So, how do we walk away from Omelas?
The announcement that military show trials are to recommence at Guantanamo Bay, combined with the brutal and vindictive treatment of Bradley Manning, make it clear that, as regards willing to suppress basic human and civil rights in the name of security, there is no fundamental difference between the Obama and Bush Administrations. The first obvious question is, why? The second is, how to respond?
[T]he gap between Obama’s rhetoric and his actions has not yet attracted a lot of attention. For the moment, the public image of the US is still improving as a lagged response to Obama’s early actions. But it’s hard to see this being sustained indefinitely. In particular, the Wikileaks case has the potential for grave damage, especially given the recognition that Wikileaks (and, more generally, the capacity of the Internet to undermine censorship and secrecy) has done more to promote the cause of freedom than the rhetoric and actions of successive US Administrations.
There is a possible public choice explanation for why Obama’s approach to civil liberties is shaping up to be pretty much identical to that of his predecessor — a well-organized minority reaps concentrated benefits from it, while most suffer only minor harm, if any (and for now). The minority are those who have performed and/or authorized the abuses under both administrations and who do not wish to be punished. The majority? Us. It’s no mystery who has the Pentagon’s ear, is it?
So… how do we walk away from Omelas? Quiggin concludes reluctantly that the Democrats still need our support. But support for what, exactly? If they are the lesser of two evils, it’s not by much.