with you, who have turned your back on your country (!). Questioned the categorical desirability of democracy, and its universal cultural applicability? Racist! (Yes, this was the line in mainstream outlets for a certain period of time.) Thought that actually-existing finance/consumerist/globalist capitalism was inadequate as an expression of conservative thinking on economics, or perhaps that it contained cultural contradictions? Out with you, communist! And so forth and so on, with illustrations that could be extended all the way into the present disarray of conservatism. The impression has been created that they do not desire me as a co-belligerent on certain issues unless I subscribe to the entire catechism, which subscription having been obtained, I would be free to emphasize any issues I pleased, so long as I refrained from, say, harping on foreign policy shenanigans or the Club for Greed. They don't even want a big tent of conservatives.

As regards the Bush administration, well, moderation in all critiques, I suppose. But unless the political right reconciles itself to the failure of Bushist "conservatism" in multiple spheres of endeavour, it will remain moribund, just as the DLC had to reckon with some of the excesses of Great Society liberalism if liberalism/progressivism was to gain a new lease on life in American politics.

And while we're talking about what prompts what, sociologically, I don't think it's at all surprising if that sort of thing prompts a defense of torture, wrong though that is.

The right really needs to chasten and discipline this instinct of reaction and refusal, this inclination not to be conservative, but to be not-left, based on whatever contingent issues the left is banging on about at any moment, such that, if the left believes that Bushist torturers should be prosecuted or impeached, and perceives some political advantage in it (it won't happen, but that's another post), the right must oppose it, in order to deny the left that political windfall. If the right attempts to bury the issue, for whatever reasons, however seemingly prudential and weighty, they'll be taking to their bosoms a red-hot coal certain to burn them in the end, because they will never - among many other things - reckon with either the torture litmus test or the extravagant claims of executive power which were the condition of the possibility of the torture regime. And that will either be used is ways that conservatives will deplore, or be used by conservatives in some future administration, in yet another spasm of self-destruction.

What really puzzles me is why, whatever one may think of the underlying moral issues, so many in movement conservatism are so willing to die on this hill. Because die they will.
Their souls may be in danger for it, though I'm not entirely convinced of that, but as a political movement, Jeff's friends notwithstanding, movement conservatism is being done in by America's changing racial composition on one hand, and the consolidation of the sexual and therapeutic revolutions (as bobcat pointed out on another thread, James Poulos has harped on for years, and as anyone with recent familiarity with people under the age of thirty) on the other. Nixon's silent majority of aspirationally 'square' white people just isn't big enough to win an election anymore.

Your puzzlement is puzzling to me. A rhetoric of sovereign power and authority has been a hallmark, probably the most politically successful one, of the actually-existing modern conservative movement from the 1960s on. 'Getting tough' in domestic and international affairs has paid dividends for so long that Republicans just keep going back to the well. The problem for them is that 'getting tough' requires something against which to get tough. With crime down somewhat, and with the Communists gone, they have been auditioning Islamists and various third rate dictators, but Hugo Chavez is a poor substitute for the USSR, and the threat of terrorism just doesn't seem immediate or severe enough in the absence of continuing attacks on American soil to maintain the sense of embattlement widely enough for this conservative appeal to be politically successful.

One purpose of an alliance is to bring like minded people together to accomplish some good. The pro-life movement's embrace of torture wouldn't have been so bad had its advocacy on abortion (and to a lesser extent ESCR and euthanasia) not been reduced to loudly complaining. While cathartic, it isn't a path forward. The pro-life agenda's co-opted agenda is moving forward though: be it war, torture, or unrestrained capitalism, at least when they were in control of the levers of power. Better to be homeless than to cheerlead that.

Your puzzlement is puzzling to me. A rhetoric of sovereign power and authority has been a hallmark, probably the most politically successful one, of the actually-existing modern conservative movement from the 1960s on.
I suppose that is fair enough, Cyrus. Under one narrative "movement" conservatism post 1960's has been just an abstracted "get tough" attitude directed at whatever was handy to get tough about: sort of the political equivalent of professional sports, especially football. A paper-thin abstracted ruggedness which is rugged about whatever, man.

As cynical as I am about movement conservatism, that is hard to swallow. But that doesn't mean it isn't true. Not that there aren't problems with that narrative, mind you, but it doesn't strike me as utterly implausible.

The right really needs to chasten and discipline this instinct of reaction and refusal,

Maximos, forgive me if I say that I think the first people who need to apply this to themselves are the friends you cite in the main post. Translate it to, "The paleo-right really needs to chasten and discipline this instinct of reaction and refusal..." After all, where did Fleming's pro-choice talk come from if not from a reflexive hatred of those d--ned neocons? Honestly, this seems to me like a classic case of physician heal thyself. Why forgive your friends for saying "goodbye" to the pro-life movement in what you admit was an arational reaction but have no forgiveness or even understanding for the conservatives who react in favor of torture when they are told that the only other option is to savage their friends and join the Obama-ites in hunting down their fellow conservatives?

Cyrus, if you think the threat of Islamic terrorism is just some sort of projection of the Other dreamed up by warmongering movement conservatives who need somebody to "get tough" on, you are mistaken. Don't listen to him, Zippy. :-)

Lydia, I've already articulated my criticisms of the reactive tendencies of the paleo right, with which I generally identify, and have complained more generally about the conservatism of aversion, according to which any policy position or theoretical construct advanced by the left is intrinsically suspect, not by virtue of its substance, but by virtue of the fact that a leftist has pushed it forward.

As regards the difference in my attitudes towards various groups or factions, there is a difference between abandonment and embrace. Abandoning a noble cause may be construed as a sin of omission, let's say, but the active embrace of an evil is something else altogether. Besides, prosecution of some of the torturers would not constitute any sort of witch hunt, let alone of conservatives; it is not witch-hunting to demand accountability in terms of actually-existing statutory law and precedent, and treaty obligations, and John Yoo and Jay Bybee are conservatives in no sense that I'm obligated to acknowledge. The Bush administration is neither conservative nor the conservative movement, and it is no threat to genuine conservatism to contemplate holding them accountable for running the Constitution through a shredder.

Maximos:

Er, no. I've argued that some opposing opinions should be withheld voluntarily when contingent circumstances suggests such reticence as prudent.
Maximos, if you believe this, and if you believe that
It is quite pointless to insist upon pressing truths, real or imagined, that your interlocutors are unprepared to receive.
then you ought not have written this post in my opinion, because it seems that there are contingent circumstances suggesting the prudence of withholding your own opinion in the face of interlocutors who are unprepared to receive the truths you are pressing.

If I understood what you meant correctly, surely you can see that continuing these discussions, for the very considerations you cite, is counterproductive. And I don't mean this as a "gotcha!" but sincerely.

Maximos, I perhaps shouldn't be surprised at your "the Bush-ites aren't conservatives anyway" response to objections to the Obama admin's seeking prosecutions (how widespread?), but I am just a little. It seems like such a bad argument. I'm astonished that you can't see how it's asking way too much of conservatives to join with the Obama admin (for goodness sake) in prosecuting lawyers for their advice, etc., from the previous administration. And if this thing goes far enough, how can you be so sure that none of the people caught up in the net will be conservatives in some real and recognizable sense? Or is that just a definitional matter for you?

Advice? Asserting executive powers nowhere countenanced in the Constitution, in order to facilitate acts contrary to statutory law, precedent, and treaty obligations is merely providing legal advice? Please. The violation of the Constitutional order was as manifest as it would have been had the administration requested a legal rationale for, say, rescinding First Amendment protections, and it is the responsibility of an attorney or counselor, not simply to serve as the advocate for his client's interests, but to do so within, and subordinate to, the law - in this case, the Constitution, under which the President is not the Schmittean sovereign who decides upon the exceptions to the laws.

Conservatives who argue for untrammeled executive power, or, in point of fact, any sort of untrammeled power, are not conservative insofar as they argue for practical or theoretical traducements of subsidiarity, which is precisely what this chicanery was in the terms of American federalism, our native form of subsidiarity. To the extent that they agitate for this sort of thing, they are not conservative, though they may be quite orthodox on other counts.

Albert, there is a difference between refraining from pressing a point upon the obstinate when the circumstances include adverse political repercussions, and doing the same when circumstances do not.

I suppose that is fair enough, Cyrus. Under one narrative "movement" conservatism post 1960's has been just an abstracted "get tough" attitude directed at whatever was handy to get tough about: sort of the political equivalent of professional sports, especially football. A paper-thin abstracted ruggedness which is rugged about whatever, man.
To claim that this is the only reason for the former political success of movement conservatism is to go too far, and even to the extent that it is true, some things really do demand a strong hand. Crime demanded a strong hand. The Soviet Union demanded a strong hand. So does terrorism. And such policies are popular, too, if people can be convinced that the threat they are intended to combat is sufficiently severe.
Cyrus, if you think the threat of Islamic terrorism is just some sort of projection of the Other dreamed up by warmongering movement conservatives who need somebody to "get tough" on, you are mistaken.
I don't think that Islamic terrorism is just that. Islamic terrorism is real, bloody, and dangerous. But seven years on from 9/11, it lacks the immediacy of rampant street crime c. 1979, or the apocalyptic finality of thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads. Thus it has not continued to be sufficient to motivate support for politicians who espouse aggressive policies against terrorism but whose other positions are mostly unpopular. The American people, to the extent that such a thing exists, don't like government austerity and love feminism and the sexual revolution. They will only support a party that is lukewarm or opposed to these things if it supplies other compelling reasons to do so, and the threat of terrorism isn't working that well anymore. Republicans can't convincingly promise competence or realism in government like they could twenty years ago, or even integrity, like they could running against Clinton.
In truth, whether we are all educated or not (having taken Philo 101 or hold a doctorate in it) we all lack humility--

AMEN.

If anything, Tony's comments seems to evoke for me the image of Francis Bacon on steroids (except absent the profoundity and Bacon's utilization of Latin idiom and phrase) insofar as his comments on the abysmal state of education of the masses is concerned.

At the very least, Maximos, in spite of his seemingly lofty eloquence and mistaken notion that he was formerly conservative in the traditional (origianl) sense, was at least merciful in his regard for such folks and, more importantly, the common populace.

Maximos,

Advice? Asserting executive powers nowhere countenanced in the Constitution, in order to facilitate acts contrary to statutory law, precedent, and treaty obligations is merely providing legal advice? Please.

You mean to say there is also precedent to rely upon concerning stateless enemies such as our beloved terrorists and that even in the past, we've handled such enemy combatants who typically crashed civilian airliners into towering buildings in densely populated cities, right on American soil???

Really, really?

I didn't know all our 9/11 worries and issues could have been so easily resolved by a simple reliance upon precedent!

On 9/11, Bush should've simply made a call to you since apparently you've found all the answers to those (and even current) worries concerning subsequent terrorist attacks & the prevention thereof by mere reliance on such things as this!

IOW: Puhleeeze!

The problem with prosecutions, it seems to me, is not that they would occur, about which have been largely ambivalent, but how they would inevitably occur. That is just some kind of prudential minefield, as Lydia reminded me in another thread.

I'd like to see Yoo and company disbarred and prohibited from ever practicing or teaching law again though. They are an embarrassment to ambulance chasers.

Ari, the relevant statutes and precedents are those under which the torture regime, and the specific practices thereof, would be considered criminal offenses.

Maximos,

The underlying issue concerning the specific handling of terrorists is not quite as simple as you would make it to appear.

These are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill criminals.

More precisely, they are mass murderers bent on pulling off yet another 9/11, contrary to the belief of certain liberal factions who would make such a prospect appear nothing more than mere fiction.

In addition to their apprehension, there is also the equally, if not, more significant task of extracting life-saving information to save populations of innocents.

I will just say this much: We need to be girding our loins and fighting what's coming down the pike...

Don't we have other things, even, more urgent things, to focus on than tearing each other to pieces over who is to blame for the election of Obama? He's in, guys, and we're for it--hanging separately for sure if we don't hang together.

Preach it, Lydia!

Even if the choir isn't listening to anythng but their own voices.

Whoops, that second line should have been italicized too -- those were Lydia's wise words, not mine.

Max, why stop with Bush, why not go back to Coolidge, come on guy, you're on a roll, long term and fixated but a roll.
" Torture regime", three muslim murderers getting water boarded do not a regime make, or if they do we could pause and ask what came of it to the benefit of other human lives and safety. Or would that be a temporary roadblock to your hand wringing, a muddying of the waters, a consideration not to be even briefly entertained as something that might delay you mounting the soap box yet again to denounce the real enemy, Republicans & conservatives.

A nod towards who and what these murderers were might also prove a hindrance, I mean really, cutting off an American's head with a dull knife? How tasteless! But we can't let that slow us down as we retreat to the past to belabor the GOP, right on cue from Obama.

Be careful where you go with this this and how long you take your poses with it. Obama could and probably will show himself to be more than just the low life liar and collectivist thug he has already shown ample evidence of being. Some of your admirers may then wonder about your judgment, which I daresay would only be the beginning.


Maximos,

I think this post boils down to the fact that you (and I guess Zippy) really, really think that Iraq wasn't just a bad idea (e.g. like Lydia) but that it was ILLEGAL and maybe even MORALLY WRONG and therefore anyone who argues otherwise, like John Yoo (shame on you for treating him and his serious scholarship as if he was some two-bit ambulance chaser) or us neocons, or even someone like Ed Feser, who just might think it's not OBVIOUS that waterboarding KSM 183 times; or 5 different times, but counting each splash of water as a separate time; or however many times is not just misguided or open to argumentation, but instead worthy of your contempt and dismissal. Which I guess I can understand, in a warped, you are standing up for your principles kind of way; but you are also making a practical argument. And that argument suggests that the pro-life movement is in danger of losing support among the American people because it is (will continue to be?) associated with Bush and torture. But I think Lydia's point speaks to this practical concern -- while you and your friends run off to read the latest Huffington Post article on why John Yoo is a bad person, Obama and his "Party of Death" administration will go on implementing all sorts of bad public policy inimical to the pro-life movement, to traditional Christian believers and to the moral fiber of America.

John Yoo's role in this isn't contemptible because he thought the Iraq war was justified. Lots of people thought and even still think the Iraq war was justified. They are wrong, in my view, but not contemptible on that account. Yoo's role in this is contemptible because of this, among other things.

Anyone who left the prolife movement over the Bush Administration, or the odd, eccentric stands of modern conservatism was never in the prolife movement to begin with. Unless of course, you mistake voting and blogging as forms of witness.

So it turns out that 60-65 members of Congress, both parties, were fully, repeat. fully briefed on this, including a woman in the running for the title of World's Worst Moron, Nancy Pelosi. Now where we on the perdition of Bush & the GOP thing ?
Same place I guess as on the NSA program and the horrible Gitmo thing, doing rapid thought alteration exercise with the help of the media.
But I have to move on, to spend the afternoon in meditation, seeking the reasoning, the suggestion, that somehow there is a contradiction between "torturing" three muslim savages and despairing over 30-35 million abortions, live lost, I would think more irreversible than water boarding.
Odd the things people get excited over when they are told to be excited, downright perverse at times.

In the meantime maybe a few e mails to Nancy Pelosi may be in order. As Max thundered "TORTURE" so Pelosi as well should be brought to account.

In the meantime maybe a few e mails to Nancy Pelosi may be in order. As Max thundered "TORTURE" so Pelosi as well should be brought to account.

That is fine by me. To the extent that there was bipartisan collusion I would like to see them all held to account.

Watched the whole John Yoo video cited by Zippy above.

Came away with much contempt for the show-boating congressman Ellison.

But couldn't quite see why I'm supposed to get on the "we hate Yoo!" bandwagon because of this. Seems to me that he's responding exactly as one would expect him to, under the circumstances - i.e., under the very real threat of political persecution & prosecution for his legal views.

But, then, I thought Robert Bork turned in an absolutely *terrific* performance, under rather similar circumstances, lo these many years ago. And we all know how *that* turned out. So what do I know?

It's sad to me that my brothers and sisters on the left have taken this opportunity to try to slam the right while leaving logic and reason behind him.

Proportionality is key here. I don't know the numbers, but I'm guessing 'dozens' of suspects were 'tortured' in g'tmo and elsewhere. Worst case maybe 'hundreds'. Democrat and Republican leaders, Liberals and Conservatives alike especially Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have authorized and promoted the death warrants of *millions* of the unborn through abortions, embryonic stem cell research, and other devices.

So you say "For this we sold our souls", I say, the left has happily promoted all sorts of atrocities and society-killing behaviors. Frankly, torture of 'dozens' of detainees is quite low on the list of sins this country will have to answer for. Heck, more than a century's-worth of allowing of advertisement and promotion of tobacco use in the media has done far greater harm than torture ever will, but still even fails to accomplish what the Left's promotion of abortion has done in just a paltry ~40 years.

You can and the rest of the liberal thought police may proclaim that harsh interrogations are torture but that doesn't make them so

The definition of torture used in the 2002 Yoo memo: "These statutes suggest that to constitute torture 'severe pain' must rise to a similarly high level -- the level that would ordinarily be associated with a physical condition or injury sufficiently serious that it would result in death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions."

During the extensive waterboarding of Zubaydah and KSM there was apparently some sort of mishap, after which the guidelines were changed so that a physician with a tracheotomy kit was required to be at hand to monitor the procedure. So it seems the result of death is a possibility, which means that by Yoo's own definition waterboarding is torture.

I expect that many people just don't understand what waterboarding is, or quite possibly want to not understand it, given the many ridiculous descriptions which are used rhetorically ("splashing water on the face", "harsh interrogation" etc). Just as strappado (from which one detainee died, when combined with a severe beating) is often euphemistically referred to under the rubric of "stress positions". Another popular one is "cold cells", and of course we've had at least one detainee death from hypothermia. The CIA destroying the videotapes of the actual waterboarding sessions was a brilliant piece of PR and legal maneuvering, at least in terms of permitting the choir to still preach to itself, since I doubt that the choir could remain so sanguine given actual video of what was actually done.

Waterboarding involves suffocating a prisoner with water until he literally begins to drown, stopping just short of killing him, and doing so repeatedly, with no way for him to call off the process, until he tells you what you want to hear. It does indeed carry with it the risk of death (even the one-time trainerboarding done to SERE trainees, who can call it off at any time, carries risk: and it isn't obvious that we should be doing that either, though it is obvious that it is dramatically different from what is done to actual prisoners). I have much more respect for an interlocutor who describes it as it actually is and then argues that it is OK anyway than I do for the tergiversating nonsense about it not being torture, or not being torture in "some new normative sense," or about it being "harsh interrogation" or whatever. Give me a freaking break.

We've called it water torture for a few thousand years, and the only reason to stop calling it water torture now is to beg the question.

Oh, and I absolutely think that (and Maximos dealt with in his post) (1) abortion is by far, by many orders of magnitude even, a greater proportional wrong in our society at large and (2) the Demoncrats involved in torture are not only just as guilty, but in fact are more guilty, to the extent they not only supported this but now are trying to make political hay with it as if they had not. "The Left is worse" is not an argument that moves me, in the slightest, because it is just obviously true, is a given in everything I say, and is something I reiterate publicly from time to time.

This embrace of torture among political conservatives may be more dangerous in the long run in part because torture-consequentialism and abortion-consequentialism feed off of each other though: torture consequentialism undermines the capacity for principled resistance to abortion consequentialism, and in this case undermines it among those who are most committed to resisting abortion consequentialism.

We've called it water torture for a few thousand years, and the only reason to stop calling it water torture now is to beg the question.

Something I've already acknowledged several times, if by "torture" you mean "inflicting severe bodily or psychological harm." Yes, it's obviously torture in that sense.

But would you also claim that it's been regarded, for thousands of years, as intrinsically immoral when inflicted on someone guilty of serious crimes? Presumably not, because it hasn't been. But that's what's at issue. You can equivocate relentlessly on the word "torture" all you want. You can make fun of the "new normative sense" talk and you can up the chutzpah factor by accusing your opponents of "begging the question." But none of this an argument makes.

BTW, nothing in what I've said about the moral status of inflicing pain for the purposes of extracting life-saving information from a terrorist hinges on waterboarding. Suppose for the sake of argument that waterboarding is absolutely the worst thing in the world, so horrible that it would be disproportionate to inflict it even on Hitler for the purposes of finding out when and where the last genocidal cyanide drop is going to happen. That might be the case. But that would not settle the question of whether inflicting some much lesser but still severe pain, via some other method, for the purposes of extracting life-saving information from a terrorist, would be either (a) in principle morally permissible, or (b) morally permissible in practice even if permissible in principle. But that is the key question I, and Akin and Harrison and others, have been concerned about. That is the specific question we have argued has not yet been answered by the Magisterium. None of us carries a brief for waterboarding per se. Indeed, I don't carry a brief for anything at all (I have said many times that this practice should not be used unless and until the Magisterium rules on the question). Not anything at all, that is, except the right of loyal Catholics not to have their motives and their moral character questioned by someone who still cannot bring himself even to represent their arguments fairly, and who has done precisely Zip to answer those arguments. Guess that's why they call ya Zippy.

BTW, go ahead and have the last word on this here and now, 'cause I have no interest in inflicting the severe pain of another pointless round-and-round on this on our readers. Nor any time, with a new baby coming any day now.

But would you also claim that it's been regarded, for thousands of years, as intrinsically immoral when inflicted on someone guilty of serious crimes?
I've never claimed that. In fact the Magisterium herself has never clarified in detail, until the publication of Veritatis Splendour, what "intrinsically immoral" means. (The encyclical says as much itself).

What I've claimed is that waterboarding a prisoner for information 183 times in five sessions is clearly and unequivocally immoral torture. For Catholics, that requires recognizing that it is torture and recognizing that the Church now, despite past practices specifically and explicitly repudiated in the Catechism (2298), which (unlike say Ad Extirpanda) is addressed to the Universal Church by the Supreme Pontiff, condemns it. It doesn't require a philosophy degree; in fact, it is entirely possible that a philosophy degree is an impediment on the particular point.

But that would not settle the question of whether inflicting some much lesser but still severe pain, via some other method, for the purposes of extracting life-saving information from a terrorist, would be either (a) in principle morally permissible, or (b) morally permissible in practice even if permissible in principle.

Sure.

But that is the key question I, and Akin and Harrison and others, have been concerned about.
And I'm fine with prominent Catholics discussing those questions publicly, as long as they take the necessary prudential caution beforehand of stipulating that what we actually did - waterboarding prisoners for information - was, unequivocally, immoral torture. Because I've been watching that kind of public discussion, that public casuistry, get misused for six years.

Congrats on the new little one, BTW. I didn't know. And yeah, to heck with Internet discussions etc when it comes to the important stuff.

Thank you, Zippy. God bless you.

You too Ed, and the family, and especially the newest little Feser.

I had not read a description of "waterboarding" until scanning this site. Now that I have, I find it incomprehensible that any Christian could possibly defend its use!

Additionally, I am convinced that the ONLY result of using torture on our enemies is to make them hate us more. We will convince them of our hypocrisy, we will obliterate the face of Christ from their vision, and make it all the more difficult for them to believe that ours is a religion of love.

And when they leave our prisons, (if they are allowed to leave alive) they will be filled with a deeper zeal to destroy us and everything we stand for!

Zippy,

I just want to apologize for using the phrase "splash of water", as you are totally correct to suggest it is misleading and inappropriate phrase to describe waterboarding. Again, let me state for the record, you -- more than anyone else, although the Hitch has been an influence -- have convinced me that waterboarding is immoral torture and although I still don't get as worked up about the issue as you do, I was wrong in my thinking about the moral issues involved.

It is still frustrating to read your commentary on the subject, because you tend to slip in other opinions that have nothing to do with waterboarding (and other criminal incidents of prisoner abuse), for example the idea that the Iraq War was "illegal". But I'm glad you and Ed can end the discussion on a friendly note and I'm glad to stand with you (and others) in the future to make sure we stop using torture on prisoners:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/1562560,CST-EDT-hitch07.article

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.