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The Collective
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The claim in the post title is the kind of thing that one might expect to read from persons concerned about the separation of church and state, or perhaps from those worried about “Chrisitianism.” However, that’s not the source. Rather, it is Paul Mirengoff, one of the contributors to Powerline, who apparently fears that Huckabee’s faith will make him too nice to fight to the War on Terror, especially when it comes to torturing prisoners

My main objection to Huckabee — the reason why he’s my fifth choice out of five — is that I lack confidence in his ability to fight terrorism. It’s not just that he lacks experience in this realm, though that’s certainly the case. The real problem is that he’s too moralistic (which is not the same thing as moral). My first clue came when he said during an early debate that we need to remain in Iraq because “we broke it.” Not because we need to defeat al Qaeda; not because we need to limit Iranian influence or avoid a devastating defeat at the hands of terrorists; but because we injured this formerly peaceful state. Huckabee’s exaltation of moralism (in this case dubious) over policy calculation was difficult to miss.

Heaven forfend that we might have to take into account our own responsibility for the mess in Iraq in any calculation over what to do next…

However, the issue of whether the Pottery Barn Rule (a concept celebrated by well-known theologian, Colin Powell) applies isn’t the big objection for Mirengoff:

Now we learn (but are surprised) that Huckabee opposes waterboarding and would close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Huckabee reached this conclusion after meeting with a group of retired generals (the usual suspects, I assume) who are lobbying candidates to oppose Bush administration interrogation and detention policies.

I suspect that Huckabee required little lobbying. Waterboarding and long-term detention aren’t very “Christian”

One would like to think that torturing detainees isn’t very American, but sadly there is a debate about that in some circles. Further, I would like to think that it isn’t unreasonable to question whether Guantanamo isn’t also a violation of important American principles. Certainly there are serious problems with the way the place has worked to date (some examples here, here and here). Even setting aside the morality of the place, there are compelling reasons to argue that its very existence is damaging long-term American interests, as it seriously undercuts US claims to moral authority in global affairs, especially as it pertains to issues of democracy, democratization and human rights.

I am weary of the notion that “9/11 changed everything” and so I won’t say that 9/11 caused a lot of people to become ruthless about security policy and amorous of the notion of massive, concentrated executive powers. Rather, I will just say that the events of 9/11 and subsequent policies have simply allowed many to rather publicly reveal themselves. The logic seems to be that whatever the US does is right so long as it is in the name of “security” and that the ultimate justification for those actions isn’t morality, values or ideals, but nothing more than power.

Thrasymachus lives.

Update: John Cole comments on the Powerline post as well, and wonders:

what does it say about your party when people are deemed unelectable because they oppose torture?

While I understand the sentiment, I would argue that at this point we can’t make judgments about the party in regards to this issue (and I understand John’s basic ire with the GOP, as he was, until recently, a Republican voter). However, we may yet, as there is clearly a faction of the party that believe that the US should (and, indeed, must) do whatever is necessary to fight the “bad guys.”

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6 Comments

  1. Mike Huckabee Too Moralistic to be President?

    Paul Mirengoff argues that Mike Huckabee is weak on national security because he’s blinded by his ideals.
    My main objection to Huckabee — the reason why he’s my fifth choice out of five — is that I lack confidence in his ability…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Tuesday, December 4, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  2. Mike Huckabee Too Moralistic to be President?

    Paul Mirengoff argues that Mike Huckabee is weak on national security because he’s blinded by his ideals.
    My main objection to Huckabee — the reason why he’s my fifth choice out of five — is that I lack confidence in his ability…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Tuesday, December 4, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  3. I think we can indeed make judgments about the party as a whole on these issues, because only one candidate is forthright about opposing torture (despite his being a hardline militarist and imperialist otherwise), and his campaign hangs by a thread and looks unlikely to get any boost once actual Republican voters start voting. He also is the one with the reputation for being most forthright in condemning the influence of Christianism (”agents of intolerance”) in his own party.

    One can draw one’s own conclusions, but it seems to me pretty clear where the party is coming down on these issues. The same place it has been for quite some time.

    As for “Christianism” I think I first saw the term on The Head Heeb in 2005, where there is a pretty good generalization about what it means as a transnational political phenomenon.

    And I raise all of this as someone who is indeed very concerned about the impact of Christianism, despite-no, make that because-my answer to Andrew Sullivan’s question, in his first line (in Steven’s link behind the word, “Christianism”), is no.

    Comment by MSS — Tuesday, December 4, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  4. It is, of course, difficult to state that McCain is hanging by a thread because of his stance on torture.

    What if Huckabee, who has staked out a McCainesque opinion on the subject, is nominated (as opposed to Rudy or Mitt)-would that not alter the evaluation of the party as a whole? It would seem to me that it would to some degree.

    Now, at the end of the day, the party seems likely to go the Rudy or Mitt direction-at which time I will be more that satisfied to say that party has tarred itself with that brush.

    And, what!?! you don’t feel represented by the Religious Right! I am shocked!! :)

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, December 4, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

  5. I did not even know Huckabee was McCainesque on torture. He certainly does not make as much noise about it. Which is kind of what I was getting at-it is one of McCain’s two items on which he has staked a reputation. And neither is helping him.

    But this new (for me) fact reinforces my own sense that Huckabee is another Rohrschach (sp?) candidate. I have doubts about him for the long haul. But he is making noises with the Christianist wing, which might keep him afloat.

    And, as I’ve said before, I can’t really see any of these candidates being nominated. Yet one of them is fairly likely to get it.

    Comment by MSS — Wednesday, December 5, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

  6. And, as I’ve said before, I can’t really see any of these candidates being nominated. Yet one of them is fairly likely to get it.

    No joke.

    In re: Huckabee, I do expect him to him to fade, to be honest. I keep fearing that it will be Rudy, but then I convince myself that his baggage will catch up with him. And so then I wonder who would fill the void. I have a hard itme seeing Mitt, and Thompson is already toast, so I still wonder if McCain won’t eventually emerge from the ashes….

    Still, even that seems unlikely.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Wednesday, December 5, 2007 @ 7:29 pm

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