Today's right wing talking point fallacy: false alternatives

McCain is fond of asserting that you can't get reliable information through torture. In doing so, he relies on his experience in North Vietnam. However, the ineffectiveness of the crude tactics of his prison guards of 40 years ago does not demonstrate that the tactics available to us today are ineffective. In fact, it appears that our tactics worked well with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If they didn't work, why would Vice President Cheney and our top military leaders be so insistent on not taking them off the table. |PowerLine|

On the plus side, at least he's asking the right question. Why not take torture off the table? Some possibilities:
  1. Torture is an effective technique which frequently provides operationally useful intelligence.
  2. Torture is an effective technique which serves both to cow target populations and to produce coerced confessions which can be used to further a variety of propaganda purposes.
  3. Torture is an ineffective technique, but policymakers are too stubborn to admit that their favored policies have not proved effective.
  4. Those responsible for formulating U.S. policy have been touched by the finger of Satan, the dark lord who walks among us.

The PowerLine crowd argues as follows: Only 1 and 4 are live options; Only a liberal wackjob would believe 4; Hence, 1.

It is, of course, possible that 1 is true. However, as 2 and 3 are at least as plausible as 1 and 4, they must be considered. Since they were not, the argument is fallacious.

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