In his speech on national security on Thursday, President Obama said this:
I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts – they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.
The arguments against these techniques did not originate from my Administration. As Senator McCain once said, torture “serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.”
Minutes after Obama’s speech, former Vice President Dick Cheney also made a speech on national security, in which he said this:
Another term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that American interrogation practices were a, quote, recruitment tool for the enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have supposedly fallen short of our own values.
This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the president himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of that same old refrain from the left, “We brought it on ourselves.”
It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so. Nor are terrorists or those who see them as victims exactly the best judges of America’s moral standards one way or the other.
First, a word about torture: Yes. I support torture, because some people deserve it. See my previous post, Why I Support Torture.
Moreover, Cheney is right that we must not shrink from the prospect of displeasing our enemies. That our President needs this lesson, that he thinks that making nice to evil people will induce them to be nice to us, is appalling. If anything, we should go out of our way to antagonize our enemies, to show them that we have utter contempt for them. We should be working to demoralize them, to shame them, to humiliate them, to terrorize them, to crush their spirit, to show them that they have no way of defeating us, to make them give up before we slaughter them like diseased dogs.
A rational person seeing America treat our enemies with such contempt should admire us for it and be encouraged to side with us, not against us.
Instead, Obama defers to our enemies, to their false moralizing and their puny force. And his deference applies to far more than torture and interrogation of prisoners. Recall this statement by Obama last month following the G20 Summit:
But in an era of integration and interdependence, it is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate is tied up with the larger world; that if we neglect or abandon those who are suffering in poverty, that not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us; that unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who’s going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda.
In other words, not only must we stop waterboarding our enemies, but we must also end their poverty and educate their children; and if we don’t, we are the guilty ones. As Cheney said, this way of thinking “excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do.”
Here is a sick irony. What if all the people in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia publicly announced that—because of waterboarding or any other pretext—they have joined either Al Qaeda or Hezbollah to wage all-out war on America? How bad would that be for America? In a sick irony, that might even be good for America, because then maybe we would finally be willing to fight a real, declared war! (Oh no, we wouldn’t, because we would not want to harm their children.)
The bottom line is that it does not matter what Islamists think of us. What matters is: What do we think? Are we willing to declare war and fight? As long as the answer remains ‘No’, we cannot win.
Still the most shameful day in American history is September 12, 2001, when America failed to declare war on anybody.
Thus, in the end, Cheney is almost as weak as Obama. Bush kept America safe as the British and French governments kept their nations safe in the early 1930’s. During the Bush Administration (as during the Clinton Administration), all of our enemies (except for Iraq) increased their potential to kill Americans. Today, Iran has an ever-growing terror network, medium-range missiles, and a soon-to-be realized nuclear capability. North Korea has a nuclear bomb. The Taliban threatens to seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. More dangerous still are Russia and China, which already have formidable nuclear arsenals designed to strike America. Russia is returning to tyranny and conquest, and is forging alliances with our enemies around the globe. China, a communist country (that is, a dictatorship ideologically committed to the destruction of capitalist nations), is accelerating its military buildup, and has elaborate plans to wage war against America. If all of these enemies and potential enemies gang up on America, and they might, we are in serious trouble.
The debate between Cheney and Obama is a debate between Weak and Weaker. Where is Barry Goldwater? Better yet, where is George Washington?