9. Extreme Times, Extreme Measures

David Fisher

in Morality and War

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599240
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725692 | DOI:
9. Extreme Times, Extreme Measures

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Following the 9/11 attacks, al‐Qaeda and other terrorist groups pose a threat, operating with global networks and potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction. To counter these threats, US policy‐makers argued that extreme times justify extreme measures. These include pre‐emptive military action to forestall terrorist attacks and new methods of interrogation to uncover them. Just‐war thinking would license neither the new US doctrine of pre‐emption nor the new interrogation techniques. For an absolutist torture is always wrong, but a consequentialist, such as Dershowitz, justifies torture if it could save lives. To understand why torture is wrong we need to deploy all the resources of virtuous consequentialism, attending not just to the consequences but the internal states and character of the torturer and his victim. We want our public servants to be virtuous. Yet we need our special interrogators to be men or women of vice.

Keywords: absolutism; coercive interrogation; consequentialism; Alan Dershowitz; extreme measures; pre‐emption; al‐Qaeda; 11 September 2001; 9/11; terrorism; torture; vice; virtue; virtuous consequentialism

Chapter.  10737 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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