Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does the end justify the means?

Hopefully I can knock this one out quick. It's a dreary day here in Cleveland, cold and rainy, although they are predicting 70's over the weekend. (Awesome)

So over the last week, there's been a lot of press on the techniques used by the CIA on suspected terrorist prisoners. Of course it's become just another issue that seems to fall along party lines. (We'll get to this one eventually, but ask yourself next time you declare yourself a Democrat or Republican, how similar are you to the party representatives you've chosen to identify yourself as).

Let me preface the following by saying, that it's fairly easy being an armchair quarterback , as a man who takes his responsibilities very seriously, I can understand on some levels why the choice was made to use these techniques. If I was faced with the responsibility to protect my constituency, the choices I might make in order to fulfill that responsibility may be very different then the ones I try to reason out sitting on the sidelines.

Whether or not it was right or we attained information is almost irrelevant to me at this point, it happened and it's over with. My curiosity lies in what it means for the future. And I must say I'm struggling with it a bit. I believe most of the methods that were used would be classified as torture for any standard definition of the word. I also believe that obtaining information from those that don't want to provide it or who are dedicated to their cause is almost impossible. So I'm torn with an opinion on what my views are on how we should handle these situations in the future.

The only thing that I keep coming back to in thinking about this is the rules of engagement for War. Now I don't know how in depth the Geneva articles go in describing what constitutes torture, but I do know that as a country we signed that treaty and agreed to the rules of engagement it outlined. So while we may not be technically in default, we are at best exaggerating the interpretation. Now the counter argument there is that these enemy forces don't qualify under the rules of engagement, and I won't disagree with that either.

"This is war" is often the argument used for justifying the techniques, but my point is that civilized nations have been outlining the rules of engagement of war for many, many years now. By not holding ourselves to that higher standard, I believe we inevitably risk becoming that which we are fighting. I know that lives may have been saved with the information extracted from these prisoners. And they don't play by the same rules, but by engaging in this manner, I think we lose sight of the fact of who we are and risk losing the philosophical war that is going on as well.

While it's easy to sit back and say "who cares to the rest of the world we need to protect ourselves" The fact of the matter is the U.S population is only a small part of the world overall and if we are going to ever have a chance at eliminating terrorism then we need to win the philosophical battle, not the small skirmishes. By doing so that means the possibility of more acts that cause harm to our citizens and that's the rub. It's scary and politicized so much today that our politicians and population are unable to see the longer term consequences of our actions. I know I won't ever convince most that believe that these types of techniques are valid ways of dealing with a situation if it protects our own, and they might not be wrong. But put aside the fear for a moment and think back to 9/11. Al Queda struck at the heart of our country and we held our resolve, while they may believe they won something that day, they didn't. There was a terrible loss of life on our side and it saddens me deeply, but they did not stop our way of life and only furthered our resolve to eliminate the types of people that want to cause us harm in this way.

I know as people we are scared of these kinds of things, but the reality of the war doesn't go away just because it hasn't happened again. It's easier to deal with because we are caught up in everyday things, so we forget about it, but it still exists. And something like that will happen again and we'll persevere through that as well. I don't say that to cause fear or be pessimistic, it's a realistic statement, if someone wants to cause harm, they will in some way at some point. We should be vigilant in trying to stop them, but we should also be able to not lose sight of how we truly want the world to be. And if we believe we are better society then we have to act like it.

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