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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Interesting Q&A with Glenn Greenwald

   
Author Topic: Interesting Q&A with Glenn Greenwald
Destineer
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Greenwald is an interesting thinker who sees the world in very black-and-white terms. I thought a number of interesting things came up in this reader Q&A with him:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/24/glenn-greenwald-reader-q-and-a

quote:
I personally don't know of any instances in which torture has elicted valuable information, but - for 2 reasons - I have never been one to say that torture can "never" work: (1) I don't believe it's true, as "never" is a very big word in this context, and I can imagine a situation in which it is effective; (2) I think it's irrelevant, since torture - like murder - is wrong no matter the benefits it produces. But I do think the efficacy of torture is a vital part of the torture debate. Many people will support it if they think it's valuable in stopping terrorism and keeping them safe, which is why I think ZDT is so harmful. From everything I've read, even when torture works, traditional (legal) interrogation methods are more effective.
It's interesting that he thinks murder is wrong no matter the consequences, but I don't think that many people, on reflection, would agree with this. I certainly don't. The same goes for torture. It seems to me that the questions about effectiveness are thus even more important than he suggests.

quote:
(1) I can't believe how reflexively and reliably many progressives cheer for Obama's speeches and pretend that they signify anything substantive given how many times he's said things that had no bearing on what he does. I do agree speeches on their own can be important - that's the power of ideas I referenced above - but viewing one of Obama's speeches as reflective of his actual intent is the consummate case of Lucy and the football.
Fair point.

quote:
I really believe at this point that the most important trend in civil liberties assault is the importation of War on Terror tactics onto US soil and their application domestically (indefinite detention, citizen assassinations, massive surveillance expansions, para-militarization of police forces, drones, etc). I think government planners expect unrest in the future due to economic distress and these measures are mostly about keeping the domestic population pacified, as we saw with the Occupy movement.
This is an extremely disturbing line of thought. Makes me hope even more that better economic times come again. I really believe that it is easier for people, voters and officials, to keep their moral priorities in mind when they don't have to worry so much about the economy.

quote:
How do you think nuclear proliferation should be managed, something which seems particularly relevant considering North Korea's announcement today? Can this process be better managed so as to create greater stability, rather than instability? – HarryThomp

I'm not sure it can be managed. Efforts to stop the spread of technology and knowledge are notoriously difficult. It's very hard to detect, and even harder to stop - and that will only get worse as the technology becomes more accessible. I also don't believe that countries will voluntarily give up their nuclear arsenals. Ultimately, efforts are more important to manage a world with nuclear weapons.

Strongly, strongly disagree. If nuclear weapons are maintained at present levels, let alone if proliferation gets worse, there will be a bad accident or mistake. Something will go wrong eventually.
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Teshi
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quote:
Strongly, strongly disagree. If nuclear weapons are maintained at present levels, let alone if proliferation gets worse, there will be a bad accident or mistake. Something will go wrong eventually.
I don't think your views are necessarily incommensurable with Greenwald's, he's just being more pragmatic.
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Destineer
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I think he's being less pragmatic. He thinks the West doesn't have the moral right to dictate whether other countries acquire nuclear weapons. For him imperialism--like murder and torture--is always wrong, no matter the consequences. I believe his estimation of how difficult it is to prevent proliferation is really a view about how difficult it is, taking as a given that of course we can't use force or sanctions to get what we want.
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Destineer
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One thing I like about these interview questions is that they get him off his well-worn beaten path of talking points. He can start to sound like a broken record after you read a couple dozen of his columns.
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Teshi
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Well, I don't see the US using force or sanctions successfully to stop, say, Russia having nuclear weapons.
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Lyrhawn
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No, but we've used negotiations through 30 years of treaties to drastically reduce the number of nuclear weapons both sides have.

Besides, that's also where pragmatism enters the equation. Getting Iran to give up its program would be a lot easier than getting Russia to.

Also consider that South Africa gave up their program more or less voluntarily.

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Destineer
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No, but arms control treaties have been pretty effective since 1980 in gradually reducing US and Russian arsenals. So force and sanctions don't seem to be needed in that particular case. On the other hand, keeping Iran from arming and getting Israel to disarm might take tougher measures.
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Mucus
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"It's interesting that he thinks murder is wrong no matter the consequences, but I don't think that many people, on reflection, would agree with this"

Hmmmm, isn't this a definition thing. I would have thought most people think murder is wrong no matter what. However, they separate things like self defense, war, euthanasia, etc. into non-murder categories.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
"It's interesting that he thinks murder is wrong no matter the consequences, but I don't think that many people, on reflection, would agree with this"

Hmmmm, isn't this a definition thing. I would have thought most people think murder is wrong no matter what. However, they separate things like self defense, war, euthanasia, etc. into non-murder categories.

Yep.

"Murder" is a specific term, with moral consequences, for a certain kind of killing.

Does Greenwald think all killing is wrong, Destineer?

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Destineer
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I think GG--being a lawyer--always uses the legal definition of murder, implicitly or sometimes explicitly. And I think it's possible for murder (by the legal definition) to be morally justified by the consequences. So do most people, when they think about a few cases.
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