There are philosophers, and then there are lawyers
I was surprised, even shocked, that Waldron answered the question we put to him about the "ticking time bomb" hypothetical where New York City is going to be blown up if we don't torture this terrorist. In his article, he just skirts the issue as put to him by Professor Dershowitz, argues that these situations don't exist. Professor Yoo noted in the debate that there have, in fact, been instances like this, but I can at least respect an argument that these hypothetical examples don't materialize, and therefore shouldn't be the basis for discounting Waldron's theory.
Instead Waldron said:
The answer that law and morality and religion requires that in no circumstances is torture to be used. The law is unambiguous, it's a total prohibition. And for some of us, our morality dictates the same. We would take responsibility for the consequences of the bomb's explosion, for the consequences of our morality.What? I was shocked. I expected him to again skirt the issue, but he took it head on. This I cannot understand. I think the President not only doesn't have a moral obligation in such a situation to avoid the torture, but has a moral obligation to do precisely the opposite. I can't believe that anyone finds this sensible. How is he going to explain to the 8 million peoples' families that he didn't think it was "right" to torture the terrorist to save their husbands/wives/children/parents? This, I think, is silliness.
Why wasn't I surprised? Well, I wasn't surprised because philosophers and lawyers are two very different breeds. I knew these two would talk past each other. Waldron lives in a world where nothing he says really matters, where he doesn't have to make real, pragmatic choices. No government full of Waldrons could ever function.
It's like the "War is not the Answer" stickers I see on bumpers on the way to school. Not the answer to what? Surely it is the answer to some things--to Pearl Harbor, to dictators committing genocide, and (I think) to 9/11. But to say it is not the answer to anything is to take dogma and ideology to a level of absolute nonsense.