Category Archives: Government

Reactions to Donald Trump’s Election

How do you feel about the election of Donald Trump?

On November 8, 2016, in a historic election, Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in a close and divisive election. We here at ConvergingMatters felt moved to comment on the election results, and we wanted to gather a variety of additional viewpoints as well. Each viewpoint will stand alone without cross responses.

antipas2Like a number of Americans, I’ve been in a continual state of shock over the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  It often seemed like he combined the worst of Americans into one persona and ran for President unabashedly. His blatant materialism, sexism, racism, xenophobia, arrogance, and more ran from amusing to unbelievable to terrifying. I have rarely been confident that he even believes in the value of democracy.

His unrepentant behavior and attitudes are diametrically opposed to the Bible.

I fear for what he has done to my community of faith. I do not see any evidence that he is a Christian, and in fact I see plenty that he is not. His unrepentant behavior and attitudes are diametrically opposed to the Bible. Yet, exit polls showed that 81% of white evangelical voters chose him. It’s remarkable that out of 5 candidates, two were vaguely spiritual (Johnson and Stein), one was essentially a “none” (Trump), one was a Mormon (McMullin), and one was a Methodist (Clinton). And so many Christians united behind Trump!

No single political party has a lock on Biblical positions. However, the white evangelical church has come to believe that to be a Christian is to be a Republican. They have concluded this on the basis of a few singular social issues while overlooking a wide range of other issues. I would go so far as to say that each party has a roughly equal proportion of “Biblical” values as non-Biblical values. If such a statement surprises you, ask yourself whether care for immigrants, the environment, and outrageous generosity toward the poor are Biblical values.

It goes deeper. When we as a church are willing to overlook an awful lot in favor of a few policies, we’ve lost something. We say “Yeah he’s a narcissistic proto-dictator with profound moral failures, but at least he’s pro-life!” Can you imagine a young woman using the same logic for a man? “Yeah he abuses me, but he’s great in bed!” “Yeah he cheats on me a lot, but it’s just because he’s so smart and funny!” We’d tell her to get out of that relationship immediately!

We have become so segregated from the world, and even from Christian brothers and sisters of other ethnicities.

I understand that Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular candidate with moral issues of her own. I share the concerns and do not even come close to agreeing with her on all the issues. I’d like to see a future where Christians are not heavily lopsided toward either party, but instead judge each candidate based on the quality of their character, experience, campaign, and stance on a variety of issues that are important to each person individually.

After the election, I saw an outpouring of emotion online from friends around the country who are different from me. I heard LGBTQ people, people of color, even women who had undergone abortions publicly expressing deep fears and pains over what was happening. I fear that the white evangelical church was deaf to those pains. We have become so segregated from the world, and even from Christian brothers and sisters of other ethnicities, that we think a Supreme Court nominee is all that matters. For a year, Trump has been saying that he was going to reclaim an America that had slipped away. That America no longer exists, and I don’t believe it should, because it wasn’t an America where all people were created in the image of God.

 – Antipas

 


Candide Image.jpegTrump was never my first choice. I found him arrogant, repugnant, and immature. I thought he was a wrecking ball, incapable of complex and nuanced policy positions. No campaign in history was run the way his was, and I thought presidential politics could be ruined forever if he won. But then I started listening.

I have never identified as conservative. In my younger days I was a strictly non-violent self-proclaimed socialist. I played punk rock and fought “the man.” I couldn’t support Bush’s interventionist war-profiteering. I felt answering death and destruction with more death and destruction was short-sighted, and could never align with my religious convictions.

As much as the millennial generation is maligned, they don’t want handouts, they want opportunities.

Today a libertarian lens colors my views. If you poll people around my age without using party labels, I’m not alone. They want to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, they want to help provide for the marginalized in our society, but they also want the dignity and fulfillment that comes with working a good job. As much as the millennial generation is maligned, they don’t want handouts, they want opportunities.

Recognizing our country is not ready to elect a Libertarian, I began to envision how each presidency would function. Trump, a former Democrat, will enter the office with the most libertarian policies of any president since the 1940s, many of which will be difficult to pass with a republican congress. But he built these policies because he heard a voice. This voice, that also fed Bernie’s campaign, came from average Americans. They never recovered from the great recession, they sent their loved ones to fight in near-constant war, and they felt the economy was rigged against them.

That voice saw Clinton as more of the same, and she saw them as the enemy. She called them deplorable, basement-dwellers, uneducated, racist, misogynist, and worse. She lamented them for voting “against their interests,” which may be the most condescending thing a politician can say to an electorate.

Where I felt Trump was a threat to decency, I felt Clinton was a threat to peaceful democracy.

But my reservations about Clinton were not her words. I dug through Wikileaks. I saw illegal coordination between the campaign and PACs. I saw the suppression of Bernie Sanders. I saw conversations with journalists in media allowing her campaign to cultivate their message. That’s propaganda. I saw that her state department foment violent uprisings in the Middle East, funding the generation of groups like ISIS, leading to the death and displacement of generations. I saw in 2009 she was against gay marriage, I saw her call inner-city black men “super predators.” I listened, in two separate nationally televised events, as she insouciantly called for taking military action against Russia for allegedly hacking the DNC emails. Provoking a nation to war that has the nuclear capacity to destroy the planet is reckless, at best.

I would have preferred a more polished and less obscene candidate to carry that voice’s message. I hurt for those in pain from this result. But where I felt Trump was a threat to decency, I felt Clinton was a threat to peaceful democracy. Today, I am relieved America made that difficult choice.

 – Candide

 


Thank you very much to our contributing authors:

  • Antipas – 31, male, white, Evangelical Christian, loves gardening
  • Aurelius – 30, male, white, atheist, liberal, solves math puzzles for fun
  • Candide – 30, male, white, Methodist, libertarian, has a Weimaraner named Daphne
  • Timotheos – 50, male, white, Evangelical Christian, VP with a European specialty foods company

Note: We are well aware that all four voices are white males. We are actively pursuing additional voices and plan a followup post in the coming days.

aureliusI was among the majority of Americans convinced Trump would never become president of the United States. Religiously following 538’s forecast showed me that Trump oscillated between a 10% and occasionally 50% chance of winning, stabilizing around 25%. I liked those odds. They’re the same odds as flipping heads twice in a row, which was unlikely enough for me to be comfortable with my and my family’s future. Now those two heads have landed and I’m in shock. Not because of the odds, which really weren’t that unlikely. I’m in disbelief in how we elected a man who brags about sexual assault, demeans women, may or may not want to ban an entire religion, and who feels like he has to call foul and sue anyone that disagrees with him or gets in his way. Half of the country just voted for this man.

The chief alternative was a career politician, a woman, who had high praise from both Democrats and Republicans who have worked with her. But, she has been battling scandals since entering the public light 25 years ago. Her main criticism leading up to the election was how she mismanaged her emails while Secretary of State. The FBI investigated her thoroughly, which didn’t result in any charges. Meanwhile, Trump managed to continually say and do things that would immediately obliterate any other candidate’s chances. Ignorant, sexist, racist, offensive remarks, met with simultaneous cheers, blind eyes, and disbelief.

The first president my kids will remember is this awful excuse for a man who cares more about the perceived size of his hands than preserving the fundamental religious freedom of our country.

Yet, the American people believed Trump when he said that she was the crooked one, she was the incompetent one, she didn’t have the right temperament. The facts reveal that the opposite is true. I was with her, and I’m proud to have voted for her. Now the first president my kids will remember is this awful excuse for a man who cares more about the perceived size of his hands than preserving the fundamental religious freedom of our country.

This man. This stain on human history. Yes, he will now be in our history books. We wrote him in.

He has promised to “Make America Great Again.” I sincerely hope that he and the other branches of government do so responsibly. The dark campaign he ran is inconsistent with my view of the country. I hope his campaign rhetoric was an attempt to court the previously uncourted, not a foreshadowing of the next 4-8 years. I think we are pretty great right now, and we should continue making progress. Continue to lower the unemployment rate by getting people to work at good-paying jobs, educate people without saddling them with debt, provide health services without burdening people with outrageous hospital bills, intervene in foreign affairs only when human rights or national security are at stake, allow for responsible and legal immigration, and in doing so continue to diversify our country, drive innovation, and grow our economy. As stewards we must take care of the world we have inherited and are creating.

Together we can make our country greater and be proud of what we leave our kids and grandkids.

I saw a bumper sticker a few months ago that has stuck with me. It simply said, Humankind. Be both. Together we can make our country greater and be proud of what we leave our kids and grandkids.

– Aurelius

 


TimotheosAs a kid growing up in the swampy marshlands of New Orleans I was always amazed at how the ships on the other side of the Mississippi river levee appeared to float above me when I peered out of my bedroom window. Of course, anyone with a basic knowledge of geology relative to this city knows that most of it is below sea level and protected only by an elaborate system of pumps and levees that keep “draining the bowl” so to speak. It’s been said that New Orleans is “the inevitable city on the impossible site” and by all geologic standards it should not exist. Still, since the late 1600’s when it was founded this city has defied logic and thrived as a metropolis that is home to 1.1 million people. New Orleans existing, along with many other occurrences and events throughout human history, clearly show that miracles do happen. It shows there are many things that human logic, intellect, science, etc. can’t explain. Such is the case, in my opinion and many others, of a Donald J. Trump presidency.

He listened to the American people and understood with complete clarity.

How did such a man with no political experience, no huge pool of donor money, no real fans on either side of the political aisle or in the media pull off such an impossible and historic upset? It’s really simple. He listened to the American people and understood with complete clarity their plight of being misunderstood, disdained, forgotten and put down by the elite politicians that supposedly represented them. Like Trump, I am a businessman and in business to be successful you have to listen more than you speak. Without taking the time to listen you can’t form a coherent strategy that will produce a solution which tries to benefit all parties involved. The success of Donald Trump’s candidacy from the moment he entered the race emanated from his ability to do this very well. Additionally, you don’t accidentally form a successful brand and multi-billion-dollar company like the Trump Organization by being a bombastic, hard-headed leader that doesn’t listen to their customers and the support staff around you. Instead, you know how to keenly listen, resist giving into emotion or hype, stay focused while pragmatically evaluating next steps and action plans that deliver results.

For me Trump’s strategic thinking skills as a very successful businessman resonated and the fact that he was NOT an elitist, good ole’ boy politician singing the same old song and dance as they do appeal to me. It seemed everyone hated this guy on both sides of the political aisle along with everyone in the media, other countries and anyone else who had an opinion of him. This, of course, made him even more desirable to me as a Presidential candidate and apparently many others. I found it quite refreshing that finally there was someone running for President that was not emboldened to special interest, lobbyist or corporate America. Despite saying some foolish and ignorant things there was no doubt that Donald Trump was sincere in his desire to do as his campaign slogan said, “Make America Great Again”. The political establishment was at least smart enough to recognize the threat he posed, but could do nothing to stop it while he plowed through victory after victory in the primaries overcoming 16 established, capable contenders en route to gaining the improbable Republican nomination. It was at this point that the biased, left leaning media turned their full frontal assault on him while basically ignoring the many irregularities and corruption of the Clinton campaign. If they ever wanted a great sound bite, Clinton would have given it to them, but for whatever reason they were fixated on derailing and destroying the character and candidacy of Donald Trump. Wiki leaks and other credible sources, admissions of carelessness by James Comey of Secretary Clinton’s use of classified information on personal servers proved this was the case, but the media still shrugged it off. Those that didn’t shrug it off were average “Joes” that Washington, pop culture and media elites wrote off, disdained and dismissed. They silently went about their day, ignoring poll takers and generally not letting anyone know of their choice for President for fear they would be labeled homophobes, racists, ignorant or some other derogatory name. They ignored the polls so much that not one poll was even close to predicting the inevitable outcome. On the morning of November 9, everyone was shocked and dismayed but those of us that voted for him and Donald Trump himself were not surprised. Like Donald Trump we listened and rode a wave of Populist fervor to the voting booths where we cast our votes ushering in one of the most unlikely, underdog candidates to ever become President of the United States.

– Timotheos

 

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Christians vs. The World

What is the deal with the “Culture Wars”?

antipas2

Christians often have a confrontational relationship with the culture around them. Some characterize this as Christians being “anti everything” and others just get annoyed by their insistence on things like traditional marriage, abortion, cultural Christian artifacts, and so forth.  People rightfully ask why it is that Christians seem to be so angry all the time.

There’s a great older book called Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr that details the different ways that Christians can interact with culture. You can be against culture, absorbed in culture, above culture, in paradox with it (we have a secular life and a spiritual life that continually intersect and diverge), or you can view Christ and the Christian as the transformer of culture. It’s very common for Christians to take one of the first two stances – at war with it, or just making Christian copies of things and consuming them. Some set themselves aloof with the third option and sort of ignore the world around them, but the author of the book has a respect for the paradox view and encourages the transformer view.

God created people as cultivators of a garden and I think that analogy can have value today.  You can’t cultivate a garden by being angry at it, or by embracing the weeds, or by viewing the soil as beneath you and unworthy of attention.   You’ve got to take what’s there and work to make it better, caring for it constantly and bringing great things out.

Does this approach minimize the bad things in the world and just accept them?  Not at all.  I think it’s disingenuous to our own faith to deny that there are things wrong with the world.  If the Bible is clear about a certain subject, then Christians ought to be similarly clear.  But this doesn’t mean you have to be confrontational about it.  You can believe, as I do, that abortion is wrong, and not picket in front of abortion clinics and criticize people who have had abortions.  You can maintain both your convictions and your love for others.  For example, you could quit yelling about making abortion illegal and start encouraging women to make different decisions.

There’s a lot of yelling in the world today.  Our semi-anonymous culture of internet communication and mass media makes it easy.  Solomon is wise when he says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  There’s a time for harsh words, and there’s a time for gentleness.  When Christians are known for their harsh words rather than for their love, they’ve missed the point.  There is no Christian nation, our USA not even being close, and much of the culture wars come about because Christians think that the USA is one.  We have to accept that and be glad for it.

If it’s not a Christian nation, then we can feel free to hold our own beliefs strong and not seek to impose them on the world around us, as if a non-Christian would want to live by Christian beliefs.  We can embrace the world, weeds and all, and take an attitude of seeking to leave this world better than we found it through loving cultivation.

 – Antipas

Response from Aurelius

Nice perspective. We tackled this prompt in markedly different ways. In those five responses to culture, I see many of today’s Christians taking a combination of the first and third approach: against and above culture, which is why many Christians come off as angry or culturally divisive. The person that I think best exemplifies the transformative approach is Mother Teresa. She viewed the world around her as a garden begging for love and compassion and therefore devoted her life to loving and helping others.

I agree with you that there is too much yelling in the world today. In my view, yelling, protesting, and picketing rarely produce the desired outcome. On the contrary, quiet fortitude can wake people up, just as Rosa Parks exemplified. We all probably know someone with this type of character. The loud voices of the room become noise after a while, but when the quiet person speaks, everyone listens.

I wish more Christians in the U.S. would share your perspective of accepting and even being glad that the country is not a Christian nation and not try to impose Christian beliefs onto others. Imposing your beliefs on others only perpetuates already-divided camps and comes off as foolish to those who believe otherwise, more eloquently stated by one of my favorite British actors, Stephen Fry, on one of my favorite TV shows, QI. “The myth of the Jewish people having manna dropped on their heads, that doesn’t actually matter… That’s like a Greek myth or any other myth. It’s when it gets to telling people how to behave is where we do draw the line.”

We can all agree on your last point. Let’s leave this world better than how we found it.

aurelius

If you live in the U.S. or keep up with U.S. news you are likely aware of the political atmosphere’s close connection with religious differences. Christian vs. non-Christian. Right-wing fundamentalist Christian vs. moderate Christian. Tea Party vs. moderate Republican. These divides played a huge role in this summer’s same-sex marriage ruling and they are a significant influence in many other cultural and moral issues.

“Culture war” only makes sense within the context of a single group with conflicting cultures, such as a non-homogeneous country. It’s important to note that every country has some unique culture war but in this post we are talking about the U.S. culture wars. The U.S. culture wars are predominantly religious, primarily between Christian and Other.

To understand the current culture wars requires an understanding of their influences and beginnings. I had to educate myself here, so here’s a recap. The culture wars became increasingly religious in the 80s and 90s even through today but they have more secular beginnings in the 60s. Early issues were civil rights, feminism, minority representation, and war vs. peace. Major issues then became abortion, homosexuality, religious discrimination, and again war vs. peace. Today’s media serve to propagate instead of mitigate the culture wars, with Fox News on one side and MSNBC and CNN in the opposing corner.

So, what can we do about the culture wars? How do they benefit and harm society?

The benefit of the culture wars is they can unite a large group of people into action based on beliefs they strongly support. It challenges people to examine their own beliefs to determine which they stand for and how strongly. Having to pick a side also promotes competition, and competition has many proven benefits and is one of the most natural human endeavors.

The major harm in culture wars is the creation and sustainment of the Us vs. Them mentality. We are all the same species and should embrace our humanity and endeavor to improve our collective existence, not highlight our differences. Even though we will naturally associate with one side based on our beliefs and upbringing, allying ourselves with one side makes it easy to dismiss the other side. We must resist the urge to be dismissive and divisive.

With the holiday season now here, instead of bickering with our loved ones, what if each week or two each of us read an opinion piece from the other side or tried to carry a conversation with someone with sharply different beliefs with the sole intent of respecting an opinion contrary to our own and understanding its premise? It’s not a farfetched idea, but we don’t take the time to do it. It would require just a small effort but the ripples would be long lasting. That is the primary intent of this blog because my coauthor and I believe in the power of respectful discourse. It is not hard to do and I can attest that it is remarkably refreshing to have your opinion respected by someone who disagrees with you while you are being enlightened by genuinely listening to their perspective. It’s a beautiful thing that we should all strive for. We don’t have to be divided.

-Aurelius

Response from Antipas

You’re right that this issue strikes at the heart of why we started the blog, so of course we’re going to have the same mind on it. There have been times that I have really enjoyed reading some academically-minded Tea Party literature, because sometimes once you get past the vitriol you find some logical arguments. I may find that I disagree with a premise, or think the argument leaves something out, but understanding the argument is key to understanding why I hold my own position.

The same is true of any issue, whether it’s homosexual marriage, allowing refugees and asylum-seekers into the country, or even something silly like red Starbucks cups. Our world would have a lot less yelling if, before anyone brought out their argument, they listened to and understood the logic from the other side. Your suggestion of carrying on conversations with those who disagree is a great one, and I hope more people do it.

Finally, thank you for pointing out the positive aspects of the “culture wars”. I glossed over these, but you make a great point. I may not like the angry and bitter conflicts that Christians sometimes pick, but this energy can also be harnessed for good – mobilizing to action, for example. I also know that I have rarely understood my own position so well as when I was forced to defend it against an onslaught. Let’s go out and manage the culture wars positively!

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Justification of Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in early Dec. 2014 indicating excessive torture and cover-ups by the CIA after 9/11. Plenty of information has been made public, including the 20 key findings of the report.

Is the CIA Torture Justified?

antipas2

I’ll just come right out and answer simply: NO.  I’ve got two major issues with torture in general.

Firstly, the moral issue.  I do not believe that torture is ever justified because I do not believe that the ends justify the means.  This is what I heard over and over in the news.  Most did not seek to discredit the reports of torture, they sought to claim that the torture yielded valuable information that led to military victories against terrorism.   First, I’m not sure that the idea of a “military victory against terrorism” isn’t a prime example of winning the battle and losing the war.  Second, this line of reasoning is very troubling.

Ethicists, literary authors, religious leaders, and more have debated the question of whether the ends justify the means for ages.  Proponents often go immediately to the extreme: “What if you could save a million people by killing one?”  However, there’s an inherent fallacy in making an argument from an extreme example – it assumes that somewhere there’s a line at which point it changes from right to wrong.  This is a dangerous way to go about thinking.

Ethicists say that this question divides people into deontologists (the morality of an action depends on its qualities) and consequentialists (the morality of an action depends on its outcomes).  Most people, in practice, slide back and forth between the two at will, never worrying about whether their resulting beliefs are incompatible.  However, just like people’s philosophical frameworks, the ends and means are a jumbled up mess.  There’s no clear distinction where means become ends, and whether or not the ends aren’t just more means on the way to more ends.  Without falling into a philosophy discussion, I’ll extricate myself here by saying that I believe this jumbled-up mess and the incompatibility of deontology and consequentialism makes it impossible for me to regularly allow for the ends to justify the means.

My second issue with torture is a Biblical one.  One of Jesus’ most famous sayings was to love your enemies.  The apostle Paul elaborated to quote Solomon who said that repaying good for evil was like heaping burning coals on your enemy’s head. Radical as this teaching may be, I actually subscribe to it.  I do believe that overcoming evil with good is not only possible, but that it may be the best way of resolving conflicts.  It’s a common literary theme for the good guy to become evil in his fight against evil, and Jesus was clearly interested in preserving his followers on the right side of righteousness.  While “love your enemies” doesn’t preclude the idea of justice for evil, it does make it pretty hard to defend torturing your enemy.

In a broader sense of the Biblical idea, I think that a decent understanding of Scripture shows that all mankind has a certain brotherhood.  We are all of different families and different faiths, but the Bible never teaches that those who believe differently are our enemies.  A more appropriate analogy would be to say that if this is a war, those who believe differently are the prisoners of war to be fought for, not fought against.  Taking this idea beyond the question of religious belief, if we could think of our enemies more as prisoners to be rescued than as the enemy themselves, our wars would look a lot different.  And, to touch on that earlier tangent again, I’m not sure that our “war on terror” wouldn’t resolve itself a lot quicker if we stopped making our enemies hate us so much.

 – Antipas

Response from Aurelius

Straight to the point. Nice response. We both fall into the roughly 25% of the U.S. population that believe torture or harsh interrogation techniques are never justified. What we label these techniques: torture, harsh interrogation, or enhanced interrogation, matters. We both label these as torture perhaps because we disagree with their use. I think we would share a similar viewpoint with the 18-20% who think torture is rarely justified. However, I would love to hear from the 50-55% of the U.S. population who think these techniques are sometimes or often justified, even given that research shows that harsher techniques positively correlate with faulty information. To support Antipas’ point about overcoming evil with good, the Costanzo research study I linked supported the idea that, “strategically useful information is best obtained from prisoners who are treated humanely.”

You mention that you disagree with “the ends justify the means.” I do too, and I’ll just share a bit about that phrase’s origin to expand on the deontologists vs consequentialists topic. The idea, not the direct quote, is a common theme in Machiavelli’s The Prince. There are many historians and philosophers that believe this work is a satire, as it was written as political advice to the ruling Medici family while Machiavelli was imprisoned by them. In his other works he is a supporter of free republics, not monarchies.

Although I am hyper goal-oriented, the ends cannot always justify the means because the ends cannot reliably be foreseen.

aurelius

The five-year Senate investigation resulted in a 6,700-page report, 525 of which have been publicly released. Without much searching you can find highlights, key findings, shocking findings, public responses, and endless media coverage. The report and response fell on sharp political lines with all six Republicans on the committee not participating in the investigation and instead they issued a 167-page dissent. One prominent Republican that supported the report’s findings is John McCain, who stated that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA as documented in the report “damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.” McCain has first-hand experience with torture while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over five years. President Obama and other Democrats issued similar statements. The current and former CIA directors issued countering responses, with the current director, John Brennan, stating, “It is our considered view that the detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against Bin Laden.” Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, stated more to the point, “I think the conclusions they drew were analytically offensive and almost street-like in their simplistic language and conclusions.”

Like many contemporary American issues, politics muddies up the real concerns. Neither side denied that enhanced interrogation techniques were used on many terrorist detainees. Whether or not these produced actionable intelligence, shouldn’t their use be concerning? As a society, where do we draw the line between enhanced interrogation and torture?

I argue that much of what the CIA classified as enhanced interrogation techniques is in fact torture and should not be practiced by the U.S. regardless of the circumstances. Waterboarding, one of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, has its roots in an earlier form used during the 16th century Spanish Inquisition where it was designed as mild torture with its name bearing its intention, tortura del agua. Since then it has been repeatedly classified as torture and was even outlawed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. If even some of the Senate’s report is true, many techniques used against detainees were far worse than waterboarding.

Even though mild torture or enhanced interrogation may be ethically wrong, it may be valuable if it prevents harm to a greater number of people. To me, that would be a gray area. However, it doesn’t. The techniques are not effective. The severity and length of torture correlate strongly with the likelihood of false confessions. Furthermore, as noted in the previously-cited research paper, perceived torture techniques “generate hatred and desire for vengeance against the perpetrators, radicalizing even ordinary people with no strong political views.” The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques may have ended, but they damaged the reputation of the U.S. and created enemies where none previously existed. Torture is not justified. We must do better.

-Aurelius

Response from Antipas

It’s great to see that we are agreeing on this point.  I particularly like how you point out that harsh interrogation correlates with false confessions and wrong information.  I hadn’t come across this information, but it doesn’t surprise me.  It points out that there is a difference between stern and forceful interrogation that delivers results, and torture which probably doesn’t.

I think that it might be worthwhile to reconsider what kind of “information” is valuable these days.  What do we need from prisoners?  Names?  Take out as many of the enemy as you like, as long as the ideology lives on more will spring up.  Locations?  Satellite and spy imaging is developing more and more almost daily, and it’s not too far away that we could have a daily-updated photo of every part of the earth’s surface.  Plans?  Easy to lie about under pressure, and easy for the bad guys to change when they are compromised.

No, your final point is, I think, the most significant.  If enhanced interrogation radicalized our enemies against us, and damaged our reputation to create more enemies, then any actionable intelligence created by the torture was worthless compared to the harm done.  This is where I have major issues with the foreign policies of both major US parties – if we continue to drive other nations around the world to dislike us, we are only injuring our own future selves.  We don’t have to be friends with everyone, but we can’t keep making enemies.

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