Lately I seem to be driven toward responding to internet memes, which might be a phenomenal waste of time. Memes in general, if they’re not funny or self-aware as overly simplistic, always bother me. They espouse a finality, an absolute, to a situation that typically is the result of narrow-mindedness or just a desire to further polarize a divided population. And so when I see one that’s particularly egregious, or one that hits a bit close to home, I get a little upset.
In the wake of the reports of CIA interrogation, I saw this one:
And it made me think this: “And this is why…we will never win the war on terror.”
Allowing the tactics of the enemy to dictate your battle positions is always a bad strategy. Controlling the battlefield is important, because you want the enemy to be reactionary and then force them to react in a way that’s advantageous to you. You do not want to be reactionary. This is true in schemes of maneuver, it’s true in economy of force, and it’s true in the ideological and psychological sphere as well. The moment at which you allow the atrocities of an enemy determine your morality, that enemy has gained the advantage. They are now dictating your policy. You have lost.
This meme, and other memes like it, are a white flag to terror.
If you believe that a bastardized form of sharia law in which cutting off a man’s hand for a crime is barbaric, but that mutilating a man’s body for a crime is necessary, you are not only being contradictory, you are supporting the very attitude you are attempting to fight against.
The issue of how we treat our enemy has been an important one, particularly in the war on terror. I’m not going to go into the whole CIA torture issue here. It’s way too big for me to deal with. But since I’ve offered a bit of a counter to one side of the extreme argument, I’ll offer one argument to the other side, the side that says America is rotten to the core, that torture IS who we are, that this IS a product of how messed up we are.
I say that’s not true, and here’s why. These reports, reports that directly changed our policy on interrogation, were commissioned and released internally. We took a hard look at our own practices, determined that we had been doing something counter to America’s values, and stopped the practice. That’s self-awareness. That’s moral growth. In my limited knowledge, I cannot think of any other nation that has done this. You won’t see this on the national news of China, Russia, North Korea. Saddam’s Iraq. ISIS. But you will see it in America. And it’s important that we do.
Lastly, to those who argue against torture using the argument “It’s not even effective,” I would encourage you to stop doing so. Yes, it is ineffective – there’s nothing proving that it works. But by using this as an argument, you are suggesting that perhaps it would be allowable if it were effective. The argument is “it is beneath us as a civilized, moral society.” Not “it doesn’t work.”
Everyone is still feeling the hurt from 9/11. Veterans like myself have lost friends in this war. There is hurt, there are crimes, there are horrific things that have happened. But we cannot let it dictate our morals or change our perspectives on the value of a human life. The way we win is just as important as winning – sometimes more so.