In the article entitled “The Case for Torture” published by Newsweek in 1982, Michael Levin argues that the use of torture as a means to save lives is justifiable and necessary. Beginning with very general premises, Levin draws a series of hyperbolic cases where torture might be justifiable so as to set precedents for the justification of torture in more “realistic cases.” However, the author never fully defines the boundaries and conditions behind his premises and suggests that disregarding civil liberties as deemed necessary may be justified to preserve those same civil liberties. Throughout the article Levin resorts to a number of arguments with visible logical flaws, and by the end he fails to address any inquiries that may be raised against his arguments, instead drawing his arguments and conclusions into fear-inducing fire-and-brimstone rhetoric.
With the premise that “torture is justifiable only to save lives,” Levin illustrates three cases where torture might be justifiable. In the first, he describes a terrorist holding a city of millions hostage to an atomic bomb; the second, a terrorist who has implanted remote-controlled bombs on a plane; and the third, a terrorist who has kidnapped a baby.
In each of these cases, Levin draws hyperbolic situations where it is insinuated that the extreme violence of certain crimes justifies discarding the constitutional rights of individuals. Levin essentially appeals to fear as a way of rationalizing cases where the rights of the individual should not hold for the supposed greater good of the society. Levin does not clearly limit the use of torture to these three extraordinary examples, but rather suggests that any number of cases may require the violation of individual rights, and thereby the constitution. For instance, in his hyperbolic examples, Levin uses saving lives of citizens as necessary to preserve order. However, stifling dissent may also be deemed as necessary to preserve order. Although the torture...
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