Friday, February 20, 2009

Of Policy and Principle

My last post explored the weird interplay between principle and policy while trying to explain why image-driven politicians often create righteous sounding policies that lead to horrific results.

The problem, of course, is that one cannot dictate sound principles. When image driven politics tries to dictate principles, they create a dysfunctional system. The best way to develop sound policy is to have a system where people can engage in discourse.

My last two posts explored dark matters for a reason.

As you see, when Bush decided to engage in the "War on Terrorism" he was faced with several horrible problems. The worst problem was that torture was ubiquitous in the region. Both the Geneva Convention and Christian abhorrence of these practices made developing allies difficult.

The rallying cry of radical Islam is a rejection of "Western Imperialism." Geneva is a Western city. The convention was established during a Western conflict. The International Red Cross (cross as in a Christian symbol) was a driving force of the convention.

I agree with the Geneva Convention. Yet the idea that it is the basis of international law is imperialistic. It can be viewed in the Islamic world as yet another case of Western Christians trying to shove their crosses down the throats of Islam.

It is the principles behind the Geneva convention that count. To get the principles set in place one has to engage in discourse. The self righteous posturing of image driven politicians doesn't hack it.

It was horrible to watch Rumsfeld waxing philosophic about torture, but one cannot have real debate when one simply talks down to their opponents.

What disgusts me is the press. The partisan press seemed to miss the point that the Islamic world is trapped in a barbaric medieval belief system. Instead, they focused their attention entirely on associating negative images on their political opponents.

In reading history, we find a long string of humans doing terrible things to each other. Communist and national socialist movements slaughtered and tortured people by the hundreds of millions (read Death by Government it is that many). They did this in the name of the people. Self righteous rightwing reactionaries are guilty of backhanded brutality in the tens of millions.

The way to solve the problem is to engage it.

In this regards, I think the form of the Bush's aggressive interrogation policy had the form of a policy that would help engage and solve the problem. The form of this policy was that the intelligence had strict rules limiting its interrogation techniques. If ever circumstances warranted, the issue could be elevated to the highest authority and actually considered.

After 9/11, the intelligence community felt that other operations might be in effect. Some of the cases were approved, and some of the cases resulted in intelligence that stopped attacks.

I suspect that the founders of the US, who saw humanity at its best and its worst, would delight in the form described above. The logical tradition of the founders was opposed to absolutes, and the Constitution appears to have given extraordinary powers to the executive to help the nation out of absolutes in times of crisis.

Now, I do not know what evils lurk in the heart of Dick Cheney. The form displayed in the "Bush Torture Regime" was superior to the image driven politician who would fail to support workers in extraordinary circumstances, but would saddle them with accusations in case of failure. It is in these cases where the really horrific abuses start to emerge.

If the news report referenced in the last piece is correct, then more children were beaten in the progressive chicago district (and beaten in ways with longer lasting consequences) than in the Bush/Cheney torture regime.

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