A Desert Called Peace

This is becoming a habit, you know, and probably not a good one. But you had some questions, you said? Something about Kosmos, on our world known as “Tranzis,” torture, and the prospect of becoming what you fight.

I’ll try to answer and to be brief something I have signally failed to do with this book and fully expect to fail in future volumes, of which there may be as many as eight. Pull up a chair. Scotch? Iced or neat? The cigars are in the humidor over there. Try one of those Magnum Force #42s. They’re just excellent.

I had cause, recently, to do some research on the definition of insanity. One I found, and that I almost agreed with, said that “Insanity consists of doing everything the same and expecting a different result.” I say “almost” because there is a corollary to that: “Insanity also consists of doing everything differently and expecting the same result.”

This is perhaps the only real difference between a current day Marxist and a current day Transnational Progressive, or Tranzi. The Marxist expects a different result from doing everything important the same, as if there is any freedom that doesn’t include economic freedom, as if there is any path to socialism that will not be paved with bodies, as if socialism has ever managed to create anything beyond corpses, poverty and oppression…oh, and lots of pieces of third-rate military equipment and a new entrenched upper class backed by a ruthless secret police and outrageous propaganda, too, of course.

The Tranzi, on the other hand, expects to maintain and expand modern, enlightened, prosperous, liberal society while opening up the borders that shelter that society to unlimited numbers of the least assimilable and most reactionary, most traditional and hidebound, least economically productive cultures on the face of the Earth. This wouldn’t be so bad, or so insane, did they not at the same time insist that nothing be done to even try to assimilate the immigrants from those cultures to modern, enlightened, liberal values. (Do you suppose there were pro-Vandal, pro-Hun and pro-Goth immigration public interest groups in ancient Rome? Societies usually rot from the inside out so it does seem likely.)

The Tranzi also insists on enlightening the rest of the world, but rejects any and every means that might actually work.

This, friend, is the other kind of insanity.

Of course, that first definition is not the only interesting quote that has an amusing corollary. For example, it has been said more than once that you should choose enemies wisely, because you are going to become just or, at least, much like them. The corollary to this is that your enemies are also going to become very like you.

In human conflict this really is and always has been everywhere apparent: Hannibal adopts Roman arms and something like the manipular legion for his forces. Sparta and Rome, landpowers to begin, face Athens and Carthage, seapowers, and both Rome and Sparta build enormous and effective fleets. German tank designers adopt Russian tank design philosophies. Russians become operationally deft. British and American troops are plagued with Indian irregular tactics and techniques during the French and Indian War and so adopt light infantry and riflemen. The Soviet Union provides free meals to school children and we begin to as well. (And then there are those, all over the world, who hate the United States and express that hatred regularly and virulently. One wonders why they never contemplate what it will be like when we begin to really hate them. They should be afraid, very afraid.)

It’s partly propaganda driven but partly also driven by the act and process of learning from those who have most to teach us, by harming us, our enemies.

If I could speak now to our enemies, I would say: Do you kill innocent civilians for shock value? So will we learn to do, in time. Do you torture and murder prisoners? So will we. Are you composed of religious fanatics? Well, since humanistic secularism seems ill-suited to deal with you, don’t be surprised if we turn to our churches and temples to find the strength to defeat and destroy you. Do you randomly kill our loved ones to send us a message? Don’t be surprised, then, when we begin to target your families, specifically, to send the message that our loved ones are not stationery.

This seems lost on the current enemy but, then, he’s insane. It’s very sad. Yes, it’s very sad for us, too.

In any case, that, friend, is some of what I’ve tried to illustrate in this book. Do I like torture? No. It’s a nasty technique that dirties everything it touches. No sane man who engages in it is likely to ever be quite right in his head and heart again, for he will have seen man at his lowest and joined him there. No sane man ought want to engage in it. No society that uses it to any great extent is likely to feel moral again for quite some time.

This, however, is not the same thing as saying it never works, as any number of either very stupid or very dishonest people have tried to claim.

(Do I like reprising against civilians who happen to share blood and culture with specific enemies? No. I don’t particularly like reprising against, in effect, wounded in hospitals that an enemy is using for ammo dumps, either. The latter, however, is clearly necessary sometimes and, when your enemy is socially organized not as formal military units but around ties of blood, the former may well be unavoidable if the enemy is to be deterred from certain kinds of conduct. Or beaten, for that matter.)

Stupid and dishonest, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference, isn’t it? What’s one to make of a politician, one who has experienced torture personally, to all appearances a decent and brave man, who can say in one breath that (I’m probably paraphrasing, here), “People will say anything under torture,” and in the next say, “Torture doesn’t work”? He’s either dishonestly pandering to the crowd (Am I being redundant by saying “politician” and “dishonestly pandering to the crowd”? I suppose I am.) or he’s too dumb to realize that, if torture’s that bad, and with a modicum of ability to spot-check for truth, the victim of torture will also tell the truth rather than risk more torture. One has to wonder about the fitness for high office of such a man. I mean, really? It’s being neither cleverly dishonest nor honestly stupid. I’d prefer he say, “Even though torture works, we would prefer to be destroyed or enslaved than violate our principles and use it.”

Of course, he’d get few votes that way. He sure as hell wouldn’t get mine, though at least he’d have my respect. What would get my vote? Oh…something like, “Whatever it takes to preserve our civilization, our nation, our people, and our way of life, without hesitation or unnecessary restraint, and consulting no one who does not have our best interests at heart, that shall I do, always remembering that there’s a price for everything.”

Votes…what does it say about us or our preferred democratic system that so many of our people prefer the palatable lie to the unpleasant truth? Nothing good, surely. Thomas Carlyle had this much right, though: “A lie will not stand.” Indeed, the Islamofascists are going to knock it down around our heads while at the same time removing any restraint of ours behind which they hide. Then again, as mentioned, they’re insane.

“‘Are going to?'” you ask. Oh, yes. This goes back to torture. Many people who would otherwise object to torture would permit it in the so-called “Ticking Bomb Scenario.” This is, though few seem to realize it, an admission that, given a means of immediate feedback, torture works. But what is al Qaeda, what is the entire Islamic Fundamentalist movement, in an age of nukes and bugs and gas, except one big ticking bomb with an unknown time of detonation?

Is it the immediacy of the threat that makes torture valid in the ticking bomb scenario? Immediacy hardly seems an absolute moral principle. How about immediacy times potential harm; isn’t that better? So if you can morally break out “Skevington’s Daughter” (Look it up; I don’t have a sample here to show you. Not my thing.) for five hundred pounds of TNT in a van somewhere now, can’t you break it out also for a nuke in New York in ten years? For a dozen nukes scattered about the U.S. or Europe in twenty-five? For a world-scourging plague in fifty?

I think you can. If the threat is real, I think you we must.

As I said, it’s very sad.

And then, too, let us not forget the real poltroons. You know the type: “We’ll officially forbid torture but if you soldier or law enforcement officer or intelligence agent engage in it illegally with the intent of protecting me and mine and it turns out that you just might have protected us then we’ll pardon you. Then we can feel clean and safe and pure and virtuous and still be properly grateful.”

Despicable moral cowardice; that’s what that is.

Someone (Michael Kinsley, I think) called all this, “salami slicing.” He was right, of course, it often is salami slicing. Salami slicing is not one of the classical logical fallacies. Ever try to eat a large salami without slicing it? If it’s a question of slicing the salami or starving do you prefer to die? Go ahead with my blessings. Before you expire though, could you pass over the salami, the knife and the crackers? Yes, they’re there in the little refrigerator, in behind the beer.

Thanks. Care for some salami? Go on, have some. It might help keep you alive.