How The CIA’s Torture Program Is Destroying The Key Foreign Power The US Had: The Moral High Ground

by Mike Masnick

Wed, Dec 24th 2014

from the depressing dept


Over a year ago, we wrote about a wonderful piece in Foreign Affairs by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, noting that the real “danger” of the Snowden and Manning revelations was that it effectively killed off the US’s ability to use hypocrisy as a policy tool. Here was the key bit (though the whole article is worth reading):

The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

The argument that Farrell and Finnemore made was that the revelations that came about because of the whistleblowing by Snowden and Manning made it such that this hypocrisy didn’t function as well, because it made it much easier for others to simply call bullshit.

Now, a new article at Foreign Policy, by Kristin Lord, takes this argument even further, by looking at the CIA torture program and how it has totally undermined America’s “soft power” in diplomacy. Lord, thankfully, makes it quite clear that the problem here is the CIA’s program and not (as some have tried to argue) the release of the report about the program:

But the fault lies not with those who released the report, as some critics argue, but with those who permitted and perpetrated acts of torture, those who lied about it to America’s elected representatives, and those who willfully kept the president and senior members of the Bush administration in the dark. Their actions undermined not only American values, but also American influence and national security interests. In the words of a former prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the actions laid out in the Senate report “stained our national honor” and “did much harm and little practical good.”

But the key point of Lord’s article, like the earlier one by Farrell and Finnemore, is that the US has long relied on its “soft power strategy” of convincing others to do things because it’s “the right thing to do.” The US has long presented itself as holding a higher moral ground. However, as Lord points out, the soft power the US uses goes beyond just the moral high ground:READ MORE>>  How The CIA’s Torture Program Is Destroying The Key Foreign Power The US Had: The Moral High Ground | Techdirt.

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