Leftwing pundits are correct about many things. For example, they are correct to point out that the information about terrorist attacks would become known without use of enhanced interrogation techniques.
For example, if we caught a radioactive terrorist who just smuggled a nuke across the border, we could easily find out both the time and location of the attack without using any sort of interrogation technique.
With just a little patience we will find both the location of the bomb and time of the attack. The location, of course, is somewhere near the center of the crater. The time of the attack is a few seconds before the clocks in the area stopped.
We can easily get all of the information relevant to a terrorist attack simply by waiting.
There is a great deal of merit to the left's belief that the proper way to handle terrorist attacks is to wait until after the attack, then to arrest and prosecute the suicide bomber in a court of law.
Despite all of their grandstanding, the failed Bush administration did not bring a single one of the suicide hijackers to court after the 9/11 attack!
Rather than arresting and trying suicide bombers in a court of law, the failed Bush administration went after terrorist cells and did all they could to uncover attacks.
I believe that the critics of waterboardering are correct to point out that the information gleaned from the technique is not all that reliable.
But, Wait a second!
The same statement is true of any behavior modification technique used during interrogation. If the NSA tossed a handful of Skoobie Snacks to the terrorist each time they produced the desired answer, the NSA would simply get well trained terrorists.
Behavior modification techniques tend to simply get people to behave the way you want them to.
There is no way to extract truth from people trained to make whatever sounds are to their best advantage. There is always a degree of separation between what people say reality. Such is the nature of communication.
The question is really about relative truth value, and, of course, the value of the information. A group dedicated to doing WMD attacks against civilian population is different from one attacking military installations.
Neither the institutionalized use of enhanced interrogation techniques nor the absolute prohibition of techniques leads to utopia. There is not a perfect path to utopia, only a bumbling path to a world with less misery.
The formulas people devise to ensure peace usually fall to ruin.
War, after all, is about breaking rules. War has a strange habit of making whatever techniques were used in the last war fail.
Even things which are dear to people's heart can end up aiding to the failure. For example, the Geneva Convention is very dear to our hearts. You might remember how the lovable Hogan always used the Geneva Convention to gain advantage over the bumbling Colonel Klink.
Yet it is possible for even the Geneva Convention to become a sticking point.
Notice that the convention is named for a western city (Geneva). It was established by the Red Cross. The convention itself was very much a realization of Western Christian struggles to limit war.
Radical Islam is a reaction to Western Imperialism. They see the Koran (not the Christian Cross) as the source of universal law.
Despite the great ideals encapsulated in the Geneva Convention, we need to realize that the convention just might be perceived by others in a different light.
Since Black Hawk Down, potential allies in the Middle East had openly questioned if the west was a reliable ally. After all, the International Community and Red Cross stood back and did absolutely nothing as both Rwanda and Darfur degenerated into genocide.
The United States itself has a regretful history of abandoning allies to doom when pictures in the media became unpleasant.
The Geneva convention may not be seen in the same light that we see it. Our imposing a rigid set of rules derived from the Western Christian tradition just might be seen as Western Imperialism, even despite the fact that it is a very good idea.
I've always held that ideals are great, but absolutes are not. Human life is filled with challenges that create context where pursuing an ideal leads to ruin.
A terrorist cell plotting WMD attacks on civilians is just such a challenge. It creates the situation where one may have to treat the terrorist cell in a way that is less than humane than we desire.
The system that is capable of handling exceptions without collapsing is better able to pursue ideals than a rigid, puffed up system
The United States has a secular government precisely because history has taught us that Christian ideals make a wonderful foundation for the life of an individual or small community, but that history will always toss situations at our country that challenge the ideals.
The structure of a Christian people with a secular government allows us to define and pursue high ideals, with a government that makes necessary compromises with the world.
Our personal ideals often have absolutes. We, as individuals should be absolutely against torture, killing, theft, and other evils. The secular government faced with the prospect of a WMD attack against civilians must weigh the merits of intervention v. letting the attacks happen and trying the suicide bombers after the fact.
But, wait a second, the suicide bombers are dead after the attack.
Which brings up the question of why radical Islam chooses to engage in suicide attacks? Could it be that having the bomber kill himself in the attack destroys the ability to try and convict the attacker?
Suicide attacks are designed to destroy the ability of our court system to function as the primary adjudicator in the crime. It is an act designed to destroy our defense against such attacks.
There is no logic to war. Wars happen because groups feel that the can turn things to their advantage by breaking the current status quo. No matter how much we wish things were to the contrary, war forces societies to re-examine basic humanitarian principles.
This is not a bad thing. It is the re-examining of humanitarian principles that leads societies back on to the road toward peace.
War is about breaking rules. Peace is about re-establishing rules.
The fantasy that there is an international law that prevents war usually ends up creating conditions for war. Likewise, shrill partisan attempts to seek retribution after wars often ends up destroying the peace.