Cold War Values

In the newest Bloggingheads, Rosa Brooks offers Jonah Goldberg an opportunity (about 3:20 into this segment) to justify the current conservative thinking on the human rights issues hovering about enhanced interrogation, habeas corpus at Gitmo, etc. She notes how during the Cold War, it was the anti-communists who sought the moral high ground by forging human rights treaties and using them to flog the Soviets. “How appalling,” she says, that the heirs to the Cold War anti-communists are now so dismissive about those same scruples. This seems like just the kind of thing for Goldberg to seize, in that he’s usually pretty rigorous about sorting out the implications of various stated principles. It’s something that he, as a sort of metatheorist of conservatism or of ideology in general, seems to do a lot. And the Cold War position Brooks invokes has been the starting point for my own surprise at the almost total lack of conservative questioning and self-questioning on the torture issue. So I braced for a smart conservative’s response to this. Goldberg took a deep breath and changed the subject. I’m not saying he changed the subject because he didn’t like it. I’m just saying he changed the subject, and I was disappointed.