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September 12, 2006



The doctrine of PW does cut both ways, but you fail to correctly identify the "other way:" the risks on not exercising the PW option. PW is not always the solution, neither should it be considered "never" an option. You correctly identify one of the factors to be considered when weighing the decision to engage in PW: costs.

Costs of not engaging in PW must also be considered. What are the potential costs of waiting until an enemy is stonger? More prepared for conflict? or Nuclear Capable? What is the potential of an enemy becoming aggressive if allowed to develop more military capability? For example, what are the potential costs associated with a nuclear-capable Iran in terms of international economics, energy/oil markets, stability in the middle east...just to name a few? Many of the costs of not exercising the PW options are ignored in the debate.

Iraq cannot be used as the sole case study for the costs of PW. Iraq is unique, just as Afghanistan, Vietnam, Serbia, Sudan and all areas of conflict past and future are unique. Yes, Iraq is an occupier's nightmare. But make no mistake, Iraq was an overwhelming military success (in terms of conventional, force on force warfare). The next conflict may or may not involve the long, hard slog of post-conflict nation building. Of course, the potential and likelihood of becoming responsible for post-concflict reconstruction must be part of the cost calculas.

Ultimately, all the costs must be compared when considering the PW options. Lives and treasure must be assessed both from a "PW now" scenario and a "potential conflict later, when they are stronger" scenario. Financial costs must be assessed from a "preserve stability" now versus a "they become strong and aggressive later with even greater potential to create instability."

Lets all step back and try to get a glimpse of the forest when debating policy options. Flexibility is the key to success in the international political environment. PW is just another tool in the toolbox--we just need to be sure it is not the only tool.

No Preference

PW is just another tool in the toolbox--PW is just another tool in the toolbox--we just need to be sure it is not the only tool.

In the context of international law, this is like saying "murder is just another tool in the toolbox--we just need to be sure it is not the only tool".

There's very good reason why "preventive" war has been outlawed for hundreds of years. If all states employed this "tool" the world would quickly decline to a state of pure savagery.

One of the most shocking things to me in the runup to the Iraq war was how few Americans opposed the war on principle because it was illegal.


I agree that in a perfect world, no one would have to have the means to defend themselves. No one would ever threaten anyone else's existence.

Of course, that is not reality. Even "murder" is justified, legally, in self defense. So too is PW. International laws are not meant to be suicide pacts for those who sign on.

Again, trying to get a picture of the forest: if you can imagine a force great enough that it can jeopardize the security of your population, even a small percentage of your population, then PW must be kept as an option to protect them. It is immoral to allow some of your population to be killed just because you have to wait to be attacked before you are allowed to defend yourself.

And it doesn't imagination...it just takes an understanding of [recent] history.

Jonathan Versen("Hugo Zoom")

"I agree in a perfect world, that..."

whenever I hear an argument introduced thusly I know it's going to be an argument in favor of ruthless behavior, and often ruthless behavior that's chosen not because it's actually effective but because it makes it makes the agressor feel justified in his worldview. (moreover, Jack is deliberately disingenuous in his argument, by conflating self-defense with pre-emptive agression.)

Regarding preventive war: what have we actually prevented? If the US never attacked Saddam, how exactly would that have "emboldened" either Saddam or the supposedly in-cahoots al-Qa 'eda?

The more noises American hawks make about attacking Iran, the more a sane Iranian is likely to see supporting a nuclear weapons program as necessary, since the Americans demonstrate, day in and day out, how belligerent they are.

And as far as North Korea goes, would we even be where we are today if Junior hadn't jerked their leader around in 2001, leading him to believe he'd meet with him if he visited DC, then refusing to once he was here, then capping it off in 2002 with that "axis of evil" speech?

And if you go back to 1983, and the Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iraq's reactor-- what if that never occurred? George Bush sr would still have engaged in Desert Storm and still withdrawn from Iraq after Kuwait was secured, Saddam would not have used nukes against coalition forces, prudently fearing for his own safety if he had them at that point. And in 2003, Bush jr would never have attacked Iraq, because he's a bully who only attacks the comparatively defenseless.

Finally, Israel may have felt a lot less willing to slaughter Lebanese civilians in 2006, with a nuclear-armed Saddam nearby.

Would a Saddam with nukes actually be a good thing? I suspect not-- I'm inclined to think that the middle east, including Israel and Iran and Iraq, would be better off without any nuclear weapons anywhere in the region, and obviously all of the above is speculation.

Nevertheless, Israel would be a lot better behaved if one of the neighboring states had nukes, and might even make a meaningful peace with Palestine.

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