A gentleman can be trusted with power, but a cad cannot be trusted even when he appears powerless. It is an essential attribute of American conservatives that often telling a gentleman from a cad is hard.
Some men start as gentlemen, but become cads. Some (thank God) of us start as cads, but become gentlemen.
As a result we don’t trust too much power being given to anybody without maximum transparency.
Why? People in power are not worse than people out of power, but they have more ability to do harm.
Here is an easy observation to make: the more secret me can be in their actions, the worse those actions can become before being checked.
War is to be feared by an conservative, because it empowers government. The power tends to stick around when the emergency ends. That is dangerous.
Secret powers are even more dangerous. Some are probably necessary, but they should be kept to a minimum. Spy agencies need all the oversight they can get, but by nature they will always be sore spots in the Republic open to abuse by their very nature.
Giving secretive agencies the power to torture is even more dangerous. Even if we assume that the power will at first be used for “good” causes, no conservative will be sanguine about the future. We assume such great power will corrupt . . . and corrupt an agency badly.
Oversight of such “torture” will almost always come after the fact in the cases where torture is most justifiable (“LA is about to be bombed!”). To preserve the secrecy of the agency it will be done by groups of insiders, often with a vested interest in maintaining the establishment.
As a conservative, there is no establishment I trust with this power.
Mostly war is declared and fought openly. Many of us will be able to pass judgment on our leaders. Of course, some actions in war will be clandestine, but these are very, very dangerous for us.
Those actions that are not “open” must be heavily limited, because of the chances for abuse. If torture is outlawed, then at least we will have reason to hope that the bad actions of secret agencies will be deterred. If someone does snap and torture a prisoner, members of the establishment will be empowered to condemn then without undermining the entire system.
This makes it more likely that bad actors will be punished.
After all, we don’t want to win the war, but discover we have created a government establishment that makes our victory hollow or reduces our liberties.
Torture is immoral, but there are good political reasons for a conservative to oppose it.