A significant silence

If silence gives consent, then the right blogosophere, and especially its legal component, seems to be consenting to the notion that the claims made on the President’s behalf in the DoD torture memo were indefensible.

Kieran Healy links to a post by Eugene Volokh disclaiming any intention of commenting on the torture memos. Eugene gives plausible reasons for his decision not to wade into the issue, and of course he’s right to say that no blogger has an obligation to comment on any particular matter.

It’s worth noting, however, that the torture memo from DoD embraces two separate issues: the legality of torture, and the supposed “inherent power” of the President as Commander-in-Chief to ignore the law (both statute and treaty) whenever in his sole and unreviewable judgment the public safety requires it. It’s possible to express an opinion on that second claim without getting into the guts, so to speak, of the torture problem.

I find it striking that, in a situation where President Bush is being widely and harshly criticized for (at least) not disclaiming the astonishing claim made on his behalf by his appointees, no one who isn’t actually on his payroll has stepped forward to defend those claims. If the attacks on the Presdient were even a little bit unfair, one would have expected that, even if Eugene decided to remain silent, one of the less weighty conservative law-bloggers could have been found to rise to the President’s defense. (Glenn Reynolds, who has been silent so far this round, presumably isn’t available, given his unprintable response last time the torture issue came up.)

Sometimes silence conveys more information than speech. Indeed, as Leo Strauss never tired of reminding his readers, sometimes silence is intended to convey information about which speech would be inconvenient, or information too important to be written or spoken. This may be one of those cases.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “A significant silence”

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