Daniel W. Drezner

Glenn Greenwald enjoys waterboarding puppies

A reader tipped me off to this Glenn Greenwald post reacting to my bloggingheads diavlog with Joshua Cohen:  Here are Tufts University Political Science Professor Dan Drezner and Stanford Philosophy Professor Joshua Cohen demonstrating how good-hearted, profoundly reasonable, oh-so-intellectually sophisticated Americans diligently struggle with — torture themselves over — what they have convinced themselves is the vexing question of ...

A reader tipped me off to this Glenn Greenwald post reacting to my bloggingheads diavlog with Joshua Cohen:  Here are Tufts University Political Science Professor Dan Drezner and Stanford Philosophy Professor Joshua Cohen demonstrating how good-hearted, profoundly reasonable, oh-so-intellectually sophisticated Americans diligently struggle with -- torture themselves over -- what they have convinced themselves is the vexing question of whether our leaders should be considered "war criminals" by virtue of . . . . having committed unambiguous war crimes.... This is now the conventional wisdom, the settled consensus, of our political and media elites with regard to America's torture program.  It's perfectly appropriate that Drezner cites and heaps praise on the self-consciously open-minded meditation on the torture question from The Atlantic's Ross Douthat because -- as I wrote in response to Douthat -- our political elites have now, virtually in unison, convinced themselves that ambiguity and understanding with regard to American war crimes are the hallmarks of both intellectual and moral superiority.... This is the justifying argument the political class has latched onto -- one that was spawned, revealingly enough, by Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith:  sure, some of this might have been excessive and arguably wrong, but it was all done for the right reasons, by people who are good at heart.  So common is this self-justifying American rationalization that it has now even infected the mentality of long-time Bush critics, such as The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page, which today argued that prosecutions for Bush officials are inappropriate, even though they clearly broke multiple laws, because "they did so as part of a post- 9/11 response to terrorism."  As this excellent reply from Diane at Cab Drollery puts it:  "civility and understanding is far more important to them than simple justice." Yes, because we all know that the exact administration of justice is best when it lacks understanding.  This is certainly true of Greenwald, who appears not to have actually listened to what Cohen and I actually said to each other.  I was pretty explicit about the following: Torture is wrong. Douthat's post gets at the mindset of a majority of Americans in the immediate wake of 9/11 Political leaders are supposed to remember the Constitution and ignore the seductive allures of mob psychology -- and therefore should be held accountable fo these actions The Bush administration responded to their pre-9/11 neglect of the terrorist threat by wildly overreacting to possible threats in the post-9/11 era. If you're going to go after Bush administration officials for violating the law, Condi Rice should be pretty far down on the list, since she a) was not in the chain of command on this; and b) despite her formal role, was cut out of the loop on a lot of the decision-making.  I suspect Greenwald didn't comprehend these points in the diavlog because I failed to say "torture is wrong" fifty more times.  Based on my prior experiences with him, he's the kind of guy who needs a lot of repetition in order to comprehend what he's reading.  [Um, does Greenwald actually waterboard puppies?--ed.  In all dealings with Greenwald from here on in, I shall rely on the Greenwald Standard of Blog Proof -- which is to say, if he disagrees with me even one iota, he is hereby evil and can be accused of anything.] 

A reader tipped me off to this Glenn Greenwald post reacting to my bloggingheads diavlog with Joshua Cohen

Here are Tufts University Political Science Professor Dan Drezner and Stanford Philosophy Professor Joshua Cohen demonstrating how good-hearted, profoundly reasonable, oh-so-intellectually sophisticated Americans diligently struggle with — torture themselves over — what they have convinced themselves is the vexing question of whether our leaders should be considered “war criminals” by virtue of . . . . having committed unambiguous war crimes…. This is now the conventional wisdom, the settled consensus, of our political and media elites with regard to America’s torture program.  It’s perfectly appropriate that Drezner cites and heaps praise on the self-consciously open-minded meditation on the torture question from The Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat because — as I wrote in response to Douthat — our political elites have now, virtually in unison, convinced themselves that ambiguity and understanding with regard to American war crimes are the hallmarks of both intellectual and moral superiority…. This is the justifying argument the political class has latched onto — one that was spawned, revealingly enough, by Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith:  sure, some of this might have been excessive and arguably wrong, but it was all done for the right reasons, by people who are good at heart.  So common is this self-justifying American rationalization that it has now even infected the mentality of long-time Bush critics, such as The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page, which today argued that prosecutions for Bush officials are inappropriate, even though they clearly broke multiple laws, because “they did so as part of a post- 9/11 response to terrorism.”  As this excellent reply from Diane at Cab Drollery puts it:  “civility and understanding is far more important to them than simple justice.”

Yes, because we all know that the exact administration of justice is best when it lacks understanding.  This is certainly true of Greenwald, who appears not to have actually listened to what Cohen and I actually said to each other.  I was pretty explicit about the following:

  1. Torture is wrong.
  2. Douthat’s post gets at the mindset of a majority of Americans in the immediate wake of 9/11
  3. Political leaders are supposed to remember the Constitution and ignore the seductive allures of mob psychology — and therefore should be held accountable fo these actions
  4. The Bush administration responded to their pre-9/11 neglect of the terrorist threat by wildly overreacting to possible threats in the post-9/11 era.
  5. If you’re going to go after Bush administration officials for violating the law, Condi Rice should be pretty far down on the list, since she a) was not in the chain of command on this; and b) despite her formal role, was cut out of the loop on a lot of the decision-making. 

I suspect Greenwald didn’t comprehend these points in the diavlog because I failed to say “torture is wrong” fifty more times.  Based on my prior experiences with him, he’s the kind of guy who needs a lot of repetition in order to comprehend what he’s reading.  [Um, does Greenwald actually waterboard puppies?–ed.  In all dealings with Greenwald from here on in, I shall rely on the Greenwald Standard of Blog Proof — which is to say, if he disagrees with me even one iota, he is hereby evil and can be accused of anything.] 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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