Just two days after several Republican presidential hopefuls seemed almost desperate to brag about their appreciation for torture — as Slate’s John Dickerson put it, “Some candidates appeared ready to do the torturing themselves” — an important WaPo op-ed tries to set the record straight.
Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999, and Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994, explained how fear can drive Americans to tolerate the intolerable — whether that be internment during World War II, McCarthyism, or more recently, torture.
Donald Rumsfeld once wondered aloud whether we were creating more terrorists than we were killing. In counterinsurgency doctrine, that is precisely the right question. Victory in this kind of war comes when the enemy loses legitimacy in the society from which it seeks recruits and thus loses its “recuperative power.”
The torture methods that Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.
Josh Marshall adds, “The legacy of this administration is frightening to behold, its philosophy of force and violence, its lawlessness.”