Thursday, September 09, 2004

Foriegn Policy Meanderings......

B/c of the recent attacks in Chechnya and elsewhere, russian pres. putin has invoked the "made in the USA" idea of pre-emptive strikes against possible terrorist outfits (i.e. ''As for carrying out preventive strikes against terrorist bases . . . we will take all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world").

Now, I'm not one to take hard stances on things, but this foriegn policy doctrine that started with the U.S. invasion of Iraq seems to be nothing but bad news. Assume, for argument's sake, that the U.S. Government recieved intelligence adequate to justify preemptive invasion on a certain country; assume too that they only invoke this doctrine when it's absolutly essential. Even with these generous, though not implausible, assumptions the doctrine just fails. Here's why:

1.) We can't impose a double standard on other countries who might not have justifiable motives. Say, for example, China invades and annexes Mongolia because they have received "intelligence" that Mongolia is a threat. What international agency (like the U.S. would subscribe to that anyway) is going to determine what qualifies as a justifable threat? But, it's circular (not to mention dangerous) to say a threat is what any government determines its threats to be.

2.) Assessing threats that need to be preempted belongs to the intelligence community; and until we can be assured that only "good" intellegence will be taken into account for such decisions, there's no way to tell whether preemptives strikes are really necessary.

The problem is that, in some cases, I can see why a preemptive attack could be necessary and even good, but can anyone come up with a way to justify this doctrine without letting in those pesky, and very dangerous, side-effects?


At 9/09/2004 03:58:00 PM,

Well, for me (and I know I'll get myself in trouble for this), the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were not "preemptive", but rather, "vindictive".


At 9/09/2004 10:26:00 PM,

Mark and Chris, I completely agree, probably to the point where you won't agree with what I say. It seems clear to me that, after our gunsmoke dispersed in Iraq, and we started looking a little more for those infamous WMDs that we have never found, that Bush (1) needs to freshen up on his epistemology and really learn what it means when you say "I know Iraq has WMDs", or (2) he abused the trust the nation/gave the nation exactly what a large part wanted: spilled arab blood and a conquered (if unrelated) Mid East dictatorship to make us feel strong and powerful in the world again. Bush gave us a war to cover up the bruises of 9/11. If Russia takes the same measure, what will the US say?

At 9/10/2004 01:12:00 AM,

"Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands. But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: the Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands, therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands." (3 Nephi 3)

You might accuse me of rampant ahistoricity, ethnocentrism, temporalcentrism, or any other 4+ syllable accademic dirty word in my appropriating this passage to this particular post-- but I might mention that I have the backing of a certain Jew of mystical repute in my corner for such hermeneutics.

At 9/10/2004 12:16:00 PM,

If understand this verse the way I think you and a jew think I should understand it this is really insightful.

At 9/10/2004 01:51:00 PM,

Your first point is well-taken, Jason... well, at least by me, i.e. one of those anomalous people who loves the Gospels and yet finds himself siding with the Democrats on many issues. The thing that worries me the most is that even though Bush did flagrantly overstate the case for going to war in Iraq, most Republicans seem to think that he need not make any sort of penance or apology, and they seem to be all too eager to follow him wherever his next whim may dictate. I'm not claiming that Bush's whims are mostly misguided; I'm simply concerned that many people seem to be revering him like a god and not stopping to consider the validity or moral acceptability of his ideas and mandates.

This is the general way in which a lot of the more unfortunate ideologically-based governments in history have arisen... enough said.

As for the question of the US reaction if Russia steps up its preemptive anti-terrorism military action, I would look to our relations with Israel over the past couple of decades as a comparator. The US, of course, is one of Israel's closest allies, and we have been hesitant to criticize them for taking preemptive action against terrorist groups (and those that aid and abet them) when these groups constitute immediate threats and happen to lie in Israel's own backyard. With the Chechen rebels stepping up their terror tactics, Russia is starting to look more and more like Israel. And it would seem reasonable for the US to support (morally or possibly militarily) Russia in such efforts; they have a right to stop people who are conspiring to attack them wherever they find them. So I guess on this issue I'm more in the conservative camp.

In general, the line between obvious immediate threat (i.e. Russia vs. Chechen terrorists; Israel vs. Palestinian terrorists) and pseudo-threat (i.e. US vs. Iraq) is more nebulous than we'd all like it to be. That's part of the reason we as Americans (ideally) delegate power to elected leaders who have the wisdom to assess threats and determine morally acceptable courses of action. I suppose the most important question as the election season reaches a fever pitch is: who is wiser?

At 9/10/2004 01:58:00 PM,

I guess I know too many jewish mystics (for some reason, I can't seem to use the word Jew to describe members of that faith without feeling like its a slur of some sort? I wonder why.) to catch on here. Are you hinting at a certain Yale professor's theory of misinterpretation, or is this one of the billion things the roman scientist said that went over my head?

Speaking of Ottaviano, if I transcribed all his stuff to an word file, do you guys think it would be valuable to translate into english, and would you help?

Wow, talk about meandering.....So, JD, explain how these academic aspersions don't apply to your prooftext. Scripture aside, do any of you think that the doctrine can be justified?

At 9/10/2004 02:18:00 PM,

Pre-emptive intervention within one's own borders, though it still creates certain problems, is less of an issue here than intervention in other soverigen states affairs. Israel action against Palestinian terrorists may or may not be justified, but they are essentially dealing with threats inside their own borders. What I'm worried about here is what president putin said ("As for carrying out preventive strikes against terrorist bases . . . we will take all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world"). That could mean that if Cechen rebels moved to kansas and began plotting attacks from the Topeka Suburbs, Putin would take action there. That's a bit troublesome.

Yet, I hesitate to throw away the idea. If another 9/11 were to occur, and we just waited for it to happen before retaliating, then all us doves would be outraged that the government let it happen. In the end, I think that this whole discussion turns on the use of intelligence. How do we determine its authenticity? Who determines it? I doubt Bush willingly manipulated or invented evidence. Where his fault lies, in my opinion, is not making absolutely sure that the info he got was good intelligence.

At 9/10/2004 04:42:00 PM,

CORRECTION (Chris Potter) "i.e. one of those anomalous people who loves the Gospels and THEREFORE finds himself siding with the Democrats on many issues."

At 9/10/2004 05:33:00 PM,

Just a nit pick (and I'm critical about Bush on WMDs as well). But epistemology doesn't suggest what someone above suggested. In a traditional epistemology (justified true belief) one may have strong justification, be justified in saying one knows, but not have the proposition be true. This happens all the time. Put an other way, epistemologically knowledge and sureity aren't the same thing.

At 9/11/2004 12:55:00 AM,


I agree with you that this policy of preemptive strikes is uncomfortable. But I think that the place to start if you want to change this is by talking to the 9/11 families and convincing them that blaming the gov't for what happened is the wrong approach. 9/11 was a surprise attack--and that is the whole point of a surprise attack, the gov't doesn't know about it. Suing the gov't to get money because the gov't supposedly contributed to it or was negligent only leads the gov't to adopt a policy such as preemptive strikes, b/c it has to do everything in its power to prevent or preempt any future attack (and America has a lot of power).

I actually do think that since Bush has brought the war to them over there that it has prevented another major attack here, for the time being. Still, it has come with a huge price tag, in many ways: lives, tax dollars, and America's standing in the world community. It might have been better not to invade Iraq (although Afghanistan was a must) and just let the cards fall as they may while trying to improve security measures at home. But that is not what happened, so now we have to see the present course through to a successful end.

At 9/11/2004 12:57:00 AM,

By the way, Chris, this policy of preemptive strikes is not Made in the USA, as you suggested--it is made in Israel, which has successfully implemented this foreign policy against its Arab enemies in the past and retains the possibility of doing so again if it perceives the need.

At 9/13/2004 12:27:00 PM,

I completely agree with John. I was actually watching a 9/11 documentary last night that refered to all the "mistakes" the government made at the time, specifically pointing out the number of times the government was warned that Al-Quida was determined to attack on American soil. Well, good grief, how many such warnings about various groups does the government get in a day? Numbers, I'm sure. And then, when they do release the information to the public (something the families accuse them of being negligent about in the case of 9/11) they are criticized for that, as just occurred with the threats against the Citicorp building etc. Yes, let's learn from our mistakes. But the milk is spilt and it was an accident. Let's move on.

At 9/14/2004 12:34:00 PM,

"I actually do think that since Bush has brought the war to them over there that it has prevented another major attack here, for the time being."

I agree we can't get out now, but I'm curious why you think going into Iraq has prevented another attack here. We know now that there were no weapons in the first place. All he could do was harbor terrorists, something that is going on anyway given the easy opportunities they now have to kill american soldiers.




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