This is a small post on what is a bigger issue that I'll probably write about a bit more at a later date. On the issue of security versus freedom, I am always very wary and suspicious of anyone that falls too heavily on either side of the argument, and especially those who do so dogmatically and treat those on the other side of the argument as if they are mad.
I heard recently an American commentator snorting at the perceived use of fear in American political campaigning to deal with the problem of terrorism. In other words succumbing to fear to fight fear. It does not mean that you have been 'terrorised' because you take precautions or are fearful of a further loss of life. It is the opposite of emotional distress, but completely rational to fear that more lives may be taken by terrorists and therefore precautions must be taken to stop that from happening. Once again, that does not mean that every precaution taken in the name of preventing terrorism must be accepted, but it should be recognised that it is not Osama Bin Laden's intention to make our trips to the airport slightly more inconvenient. Arguments against measures to stop terrorism should be made, on the merits of the policy themselves, not this bizarre notion that taking efforts to impede terrorists is somehow playing into their hands.
This also brings me to a similar point about the language associated with torture and the War on Terror. People often refer to the War On Terror as a war of ideals and by engaging in torture we are somehow losing that war. Regardless of whether or not one condones water-boarding, this idea that it is uniquely wrong to torture in this particular war is a fallacious one. The War on Terror, declared just after the attacks of September 11th, was a war to defeat the institutions and operations that were used to promote and carry out terrorist attacks. This means that even though the military aims of the Taliban for example, are perhaps not as conventional as those of the Nazi Germany spreading through Europe, i.e. of conquest and occupation, the means of fighting on our side are still the same. For example, torturing a captured Nazi officer for information on a military base that helped bring it down, is no different to torturing a captured member of the Taliban for militarily useful information to take down an underground network in Afghanistan. Again, someone may believe that torture is immoral in both circumstances, but we are fighting an enemy that hates us and wants to destroy us, whether or not we engage in a so-called 'moral' war or not, will make no difference to the military objectives that we have to achieve. So once again I emphasise that if someone wishes to oppose water-boarding, then do it on the merits/ morality of the policy itself not on some convoluted and fuzzy reference to our role in the War on Terror which is no different to any other war we have so far fought where torture may have been useful.