Neoconservatism and Torture

A reader writes:

Lately, you have noted that some who are generally labeled neocons (JPod, among others) have either refused to condemn torture or have made statements in support of its use, at least by American forces. Your reaction to this seems to be, "Look, the neocons are actually pro-torture." Let me suggest to you that a "neocon" who supports torture is as much a traitor to the cause as a "conservative" who allows the country to run up huge debts and/or who wishes to inject his own religious beliefs into people's private lives.

Support for human rights is at the very heart of neoconservatism, properly understood.

Indeed, it is its raison d'etre. Neoconservatism is a counter to the realist school of thought, which argues that America should not care how other governments treat their citizens, as long as these same governments are friendly to American interests. Neocons believe not only that the US has a unique obligation to promote democracy and human rights, but that our political interests are best served by doing so, and that we cannot simply ignore the internal policies of even our putative allies. Sometimes, military action is required (though hopefully in these cases such action is carried out competently). If Jews are disproportionately represented among neocons, perhaps it is because we are especially aware of the consequences of inaction in the face of threats to human rights, especially aware that many times pacifism or neutrality are profoundly immoral. Anyone who believes in neoconservatism understands that torture is counter to both our moral obligations and our political interests. Thus, someone who thinks that it is acceptable for the US to torture people in the supposed service of our interests is not a true neocon. Actual neocons are as horrified by waterboarding as you are.

But when forced to choose between their principles and power, they chose power. Charles Krauthammer has endorsed torture, and an elite corps to practice it. I don't know whether he decided that their shirts should be brown.