Monday, September 11, 2006
On Stalin's (Torturous) "Alternative Set of Procedures"
Robert Conquest, a leading historian on the Soviet Union, a vociferous anti-communist, and a favorite of conservatives, wrote the following in his recent book, The Dragons of Expectation (labeled "a frontal assault on the pieties of the left"):
Is this for real?
Are we going to apply The Stalin Test to all policies to determine their validity? (I heard that Stalin was a real stickler on prohibiting prayer in public schools. He had a thing for progressive taxation, too.)
When did legal analysis grow so coarse, so hamfisted?
Even taking The Stalin Test seriously would show how silly this mode of analysis is. Again, here's Professor Tamanaha's test:
Here's a simple way to determine whether any of the "alternative set of procedures" constitute "torture:" check if any of the techniques on the list--whether physical or mental--were also utlized under Stalinism.
If Stalin's regime utilized the questioning of prisoners without an attorney present, would that be illegitimate conduct in the global war on terror?
If Stalin's regime blindfolded prisoners, would that be illegitimate conduct?
If Stalin's regime held prisoners until the end of hostilities during times of war, would that be illegitimate conduct?
Quite simply, The Stalin Test fails because Stalin, as evil as he was, surely relied not only on reprehensible tactics, but also on completely legitimate ones. Asking "What Wouldn't Stalin Do" simply doesn't answer the question.
Then again, the New York Times praised Stalin more than they did Bush. Does that tell us anything about the legitimacy of the NYT?
Again, I can only shake my head and ask, when did legal analysis get so coarse, so hamfisted?
Note that Adam has to twist the post's words to make his rather juvenile point.
The post didn't say "all Stalin's policies." It confined itself to the "alternative methods" embraced by Bush for interrogations under the American flag.
Adam, why is defending torture so important to you?
Anderson, I'd say that it's you, not me, who has responded in juvenile fashion. I didn't say that the post did advocate The Stalin Test for the evaluation of all policies -- instead, I asked, if The Stalin Test applies to one set of policies, then why not all?
Why would we choose Stalin's interrogation policies as the metric for determining whether a U.S. policy is moral, but not as the metric for evaluating other policies?
The fact is that comparing U.S. policies to Stalin's does nothing to answer whether an interrogation is just or unjust, moral or immoral. Why on earth do you need Josef Stalin to tell you what's right and wrong?
Anderson, you ask why "defending torture" is so important to me. I didn't know that it was. But now I'm curious: Why is comparing Bush to Stalin so important to you?
And again, I wonder, when did legal analysis grow so coarse?
The Soviet Union actually avoided torturing its detainees when it wanted information from them. It treated them pretty well.
It only tortured the detainees they wanted (false) confessions from or people they wanted to crush.
I think the test should be that most things the Soviets did to procure false confessions or to break people are bad.
But, again, why do you need to consult the Soviets' record first? You really can't figure out what's moral or immoral without reference to the Evil Empire?Post a Comment
If the Evil Empire is your reference point for interrogation, why not for other policies? Then again, I must admit, I don't see much need to consult the Soviets' record on *any* major policies. Why do you? Why are you less interested in looking to them for examples of bad tax policy than for bad interrogation policy?
I must continue to profess my confusion as to this new Stalin Test.