January 19, 2009

But in Theory... part Deux: the Virtue of Hypocrisy

Hatched by Dafydd

Thursday, we explored the psychotic nature of Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct, wherein liberals reject all facts, observations, and measurements that conflict with the liberal "theory" about something. (Here "theory" is one component of what Saint Thomas Sowell refers to as "the vision of the anointed;" the latter is the collection of all the liberal theories, a liberal "Theory of Everything.")

Today we see a perfect example of how this theoretical construct turns into a policy prescription, to the catastrophic endangerment of our country.

Let's dress the stage: Just before his inauguration, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was poised to ban all "harsh interrogation" of terrorist detainees, based upon the liberal theory that clever interrogation that stays within the bounds of ordinary criminal investigation will uncover all the same information as harsh interrogation -- and do so even quicker!

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans.

The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the officials said. The plans would also have the effect of shutting down secret "black site" prisons around the world where the CIA has questioned terror suspects -- with all future interrogations taking place inside American military facilities.

This is utter madness; why would any terrorist detainee talk if he knew there was nothing the interrogator could do to him if he refused? How does a smart man like Obama justify grafting naive theoretical idiocy onto the necessary hard policy of defending the United States from terrorist attack?

Simple: He doesn't! Instead, in perhaps the most breathtakingly exercise of sanctimonious doubletalk of my lifetime, the incoming administration punctuates their absolute exclamation point with a question mark:

However, Obama's changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said.

Obama vehemently rejects the "harsh" interrogations of the Bush regime; this gives the incoming administration the cheers and jubiliation from the international community to which the One believes himself to be entitled by birth. And then, on the other shoe, he lets his aides announce publicly that he will actually continue the exact, same techniques that he just condemned.

What an operator! If Niccolo Machiavelli (or P.T. Barnum) were alive today, he would be rolling in his grave.

I was partway through writing this post when I suddenly found myself in a quandry (or if you prefer, a quagmire): Paul of Tarsus Power Line put up his own post, saying more or less what I had been in the process of writing; later that same day (Saturday), John followed with another that enunciated the rest of what I'd been about to say. I was about to delete my post unpublished.

But something wasn't quite right about the two Power Line posts; something was missing.

It took me a couple of days, but I think I have it: John noted the "hypocrisy" of Barack Obama, making a cause celebre of saying that he will "end harsh interrogations," thus garnering a verbal jamboree and hootenanny from the internationalists in Europe and Asia... while at the same time hinting that of course he will be willing to use those techniques if ordinary interrogation doesn't work.

But I think John is wrong to call it hypocrisy: It's not even honest hypocrisy; it's something cruder and viler.

Honest hypocrisy ("the tribute vice pays to virtue") is itself a cultural virtue, in that it reinforces our cultural norms. Hypocrisy arises from a sense of one's own guilt; a senator knows he shouldn't, e.g., favor political donors with earmarks; so he goes to great lengths to conceal what he's done. It may not be illegal, but it looks bad; he feels that he has done something wrong (guilt), so he loudly protests his innocence -- and points a finger at some other senator.

But what has Barack Obama done here? He condemns George W. Bush, who always stated up front that he was willing to engage in "harsh interrogation techniques" if that's what it took to gain the intel that would keep the nation safe; Obama thus advertises himself as nobler and more moral than Bush, because Obama believes in international law and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

This is 99 44/100% pure sanctimony. But then Obama compounds the felony -- by allowing his advisors to openly state, in the name of the One We Have Been Waiting For, that he has every intention of violating his own prohibition whenever keeping it would inconvenience him.

He makes no attempt to conceal the dichotomy between what he says and what he does; hence Obama does not even have the consciousness of guilt: He sees nothing contradictory or wrong about attacking Bush's morals and character for doing something Obama calls a crime against humanity (torture), but then turning about and doing the exact same thing himself, and quite brazenly.

At least one of the following conclusions must be true; all may be true simultaneously:

  1. Barack Obama, and every liberal who fails to denounce him for it, is guilty of situational ethics, a game of moral "conjugation" -- "I am an ethical pragmatist; you cut ethical corners; he or she is a war criminal!"
  2. Obama understands that Bush only did what he had to do to protect the country; yet Obama sees nothing wrong with trashing his predecessor's character, reputation, and legacy for transient political advantage.
  3. Obama has utter contempt for the intelligence of the American people and thinks they'll never figure out his verbal judo move; in fact, he's laughing up his sleeve at his rhetorical end-run around the truth.

(3) is especially troubling, because if true, it would make Obama akin to the megalomaniacal supervillains of comic books, at least in the way he mocks the ability of the average Joe or Jane to understand the rare ratiocination of the Obamic oracle. Like the Riddler, Obama delights in dropping little clues to his own villainy that he believes will be utterly opaque to the American voter, giving him further proof (as if any were needed) of his own genius compared to everyone around him.

This is not a good quality to have in a President of the United States. But what do people expect when well over half the country voted for a man with no experience to prepare him for the presidency, no background in the great issues of the day, and who refused to enunciate a single principled policy, treating the election as a rolling coronation?

The danger to the country is very real. First, without clear guidance of when to use such harsh interrogation techniques, I doubt that military or CIA interrogators will be willing to bet their jobs and their freedom on the loyalty of a man with a needle-less moral compass.

Second, to the extent to which our captured militant-Islamist enemies believe Obama, they will be emboldened to laugh in the faces of their interrogators... and to the extent to which they disbelieve Obama, they will see him as weak and spineless, afraid to "own" the very methods that might actually work to gain the intelligence we need. Either way, they drink Obama's milkshake.

Finally, it will give our fainthearted "allies" ammunition to use against the Obama administration when (inevitably) they find themselves still less willing to fight and more willing to appease than even a Democratic America; and considering how devastating such a charge would be to a man who has already billed himself as holier than any number of thous, Obama would, I think, be more inclined than was President Bush to bow to the wishes of the defeatists and make his ersatz prohibition genuinely absolute. He will have painted himself into a hole for which he has no key.

Such is what we, the people, reap when Barack Obama sows mendacity and character assassination from the bully pulpit.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 19, 2009, at the time of 11:42 PM

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The following hissed in response by: LarryD

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2009 9:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Oh, it is so much worse than that. Obama and his supporters have absolutely no awareness of any contradiction! It's all about not wanting to think very hard, but wanting to look smart.

If you share the vision of the anointed, you are good, and whatever you do is good. If you do not, then you are evil, and everything you do is evil. Simple really.

Bush uses harsh interrogation techniques = evil
Obama tortures = they had it coming.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2009 10:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste

There's another name for the "irresistable theoretical construct". The overarching term for this is "teleology".

More or less, what it refers to is that there is a "final cause", a deep meaning and pattern to the universe. If you can understand that pattern, you can predict how it will manifest in all things. That idea goes back to the pre-Christian Greeks.

Over time it's gotten distorted, and the modern manifestation to which you refer is more along the lines of "If my idea is esthetically pleasing, then that proves it is true, and if I just want it enough then reality will change to accomodate it."

The above hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2009 10:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Why, oh WHY do I have to be the one to ask you what the heck you mean by raciocination? I tried to search for it online, but most of the citings think that you have mis-spelled ratiocination, except of course you have used the word before...

If you want me to keep looking, fine, I will... might even be good for me. But a hint please: Which root word do I seek out? Perhaps the french 'raconter'?!?

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2009 11:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Mr. Michael:

Nothing cryptic, just misspelt. I have corrected it, along with all other instances on Big Lizards.



The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2009 1:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

*whew* Thanks, Dafydd... it's an illness with me; I can't just 'read on' and ignore a word. If it's worth reading, it's worth understanding!

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2009 7:42 PM

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