This question is asked by Eric S. Raymond. Go read the whole thing.
A high-ranking Taliban commander is captured in Pakistan, and the (now entirely predictable) dance begins. Says the Guardian:
Mullah Barader has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with US and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials. Though Barack Obama has banned US agencies from using forms of torture such as waterboarding, Pakistani questioning techniques are frequently brutal.
That’s right. Because the American chattering classes have their panties in a bunch about acts of “torture” that don’t do any permanent damage to the victim, Barader is in the hands of Pakistanis who are likely to [fornicate] his [excretions] up the old-school way, with knives and cattle-prods and blowtorches. And yet, this is supposed to count as a moral victory.
All the manufactured indignation about Guantanamo Bay has similarly perverse effects. When you tell U.S. troops that every enemy combatant they accept a surrender from is going to be made into an international cause celebre that will be used to damage their war effort, the effect will be — count on it — that they stop accepting surrenders. This means that all the soi-disant “innocents” swept up in these operations will become innocent corpses. Instead of being stuck in a facility that’s a resort hotel compared to any prison in the Mideast, they’ll be dead — victims of someone else’s moral vanity.
I was born and educated into the class that produces “gentry liberals”, but I’ve come to loathe them. This is why. It’s always someone else who pays the cost of their posturing. Very often, it’s the people they claim to be helping[…]
They’re so very, very convinced of their moral superiority, they are. The pious anti-torture crusaders, the “economic-justice” cod-Marxists, the no-growth environmentalists, the gun banners, and all their kin in the tribe of wealthy white left-liberals. Armored by their certitudes and their sheepskins and their class privileges, they sail serenely above the deadly consequences of their meddling. Not for them any need to worry about second-order effects or process costs or who actually pays the cost for their delusions, oh, no. They are the anointed, and lofty intentions are their sovereign excuse however much damage they do.
Truly, I hate them all. Perhaps I hate them more intensely because I so narrowly escaped being one of them. But it’s really the invincible stupidity and myopia that gets me, and the way their “compassion” stinks of narcissism. Some days I think if I could have just one wish, it would be this: let their folly come back on their own heads.
I understand. All too well.
UPDATE: Make sure to read this related post: On being against torture.
And relatedly, in “Marginal devolution”, ESR discusses how unintended consequences of morally vain employment policies cause structural unemployment.