Zero Tolerance

ZERO TOLERANCE….Over at The Nation, the editors explain why we should care about the torture and abuse of prisoners:

If the twentieth century proved anything, it is that no nation, no constitutional system, is immune from the downward human rights spiral signified by torture ? as Britain, France and Israel, among other nations, learned at great political cost….The point is not so much that we are “better than our enemies,” as Senator McCain and others have argued, but that our democratic institutions are vulnerable to erosion.

What’s ironic about this passage from America’s premier liberal journal is that it’s a profoundly conservative argument ? and yet it’s one that most conservatives refuse to grapple with seriously.

They should. After all, conservatives have long taken a dim view of human nature, and with good reason. The whole history of mankind has shown just how easy it is for people to slip into barbarism when the shackles of civilization are loosened even a little bit, and it’s all too foreseeable that a “little bit” of prisoner abuse won’t stay little for long once people get used to it.

Conservatives who support “broken windows” policing because they believe that tolerance of even petty crime leads to a culture in which larger crimes also become tolerated, should likewise believe in a zero tolerance approach to torture. It’s the same view of human nature at work.