Putting the “Torture Report” In Historical and Moral Context

When I worked in the Bush White House and revelations about enhanced interrogation techniques became public, I spoke with several people, both within and outside the administration, to discuss and grapple with its moral implications. (Because of my faith perspective, some of the conversations were placed in an explicitly theological context.) I was uncomfortable with what was done, as were virtually all of my colleagues, but understanding of it and at the time supportive of it. It was for us a complicated moral issue, weighing ends and means, and not, in my judgment, self-evidently defensible or self-evidently indefensible. Like so many issues confronting people in public life, there were competing arguments, upsides and downsides to each course of action. And for people serving in the White House and our intelligence agencies, it was not simply an abstract, academic debate. A lot depended on what we did, or what we failed to do.

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Putting the “Torture Report” In Historical and Moral Context

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The Unsympathetic Opposition

Radicalism and self-injury.

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to be uncompromising when it came to immigration. For the most part, he has delivered. An executive order that restricted refugee intake and access to temporary visas in the first days of his administration sparked a wave of popular unrest, but the outrage subsided as Trump’s assaults on America’s permissive immigration regime became routinized. Only when Trump began breaking up the families of asylum seekers did the powerful public aversion we saw with the introduction of the “travel ban” again overtake the national consciousness. The abuse was so grotesque, the victims so sympathetic, and the administration’s insecurity so apparent that it broke the routine.

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Over-Population: The Malthusian Myth That Refuses to Die

A dangerous idea makes a comeback.

The word “ethics” appears prominently in the biographies of the authors who co-wrote a recent Washington Post op-ed lamenting the “taboo” associated with “talking about overpopulation.” Frances Kissling is the president of the Center for Health, Ethics, and Social Policy. Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Only Jotham Musinguzi, the “director general of Uganda’s National Population Council,” doesn’t mention “ethics” in the bio. That’s good because the Malthusian views promulgated in the piece are anything but ethical.

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Conservatives Against Virtue

The virtue of virtue.

At some point over the past two or three years–I’m not sure when exactly–“virtue” became a dirty word on the American right. There’s not a little irony in this development. If there’s one commitment that is supposed to tie the various strands of American conservatism, it’s the cultivation of the human virtues–those habits of the human spirit that aim at its perfection: Prudence, justice, courage, and temperance, according to the classical definition.

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PODCAST: This Is a Land of Confusion

Podcast: Border battles and the OIG report.

The implementation of a policy that separates illegal border-crossing children from their parents has thrown the Trump administration into crisis, in part, because no one is on the same page. Depending on the official speaking, this policy is either a necessary deterrent to future migrants, an unfortunate vestigial artifact of the Obama administration, or the law of the land. The hosts break down the political effect of the White House’s confusion. Also, the COMMENTARY Podcast breaks down the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s report that savages James Comey’s behavior in 2016 and suggests FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s anti-Trump bias might have had an effect on the product of the FBI’s Russia probe.

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They Think They’re Winning

Delusional or just cynical?

In the last 48 hours, the portrait of a White House in crisis has been unmistakably clear.

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