In recent days, the United States has been preoccupied with the tales of "torture" and other very unpleasant things done to prevent more terrorist attacks. We have apparently decided that we are in a boxing match in which we must, to preserve (or perhaps regain) our moral virginity, adhere to the Marquess of Queensbury's rules when our attackers adhere to no rules whatever save one — to kill us and to disrupt our affairs to the greatest extent possible. Our moral outrage at those who would try to protect us has been great and doubtless very comforting to some — including to those who seek to kill as many of us as possible; toward the latter, there seems to have been far less moral outrage.
To seek "exceptionalism" by touting one's extraordinarily superior morality in the face of very real and life threatening dangers at the hands of those who adhere to extraordinarily different moral codes, and who seek their own "exceptionalism" through deadly terror attacks, strikes me as suicidal. The United States is and has long been a good and law-abiding country. In her dealings with other good and law abiding countries, she should continue to be good and law abiding. However, she is now facing, and has faced for several years, dangers which are quite different from any encountered before. She is currently engaged with neither a good and law-abiding country as an opponent, nor for that matter, even a country in many cases. She faces in macrocosm what my wife and I personally face on a far smaller and quite personal scale. A difference is that the United States has already been attacked, and we have not yet been.
In dealing with terrorists who are trying very energetically to kill us, we should not be so piously stuck up about our beloved moral superiority that we fail to fight them on something approaching comparable terms. To fail to do so evidences the type of pride which goes before a fall, possibly a fatal fall.