Torture and the presidency

“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would – in a heartbeat…Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.” – Donald Trump

Waterboarding to the point of unconsciousness, isolation in small boxes, being chained naked in a standing position for days, and forced rectal feeding are just a few of the horrors detainees were subjected to at the hands of the C.I.A. after 9/11 and described in shocking detail with the release of the Senate committee’s findings in December 2014.

Waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” remain fixtures in campaign discourse surrounding the presidential election, with Donald Trump weighing in recently on his plans to embrace the technique if elected.

Opinions regarding torture are quite polarized, with some claiming torture opposes core American values, while others maintain these methods were necessary for the preservation of national security. Still others have questioned torture’s effectiveness.

schiemann book

In "Does Torture Work?" (Oxford University Press, November 2015), John W. Schiemann, associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, explores the effectiveness of interrogational torture in a new and unique way: using game theory. Readers are asked to think of torture as a strategic “game” between the interrogator and detainee. Adopting the reasoning of proponents, Schiemann explains the logic of torture and compares its outcomes to those made by advocates who justify its use.

Drawing on a variety of sources from historical records of the Inquisition to secret C.I.A. memos of the present day, Schiemann illustrates each outcome of his model with a narrative from the real world of interrogational torture, giving readers the resources to grapple with one of the most debated human rights and national security issues in the United States.