Last night's Presidential news conference
I had two strong reactions.
First, with regard to torture, President Obama said:
What I've said�and I will repeat�is that waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. I don't think that's just my opinion; that's the opinion of many who've examined the topic. And that's why I put an end to these practices.
I am absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do�not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways�in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are [emphasis added].
I generally liked this repudiation of torture. But I was disappointed in the rationale he used (the italicized bit). I wish he had said instead that we do not torture because it is morally wrong. That's why it's illegal. At first I was thinking that he had missed an opportunity to make the moral case, but then I realized I was presuming that he really agreed with me. Maybe he doesn't.
Second, I was surprised that President Obama seemed to tip the government's hand on their approach to the danger of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. His initial response to the relevant question was:
I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We've got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation....
We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.
The first half of his response to the follow-up�that he was not going to engage in hypotheticals�was what I expected. The second half, giving reassurance as to what was not going to happen, only seemed to emphasize the existence of contingency plans.
Q: But in a worst-case scenario...
OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in...
Q: (OFF-MIKE) military could secure this nuclear...
OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in�in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.
I have no doubt that such contingency plans exist. I am not surprised that they do. I am surprised that the President was willing to talk about them.