The recent electoral losses of the Republican Party have indeed been good for conservatism, if for no reason other than the sprouting of new, fascinating conservative blogs run by principled and thought-provoking voices like Daniel Larison, Rod Dreher, and the whole gang at The Next Right. Larison in particular tends to highlight newer voices that I’d never otherwise come across, such as the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, which has become one of my recent favorites.
It’s at the LOG where I found this excellent argument for how torture and terrorism are linked in terms of their psychological methodology:
Torture is intended to utterly break down a human being, to strip away their humanity and self-determination, to make them utterly and completely powerless. That is a psychological state, and thus the violence of the act is in a sense peripheral. That is why physical and psychological torture need to be viewed as the same thing – neither better or worse than the other.
Terror operates similarly. Terrorists attempt to kill as many people as possible but only because higher death tolls create more fear, more panic, and ultimately more reaction than smaller death tolls. Again, the violence of the act is secondary to its psychological end. Ironically, terror seems to have been far more effective than torture in achieving its goals.
This is a very powerful insight, because it highlights an essential cognitive dissonance within the ranks of those who argue that torture is the key to preventing terrorism (for example, former vice-president Cheney, and most of the Republican Party insiders, with the exception of John McCain to his immense credit).
What is needed is a generalized principle under which both opposition to terrorism and opposition to torture can be articulated. From a religious perspective, muslims have been arguing (usually defensively) that terrorism (ie, hirabah) goes against Islamic teachings for quite some time – see my own ongoing articles on hirabah here on beliefnet and my earlier hirabah posts. Recently, several muslim organizations issued a joint statement against torture (to which I also signed). Many of the same religious arguments that are made can be applied equally to both concepts, but are being used on a case-basis rather than as one general philosophy. How do we integrate these moral arguments into one cohesive framework?
Related: LOG has an ongoing series about torture, of which the above is just the latest. The whole series makes for a powerful moral, conservative case. We’ve also been discussing torture over at Talk Islam, particularly the muslim statement against torture.