“Waterboarding,” “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” and “Torture” are all words popping up in the headlines these days. Donald Trump has made several controversial statements about bringing back the use these, or perhaps, much worse. But can he bring them back? If President-elect Trump does, he will have to overcome some significant obstacles, such as Federal law, domestic and international pressures, and possible mutiny of high-ranking military and intelligence officers. So should the question be, should he bring them back?
Can the use of these techniques be justified? Yes, I think one could use Just War Theory to defend using them. But then again you can almost justify anything using the Just War Theory. Also, I think America could get an exception to policy in that who we are fighting (Islamic extremists) don't play by the rules set out in the Geneva conventions, since they are beheading captives and setting them on fire. Let the lawyers work it out. I do understand the argument that we need to take a high road on this, but really, we have been taking the high road for a while now, and we are no closer to achieving the strategic victory of defeating Islamic extremism.
I also know that there is the argument that torture and violence do not work. But I have three counter arguments on why torture may work. The first is longevity. Torture has been around a long time, and if it has been so ineffective, then it would have died out the way that alchemy (turning different base materials into gold) died out. It just did not work. But there must have been situations throughout history where the use of torture did work to get what was sought. Another argument is if torture is not effective then why does the US government spend so much money trying to teach its military and intelligence personnel how to avoid capture and resist exploitation? But the last, and I think the most compelling argument, is that violence, or the threat of violence, and coercion work to promote compliance is domestic abuse and bullying situations. Both of these issues are taken very seriously and the violence has been determined to have substantially controlling effects.
I am not advocating the wholesale use of torture, and it will not work in the majority of cases but maybe President-elect Trump is onto something with bringing back enhanced interrogation techniques to move forward in this never ending war, if it saves one American life.