Harlow, J. Porter. How Should We Treat Detainees? An Examination of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” under the Light of Scripture and the Just War Tradition. P&R, 2016.
Harlow, who served as an attorney in the Marine Corps and as an associate professor at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School, wrote this book as a thesis for an M.A.R. degree from RTS.
He opens the dissertation with an account of how his views began to change on this subject. While teaching at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School he invited Marine Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch to address the class. He described Couch as “a prosecutor’s prosecutor, a strong advocate for the Government who I did not believe had ever served as a defense counsel” and as “as self-described Republican and evangelical Christian” (xvii-xviii). In this lecture Couch explained why he had refused to prosecute an al-Qaeda terrorist because his “confessions had been obtained by the U.S. Government as the result of torture” (xvii). Couch found this not only unlawful (and thus evidence “inadmissiable in a court”) but he also registered his moral objections. This prompted Harlow, an evangelical Christian, to begin to rethink his position on torture and to investigate the nature of the enhanced interrogation techniques that had been used for a time by the U.S. government.
In this work he reviews the biblical argumentation for just war theory and then applies his findings to the enhanced interrogation techniques employed early on in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He concludes that these techniques, especially when combined are torture and violate the principles of discrimination (in which only combatants are to be targeted in war) and proportionality (principles that he earlier grounded in Scripture).
One of most interesting discussions in the book has to do with the ticking time bomb scenario. It is in connection with this scenario in particular that some evangelicals have sanctioned torture. Harlow finds this fundamentally problematic because it sets aside a deontological approach to ethics (something is right or wrong because it conforms to or violates the law of God) for a utilitarian ethic (something is right or wrong depending on the potential outcome). He concludes: “Ticking time bomb scenarios have been criticized as intellectual frauds because they (1) provide for unrealistic certainty in the factual circumstances, (2) limit the leader’s options so as to only consider whether to torture or not to torture, and (3) mis-frame the entire debate over detainee treatment by developing principles based upon the most exceptional circumstances and then applying those principles to detainee treatment in general circumstances” (90).
Harlow concludes that evangelicals have not applied the Scripture to this issue with the same rigor and concern that they have to issues like abortion. Instead they have often been overly influenced by their political affiliations. He calls for evangelicals to test treatment of detainees by Scripture and to allow Scripture to shape their approach to public policy in this area.