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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Belmont Club on Zarqawi, Morality, Torture and Killing

Excerpt (read the whole thing):
I don't mean to refute Talk Left's reproof, because I'm not sure if there are any canonical answers to the question of when it is proper to cast away the law. But I think it's important to make the choices clear to the public. It's dishonest to promise to keep them always safe; to ever "connect the dots" yet simultaneously promise never to match savage men for savagery. It would be better to tell the truth: that if in order to maintain our values we must sometimes stop short of harsh methods, we must also risk and spend lives to preserve those ideals. That if we hold them dear enough then a price must be paid for keeping them. In the very same way that US soldiers must daily risk their lives to obey rules of engagement. And a public unwilling to bear that risk should take the moral burden upon itself and change the rules rather than expect men to transgress them in secret for its guilty peace of mind.

In the last analysis, the preservation of a civilization's values is never free. It is possible to play by whatever rules we feel that our deepest civilizational values compel us to observe. But we must pay the price. We can, like the early Christians choose to face the lions rather than renounce our beliefs. But no one should have any illusions about the lions; and those Christians were virtuous precisely because they had no illusions about the lions. Our willingness to fight by the strictest legal standards must be matched by a corresponding willingness to sacrifice in order to uphold those standards. It may be necessary to bleed and to bleed at home to uphold our beliefs. Or change them. Talk Left merely poses the dilemma. But the choice is ours. The tragedy of the West is that it is simultaneously impatient for safety; intolerant of hardship and unable to bear guilt. The demand for no body bags; no protracted war; no inconvenience; no painstaking effort also means, in it's own way, a secret demand for no law.

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