Torture: Do Ends Justify Means?

With the disclosure of confidential memoranda discussing the permissible limits of aggressive interrogation of terrorist suspects, the Obama administration has thrust the issue of torture back into the public domain.

In response, former Vice President Dick Cheney proposed that subsequent government documents be released which, he claims, will reveal the fruits or benefits of these techniques which he deems to have been successful as a matter of homeland security.

As I understand Mr. Cheney, he seems to be arguing that even if the subject practices were something like torture, and they prevented a serious terrorist attack on the United States, this would be justification for having used them. While I have no particular objection to releasing this additional material, I do not find this line of moral reasoning compelling at all.

The former Vice President is arguing, essentially, that the ends justify the means.

Others have taken up this argument with gusto from the opposite perspective. This past week National Public Radio ran a story on interrogation techniques that worked and those that did not. It compared Army interrogation techniques to the CIA’s harsher approach and found the former to be more effective. I have no idea who has the better of this argument as a factual matter. But, again, this line of reasoning begs the fundamental moral question as to the licit or illicit nature of “enhanced interrogation”. I certainly hope that the morally benign approach is more effective, but it really is irrelevant to the question of the moral status of torture per se.

I have long resisted the idea that American officials would san ction torture for any reason. As a youngster I perceived that it was always the Gestapo or the KGB who did such things. I also recall the debate in France over torture during the Algerian War which tore that country apart and, at least to some degree, contributed to its withdrawal from Algeria.

That “the ends never justify the means” is one of those foundational principles drilled into any person who has had a morally serious education, evidently an increasingly rare thing in the United States these days. Certainly circumstances can lead to a sympathetic or indulgent attitude to any given situation or person utilizing intrinsically evil practices; but that is a long way from justification, approval or the setting of basic government policy.

The toughest case for me was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My father was stationed in Europe, waiting to ship out to the Pacific when those bombings occurred. Many defend these actions to this day on the grounds that the avoidance of blood lost in trying to invade Japan was well worth the cost.

Again, while sympathizing with the agony of the decision facing President Truman, I never could reconcile myself to the mass destruction of civilian, noncombatant populations, no matter how militarized Japanese society may have been at the time. I simply could not reconcile such actions with any version of the Just War Theory dating back to St. Augustine. It was simply beyond the Pale.

Reviewing the list of interrogation tactics and governing practices sanctioned by the US Justice Department back in 2002, waterboarding is the practice which clearly qualifies as torture for me and most people.

For several years now I had harbored an abhorrence of waterboarding, having heard from Viet Nam veterans of its use during that war. More recently, Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair in which he tells of his submission to the practice to gain an existential insight into the practice. Hitchens is adamant in maintaining that waterboarding does not simulate drowning. It is drowning. I think he has that right.

Considering slapping, “walling”, sleep deprivation and other tactics, tough practices all, I could not say for sure, that such techniques amounted to torture in an objective sense of the term — until I read how these techniques, as well as waterboarding, were used multiple times over a prolonged period of time. The practices relied on the fear and uncertainty of the subject on the receiving end of an extended barrage of such practices. They fell short, say, of branding or electrocution or other horrendous things that human beings have done to each other. Still, I would be extremely upset if an American soldier was subjected to similar treatment at the hands of the enemy. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Waterboarding seemed to me to comport with what most human beings perceive or understand to be “torture”. Reasonable people will disagree on many of the other techniques, depending on their severity and intensity of application; but waterboarding is the real thing.

Without getting into the legal complexity of how we as a country define torture, most citizens presume it to be not a mere municipal matter but one of moral substance.

Which brings us back to ends and means. Saving a city from a large-scale terrorist attack is a good thing. However, does it justify serious, inherently immoral or intrinsically evil means to achieve that end? Cheney and others who support him on this issue seem to think so without saying so. They fail to make explicit their view that the ends justify the means given their focus on showing the benefit, or lack of benefit, of “enhanced interrogation” in terms of successfully avoiding an attack.

I, for one, would have preferred hearing the former Vice President engage the question of what is, or is not, “torture” rather than whether or not it serves a utilitarian function. Assuming that the ends can redeem an immoral means is dangerous, a slippery moral slope which can cause otherwise sane people to justify the most horrendous practices. Why stop with torturing the subject at hand? What if you could lay hands on a terrorist’s wife and children? Would it be all right to subject them to abuse, mistreatment, torture or even death to bring pressure to bear on a recalcitrant suspect? Where, as they say, does it all end?

There is hardly an inhumane or immoral act which cannot be justified for some supposedly greater good: carpet bombing of cities, euthanasia, abortion, abridgement of civil liberties, lying under oath. In this sense torture is no different. You may argue about what is or is not torture, but you cannot justify the thing itself without abandoning the fundamental principles of a just and moral social order.

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  • unclefrank

    The author makes some good points. I have been struggling with this whole argument for some time. I still question whether it is just to offend the dignity of one man in order to preserve the dignity of 100′s or 1000′s of others…Mr. Hitchens is not a credible source by any stretch, so that hurts your argument. I look forward to comments from lay and religious on this post.

  • delynn

    Ends simply never justify the means.

    It might appear that our country’s use of torture is related to our fear, therefore, is an act of bullying. I would not be surprised to find out that anyone could admit to anything just to stop being tortured.

    Also, it has been suggested that our “culture of death” mentality is directly related to our involvement in nuclear weapons and their use. Perhaps if we can destroy the whole world, and we maintain the weapons able to do that, then we already have committed mass murder by intent. Abortion, torture, and all the rest are the direct consequence.

    Popes have spoken out against all of this. So have our bishops.

  • plowshare

    Not long ago, I read an argument that torture could be morally justifiable in circumstances such as the following hypothetical case.

    A weapon of mass destruction is hidden somewhere in a city. We have a captive who knows where it is but refuses to divulge the information. He will die anyway from the weapon, so the only way we can get the information from him is to subject him to torture.

    We need to think seriously of similar possibilities. Just as capital punishment is still occasionally justifiable in localities without secure means of incarceration, so torture might be justifiable in such extreme cases.

    As to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s a no-brainer in hindsight. The bombs could have been dropped on purely military targets, or even on uninhabited mountaintops overlooking a pair of major cities, and the message would not have been lost on a Japan which had seen massive destruction of civilian targets by conventional bombs. It is only extreme scenarios like the one I mentioned above that cause difficulty for moral philosophers.

  • MICHAEL

    I think the question is actually much broader than what the author has presented. Sure in simplest terms, any moral or decent person would say that tirture and perhaps even the “intent” of torture is wrong and immoral. But life is not that simple and answers are not that black and white.

    Perhaps this is veering off topic somehat but I find the Obama position on torture in light of his anti-life abortion policy to be entirely disingenuous. How can an administration say that torture of a human being is evil and morally wrong, yet killing an unborn (and in the viewpoint of Mr. Obama) a partially born baby somehow not evil and morally acceptable?

    I believe the context of torture from a Catholic perspective should be examined in the light of the Church’s Just War doctrine. If one view terrorists in the subtext of a war then we should examine the Just War statement below :

    The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
    *the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    *all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    *there must be serious prospects of success;
    *the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine. I think we can easily subsititue “just war” with torture tactics and develop a similar approach from a Christian perspective. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    Now, perjaps this is part of the resaon Mr. Cheney wanted all information released so that resaonable people could use prudent judgment on the moral legitimacy in very certain and specific cases where torture was used.

    It is certainly plausible that specific terrorists involved in acts or who had information met the conditions outlined above.

  • goral

    At this point the topic of torture is being tortured and all for the political gain of team Obama.

    There is a combattant who fights under military command.
    There is a combattant who plots mayhem and carnage under no identifiable command with whom no negotiations are possible.
    Please make that distinction

    The question is not do ends justify means – the answer to all who uphold human dignity is obvious.
    The question is can a legitimate governing body “abandon the fundamental principles of a just and moral social order” by allowing anyone to disrupt this order in any manner they wants to.
    Our gov’t is entrusted with the responsibility to stop the person strapped with a bomb from boarding a city bus. If his wife knows this then she must tell us, period.

    Not all of us can think clearly on this topic.
    We have laws and guidelines that are sensible, enforce them and leave security to those who know it, not to those who want to make political hay.

  • joanspage

    The last two coments illustrate what happens when you choose your party’s position over the church’s as well as Pelosi’s statements on abortion do.

    In both cases the supporters of an immoral act seek to justify it but dubious arguements.

    Pro-choice pols seek to muddy waters by saying you can’t legislate morality when most crimes ared crimes because society views them because they are a threat to moral order and the social order. Another tactic is to distort history and theology, as Pelosi did.

    Now comes Cheney saying torture works and may prevent attacks.

    If I am hungry and broke, stealing food works. If I want out of my marriage, killing my spouse works. E4u8tinizes the old and disabled would save billions. All these acts work; none are moral.

    But does torture work well? One guy weas turtued something like 185 times. If there is a bomb on a bus, you don’t have time to torture 185 times.

    So I want not only “sensible” laws but just and I will look to the Church, not my party for moral guidance.

  • waynergf

    Yes, “As to Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” it was a no-brainer, then…and now. If you’ll research the historical record, you’ll find that indeed “the message” *was* lost on a Japan which had seen massive destruction of civilian targets by conventional bombs. The ruling military junta *was* continuing the war after all the “conventional” destruction and death, and had voted 3-3 after the *second* atom bomb was dropped on whether to surrender. The emperor had to break the tie in favor of surrender, and even then there was a plot hatched to take over the government and continue the fighting!

    Estimates of casualties from an invasion of Japan ranged up to and over 500,000 – and those were allied losses. Estimated Japanese killed or wounded ranged up to a million or more…way more than were killed by the two bombs. Explain to me the difference between death by conventional means and death by atomic bomb.

  • http://www.fatimashrine.com Peter M. Calabrese

    Great articel! I agree almost 100% on this.
    To me I think we must admit that waterboarding is torture and that we have done it. Worse we have seen the debate flow to a utilitarian caluculus rather than a moral examination of actions.

    The statement about treatment of American soldiers is interesting. True all of the enhanced techniques would be illegal on a uniformed US soldier and I hope we would never see any of these done to them nor would we do do them to any soldier. The three men upon whom enhanced interrogations were used were not soldiers they were operating well outside the bounds of uniformed legal combat. They were acting in reality as intelligence agents who know very well they are not covered by the protections of uniformed military persons under the Geneva Convention. I don’t think that the other enhanced techniques, if used in the manner the memos outlined, would consitute torture though they would certainly be illegal for POW’s. That said we can never justify violating their human rights under any circumstances.

  • MICHAEL

    Joan- I’m not sure what two posoers you were referencing, but in my reply I never gave any mention that support of torture was tied to a political party. The dubious argument that you appear to reference is actualy from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now, it certainly can be debated if torture of SOME indivisuals by a just and prudent government meets the criteria, but the argument itself I believ is sound. To compare the Church’s Jusr War Doctrine found in the CCC to Pelosi’s (and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians) personal interpretation is simply not valid. Pelosi, et al have no sound argument at all from the Catholic Church perspective on abortion as the Church has decalred it an instrinsic eveil. The Church has not done the same on war or the death penalty. In these two cases as in the case of torture, the Church allows for prudent judgement with a set of specific criteria to examine. This has nothing to do with any ploitics or political party affiliation.

    For argument sake, looking at your example, if you want out of your marriage because your spouse inflicts harm on you or your children and you take action to protect yourself and children that results in the death of the spouse, is that an immoral act?

  • jvista

    I appreciate Mr. Mehan’s humility. I also appreciate goral for his most relevant comments.

    For those about to start typing “I think…”, STOP. First ask yourself: Have I ever worn the uniform of the United States military?

    If yes, then: Have I been deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan since 9/11?

    If you cannot answer either in the affirmative…then remember that YOU WERE NOT THERE. With this in mind, I suggest you choose your words wisely.

    Consider listening to Thomas Sowell: http://townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell/2009/05/12/talking_points?page=1

  • joanspage

    I am Joan’s Page, a man.

    If all else fails, killing an abusive is nhot immoral. But it has to be viewed as a tragic necessarity, not something to be proud of as Cheney is of torture.

    I do not quite buy it when we say abortoin is always but torture can be moral.

    Also, I th9ink there are better ways.

  • reachrai

    “Didn’t you learn anything from the nuns?” a lecturing Henican shouted at O’reilly on the topic of the ‘torture’. “Do you really believe that the end justifies the means?”. I am not surprised when the Henican ‘catholic’ type of debaters use that argument; but on CE I would expect a little more discernment.
    Those who recoil at the ‘ends-justify-the-means’ doctrine purport to explain that in essence the doctrine is ipso facto machiavellianism – a term identified by the church doctrine withdeception and immorality in politics.
    So, what could be more at variance with the church approach than justifying something so wrong as ‘torture’?
    There is only one problem with that picture: framing the problem in those terms reflects the abysmal level of confusion which governs the public debate today.
    Believe it or not the church subscribes to a variant of the ‘ends-justify-the-means’ doctrine!
    Provided the end is moral, the means – no matter how unpleasant – must be PROPORTIONATELY judged in relation to the end (or greater good).
    That is why we have a doctrine of just war (the examples here could be multiplied ad libitum).
    The problem with the doctine of the author of “Il Principe” and the “Discorsi sopra la prima decade di Tito Livio” is that it attempted to separate politics from morality – and, because of that, it set itself in antithesis with the church doctrine.
    The objection to the ‘ends-justify-the-means’ doctrine [CORRECTLY UNDERSTOOD] is the pavid ‘slippery slope’ rebuttal; an argument unfortunately made even by many catholics.
    We seem to ignore that in everything there is a slippery slope. There is no avoiding that risk. The only remedy is keeping morality within society. No law – as egregious and nicely framed – can be a substitute for social morality.
    (“Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
    John Adams).
    In conclusion:
    - Granted that I abhor waterbording as much as any of you
    - Granted that other less barbarous avenues should be thoroughly explored b/f
    even thinking of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as waterboarding
    I ask you: if it is established that no other option other than waterboarding exists, would you refrain from using it on the like of Mohamed Atta knowing that by using it you can prevent the children in a kindergarden [include your own child among them] from being tortured and killed?
    Not a highly fantastic scenario, mind you. It already happened in Russia by the end of the chechnyan muslim terrorists.

    I do not think St. Thomas Aquinas could ever have envisioned that a time would come when we have to ask qustions like that among catholic minded people.

    Thank you for your attention and God Bless

  • Paul

    joanspage,
    Although the ends do not justify the means there is an overriding moral law in some cases consider your point on stealing: “If I am hungry and broke, stealing food works. If I want out of my marriage, killing my spouse works. E4u8tinizes the old and disabled would save billions. All these acts work; none are moral.”;
    the Catechism has this to say (and some might object that a destitute person has the right to take food from a market and they would likely be arrested if caught):

    2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others. 191

    This is why there are some real gray areas in moral thinking and why there is reasonable disagreement among theologians on both sides of the topic. Just war theory would seem to fit as closely to the topic as any for it all depends on the definition of what really constitutes torture.

  • guitarmom

    I have heard more than one member of the military state that they were waterboarded was a part of their military TRAINING. One went so far as to say he wonders why people claim it’s torture when used on an enemy combatant, but no one is protesting that it’s used as a part of military preparation.

    Dick Cheney himself has called waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique.” He does not view it as torture. It is unfair for us to state that Dick Cheney believes that “torture” is justifiable when he doesn’t believe that the United States has used torture against anyone. We may question whether or not Cheney SHOULD think of waterboarding as torture. That’s fair. But it is patently unfair to say that Cheney thinks TORTURE is justified.

    If our wonderful and brave military who have actually BEEN waterboarded can state that the technique is NOT torture, then I believe that Dick Cheney is standing on firm ground when he agrees with them.

    Attacks were stopped. If we’d been sweet and kind and merely asked nicely for information, those attacks would have occurred. Would that end have justified those means?

  • goral

    Joanspage, you gave your page away with this statement: “not something to be proud of as Cheney is of torture.”

    That’s a political party statement if I ever heard one.

  • elkabrikir

    Thank goodness I am just a lowly mother. In my jusristiction I mete out the same consequence for all those who won’t admit leaving their ice cream bowl under the couch. From the three year old to the 20 year old it’s…..off with your head.

    I rest easy at night knowing that ones who’s righteousness exceeds that of the pharasees are keeping my sleep peaceful.

    My snores are punctuated by fits of apnea when visions….almost a reality…..enter my head of dropping yet a third bomb on Japan to end the war.

    some of us get it…..mainly al quida and the Taliban types.

    Remember the Kohl! We’re at war! Remember the Marines in Lebanon! We’re at war! ……..
    ……..but who are the opposing solidiers? The Taliban knows.

    Let me bake cookies, then I’ll know too.

  • joanspage

    So if you don’t believe something is torture, then that’s good enough? Are you cutting him slack because of what hed believes or because of his party?

    It seems posters want to justify this but I wonder how many would cut Pelosi slack.

    Asnd I repeat a man was totured 185 times. Something is wrong there. Can’t you see it?

    Also the claim that had we not tortured we would not have stopped attacks is unprovable.

    What does torture do to the torturer? It cannot help but make him callous.

  • TxMomof9

    Can we agree that what one might view as torture another might not. I would not be bothered to be in a room with a caterpillar and I know that my 8 yr. old would love it. But for one who’s afraid of them it could be. Then there’s my teenagers who think I’m torturing them when I take away their phone. So my question is…is it? And if it is, to what degree of torture is it? I wonder if God is really opposed to all types and degrees of torture. If He is, I wonder what all that pain and suffer was I endured during childbirth?

  • MICHAEL

    We are not looking at the individual acts, but rather to the policy of torture, just war and abortion. For example a soldier could be involved in a war that could be decalred “just”, but this not give him carte blanche to comitt heinous acts. The same is true with this torture argument. I belive that there is a case to be made for “justifiable” torture but that does not give individuals the right to indiscriminately act. Again, I fail to see the comparison between the use of torture where justifiable and Pelosi’s and other CINO politcians support of abortion. It is without a doubt, that abortion is a grave and intrinsic evil. There is no gray area here and for madame Pelosi to suggest otherwise is fallacy.

  • frronfloyd

    Before entering seminary I was active in Republican circles in DC and my old spiritual director used to tell me, remember Ron not to confuse the party with the Church.

    I think we live in a very divisive and partisan age. Americans no longer share a common culture, i.e. we worship different gods, and as a result our political imaginations and perceptions do not provide an adequate lowest common denominator to move forward with a fruitful debate. Representitive democracy will not long last when we can’t agree on even fundamental principles.

    It use to be that killing a baby or hanging a captive man upside down and pouring water down his nose would be consider wrong; the first time, every time, all the time! Sure we were willing to fight an unjust aggressor and even to punish a criminal, but we would never accept the wholesale killing of innocents or the inhuman cruelty of torture. The proof that we have fundamentally changed as a society, and lost something that used to hold us together is in the 8th ammendment to the constitution. VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. The ammendment prohibits cruelty to the guilty, never mind cruelty to the possibly guilty or to those who “know too much,” are inconvenient, or unpleasant even if they didn’t do anything themselves. And yet whether in the case of abortion or torture this is what we are doing–we are being cruel because we think someone poses a danger to our life, our happiness, our plans.

    Whether its safety and security for our nation or the ability to “choose” not to be bothered with a living Child–the God that these positions represent is not the Christian God.

    Someone said that this debate is only helping the democrats, maybe that is true, because they have had 40 years to come to grips with the fact that their god is libertine hedonism whereas we are just now beginning that slippery slope.

    But unless Catholics and Christians wake up (and also Jews and Muslims and the rest) and realize that apologizing for the Republicans will only enable them to stray further from the path, then we will soon find American a country with two parties that are fundamentally opposed to God.

    You want to help the Republicans, and I do, call up your GOP rep and party boss and tell them as much as you are against abortion you are equally against torture. Tell them that torture is unacceptable and that the GOP needs to distance themselves from any and all that defend it. I wish some of my co-religionists had had the integrity to tell the democratic party this when faced with a choice between social justice and abortion back in the 70s. This debate is sapping the vigor from the Republican party, just as moral issues sapped the Democrats for the past 40, and its not going to get better until Republicans come to grips with who they are. The question is, who will they be if they don’t move away from supporting what everyone knows is torture?

  • waynergf

    There *was* no “almost a reality” of dropping a third bomb on Japan to end the war – the U.S. had two and used both. Not enough material (nor time) to make a third one. [ Gad, doesn't anyone read history? ]

    Had the emperor voted with the other three to continue the war after the second bomb, or the plot to overthrow Japan’s government succeeded, the allies *would have had to invade Japan and then we could have lamented the many, many, many more casualties – all by “conventinal” means.

  • elkabrikir

    waynergf,

    I didn’t literally mean “drop a third bomb” I was refering to the fact that it took TWO in the first place in order for Japan to surrender unconditionally. I was trying to make the point that Japan wa recalcitrant in refusing to surrendrer. Sorry for the confusion.

    Why is Obama so concerned with morals and truths and means and ends these days? In his book, as I learned in the CE article called Means and End and the Audacity to hope which ran March 27, the author quoted from the book;

    “Implicit…in the very idea of ordered liberty was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology…” And a page later, this: “The rejection of absolutism…has encouraged the very process…that allows us to make better, if not perfect, choices, not only about the means to our ends, but also about the ends themselves.” This pragmatism even about ultimate ends allows us, Obama continues, to escape “the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad.” I’m afraid that this is where I felt obliged to get off the train.

    Perhaps the man who is more righteous than the pharasees these days, is solidifying and pacifying his left wing base. Perhaps he’s massaging his socialist buddies in Europe so as to garner support for his socialist agenda.

    Certainly Pelosi “finding ethics/God” at this point is laughable given her proven involvement and knowlege of the US position.

    I clearly support having a rational discussion on the issue, however, PLLLLLLeeeeaaaasssseeee (please) don’t tell me Obama et al are taking some moral high ground.

    Sanctimonious posturing won’t protect our country. We’re at war, and not with conventional soldiers. Politicians must rise above their own petty selves and truly consider:

    What is torture? What is truth? Who is truth?

    thanks for the discussion. paul, guitarmom, goral, michael, jvista, wayne…I’ve got some thinking to do while I bake cookies for Osama bin Hiding a long time…..I’ll give you a cookie if you tell me where he is…..

  • goral

    Are you being silly, elkabrikir, or will you really give me a cookie if I divulge the hiding place (ahh!)

    Exactly right – “Sanctimonious posturing won’t protect our country” neither will it raise the discourse to the level where the differing factions can come together at the “lowest common denominator to move forward with a fruitful debate.”

    If D.C broke the law, he goes to jail. N.P. must also go to jail because she was briefed and agreed. B.O. must also go to jail because as a senator he knew and not only did nothing about it but never brought up the issue during the campaign so that the voters could ponder this “criminal” and “immoral” act.

    What’s not to like here. They’re in jail, democracy flourishes, Obama, I mean Osama is torture free and I get my cookie.

    Oh, he goes back and forth across the Pakistan, Afganistan, Kurdistan, Kazakstan and Satanstan border.

    More cookies, more info.

  • terrygeorge

    a decent enough intro to the particular situation from a personal viewpoint.

    however, the author’s explanation that ‘the ends does not justify the means’ is oversimplistically applied to the use of nuclear weaponry in ww2. first the author asserts that the mass destruction of civilian noncombatant populations by nuclear weaponry is irreconcilable, but does not address that the necessary alternative left, a military invasion, would likely have resulted in even greater destruction of civilian noncombatant populations. (similarly, not obtaining the unconditional surrender of japan would likely have resulted in an even more aggressive japan leading to ww3 1 generation later, as occurred with germany between ww1 and ww2).

    so the author rejects such destruction in analyzing one option but does not even consider it regarding the alternatives. that is illogical.

    and that lack of thourough thought in her analogy makes her further assertions regarding torture suspect of similar irrationality or incompleteness, as good as it may look otherwise.

    regarding mass destruction of civilian noncombatants, I wonder if the author applies the same logic to God’s commands to the Isrealites to entirely destroy the people’s occupying the promised land, as in the book of joshua. it seems there must be some exception there…

    offered sincerely, in the meeting of kindness and truth

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