Monday, January 10, 2005

Get Serious.

I'm three days late on this one, but if any of you missed it too, you should check out Andrew McCarthy's "Fatuous," in which he picks apart the testimonies of three witnesses in the confirmation hearings for Attorney General designate, Alberto Gonzales.

He gives the cliff's notes version of the witnesses' responses to a hypothetical question posed by Arlen Specter on whether torture would be impermissible in a case where a bomb was about to be detonated in a US city and we held a terrorist with the necessary knowledge to avert disaster.

The entire article is excellent, as it showcases the clash between academic theory and real-world application, but the last paragraphs are a must:

A number of us have tried to grapple with the hard stuff about the war against terrorists — the intersection between abiding respect for human dignity and the imperative of pressing for intelligence that might save human life. We don't pretend that this is easy, that it's black-and-white, or that expressly licensing coercive interrogation — even a minimal form of torture — in the most dire situations would not potentially open the door to human-rights abuses that should be universally condemned. It would. That's why it needs to be thought through with sensitivity.

But the critics should do us all a favor: If you're going to talk the talk of righteous indignation, be ready to walk the walk. Be ready to tell Americans exactly what protections you want to give to the terrorists. Be ready to tell Americans that you would prohibit coercive interrogation even if it were the only way of saving a hundred thousand of them.

If you're not ready to do that — because you full well understand that your position is not one even you can defend when the questions get hard — then don't waste our time. Get out of the way of serious people like Judge Gonzales. People who don't pretend to be perfect, who don't claim to have all the answers, and who are not so smug that they think they can afford to take life-and-death options off the table — even as they pray they will never have to use them.

If I wanted academia I'd go back to school. The majority of Americans live in the real world, and I'd prefer that our leaders reside there too.