The Long And Short Of It
Paul Bloom compares the pitfalls of short-term and long-term decisions:
People who succumb to short-term impulses often do awful things, such as driving drunk or beating up their children. They would better off if their long-term selves had control, and could block and distract these short-term choices. But often the situation is flipped, and it’s the long-term self that’s misguided. It can become committed to belief systems that have immoral consequences. Terrorism and genocide, for instance, are typically deliberate choices, not acts of passion; it’s the long-term self that’s the guilty one. Indeed, people often have to force themselves to commit terrible acts; they have to work to defy the natural and legitimate moral impulses of their short-term selves.
Kind of like the distinction between a battlefield moment of abuse of prisoners, and a systematic program to torture and abuse them, monitored by a bureaucracy and authorized by the president.