If all it took to stop ISIS was enough bombing or troops on the ground, then we should be in command, but we are are battling an asymmetric war. The enemy is smaller and weaker but fighting in a way that is difficult for superpowers to address. They have a considerable grasp of social media to attract adherents, they are absolutely free of any respect for the “rules of engagement” such as the Geneva Convention, and distribute their form of terrorism world wide.
So what is our next president to do?
It appears that many of the republican candidates are ready to follow the enemy’s lead into an unethical, immoral, even illegal battle plan. Basically many of the republican candidates are ready to become exactly what we are trying to stamp out. Consider the issue of torture.
Donald Trump has commented “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would – in a heartbeat, and I would approve more than that.”
Ben Carson has suggested that not employing torture is equivalent to “fighting a politically correct war.”
Marko Rubio said “ I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use.” He doesn’t want to deny “future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland.”
Jeb Bush feels that the torture techniques employed by his brother were effective in producing intelligence, even though an Senate Intelligence Committee report said that the techniques previously employed were more brutal than previously described, and ineffective at producing any useful intelligence. He suggested there may be occasions when brutal interrogations are called for to keep the country safe.
The real question is does torture really work? The short answer is most likely no. In spite of a history of many, many years of use the only evidence of efficacy is anecdotal, and frequently that is wrong. The scientific community has never established that coercive interrogation methods are an effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence information. Before we undertake what is obviously unethical and even illegal activity in the name of national defense, the burden of proof ought to be on those who wish to torture.
The only real argument for torture is inevitably the “ticking time bomb” scenario. Suspects are being held that know the whereabouts of a bomb which if exploded will kill lots and lots of people – you pick a number. Torture till they talk and stop the bombing. But there are so many assumption here as to be preposterous. How do you know there is a bomb? How do you know the suspects you torture are actually knowledgeable? How do know that they won’t just say what they think you want to hear to avoid more pain?
What little science which has been applied in considering torture is negative. Human memory is not all that accurate and it gets even worse under stress. Even without stress, people are poor eye witnesses as just one example. People may not have any useful information and no amount of pain can create it.
Lastly there is evidence that lasting harm comes to those who do the torturing. It is not good for the human psyche to purposely inflict pain on others. Torture has not been shown to be effective, it is harmful to both the torturer and the tortured, it sullies our image as a moral leader in the world, and ultimately makes us less safe.