Letters from the Center
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  Power Line - The world may be flat, but it's not one-dimensional

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: The world may be flat, but it's not one-dimensional
Date: Tue, 31 May 2005 16:37:16 -0700
From: David Barrett <dbarrett@quinthar.com>
To: Power Line <powerlinefeedback@gmail.com>


Hi, I liked your response to Thomas Friedman's call to abandon "Gitmo".

While I agree with you that the base takes a bad rap, and is seen as
everything that is wrong with US military detention, I disagree wiht the
tone of your article that suggests that we need (and in fact, should) do
nothing different.

Thomas reflects a common anger, that US military detention is above the
law, inhumane, and -- at best -- a massive PR liability, if not totally
counterproductive to its efforts. This overall sentiment is focused on
that base, rightly or wrongly.

I think Thomas was arguing no so much that military detention as a whole
should be undone. Rather, I think he's arguing that the practical value
of the detainees at *that specific base* is outweighed by the practical
damage it's doing to our reputation. I think Thomas isn't alone in this
view, and I think his view is impossible to reject entirely.

You present the alternative case (some might say the "best case"
scenario) that pays little attention to the costs, while accentuating
the potential value. You might be right. But your evidence is no more
"solid" than the evidence Thomas presents.

The fact is, nobody knows what value we're getting from the detainees
(though the steady stream of releases without charge after years of
detention is disheartening). I, like you, hope we're getting something.
But I can't claim we are any more than you can.

Furthermore, the fact is nobody knows the true damage its doing to our
reputation (though the constant negative attention drawn to the topic is
disheartening). I, like you, hope the damage is minimal and justified.
But I can't claim it is any more than you can.

The fact is, you don't know, any more than Thomas does. And your
argument for discrediting Thomas is no more compelling than the argument
he uses to discredit you.

So, I write this to suggest that you might use an alternate approach.
Rather than just painting him and all his supporters as naive, I suggest
you acknowledge the limits of our information, and ask him to give the
government the benefit of the doubt, as you do. You do provide some
great links -- how nobody's died at Gitmo, how terrorists are trained to
report abuse, and so on. But those gems are lost in the overall denial.

Basically, if you stop pretending that you have all the answers (just as
he does), you can start getting to the real issues. As for what the
"real issues" are it's sadly hard to say, because people like you and
Thomas spend so much time on slinging mud in a never-ending, futile war
of words that it's not clear what either of you stand for either than
"Bush rocks!" and "Bush sucks!".


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I'm what you might call a "radical centrist" and these are my letters to bloggers, journalists, and politicians -- left, right, and center -- where I implore them to pull away from the edges and back to the mainstream. Come read if you like, but I'll keep writing either way.

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David Barrett
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