An argument against SERE torture resistance training
February 18, 2010 § 3 Comments
I haven’t taken a position on whether waterboard resistance training as done by SERE is or is not immoral. That there are factual, objective, morally pertinent differences between waterboard resistance training and waterboarding prisoners to gather intelligence is obvious: the trainee enters into the procedure voluntarily, he knows it is a finite training exercise and will not be continued indefinitely, he knows it isn’t being done in order to make him betray his conscience or his comerades, etc. None of that makes it the case that waterboard resistance training is definitely morally acceptable, mind you. It does establish that even when we stipulate the moral liciety of waterboard resistance training, that doesn’t imply anything in particular about the morality of waterboarding prisoners.
But one reasonable prudential argument against treating our own troops to even a simulated dehumanization in training – and of course it is only morally licit if it is in fact a simulated dehumanization, not an actual one – is that such a program encourages the actual dehumanization of prisoners. So much rhetorical hay is made of the claim “we did waterboard resistance training on our troops, therefore waterboarding prisoners for intelligence is OK” that it may be immoral simply as a matter of imprudence to do this to our troops.