Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Preemptive Conclusions

by Mitch Ullman

In a class concerning itself with matters of war and morality, especially at a time in which ‘war’ appears to be simply an indefinite article of the catch-phrase-of-the-day and morality has been dashed upon the sponge that is Relativism, I feel that it is only right that the concerns contemporary to the members therein be analyzed and deliberated. Such is the case with William Galston’s paper “Perils of Preemptive War.” His paper’s thesis would appear to be built pragmatic grounds similar to the doctrinal arguments against which he is bucking. Essentially, Galston believes that a negative outcome is just as plausible as a positive; therefore a preemptive war doctrine is an illogical choice. The path that is taken to his point is threefold, seemingly unrelated arguments, aside from the obvious connection that they are arguments against the doctrine of preemption, that eventually coalesce into an implied argument as was previously stated. While there are points in the paper that I do not wholly agree with Dr. Galston, his overarching argument appears to be sound. I am going to attempt, with what little ability that lie within my grasp, to further elucidate the argument and perhaps even attempt to put my finger on those points to which I do not feel apply.

As I mentioned before, the way in which “Perils of Preemptive War” (henceforth, to be abbreviated as PPW) is written contains, more or less, an implied argument that is based on the conclusions put forth by the three minor arguments presented. There is, however, a brief introduction that my put the reader off, depending on the reader’s political background. Unfortunately, this sort of tone-setting prelude is commonplace. Whether or not the reader is put off by this sort of thing, I promise, there is meat in this particular sandwich. Usually, I attempt to neutralize such introductions, at least in the academic setting, by simply thinking of this sort of writing as a stylistic crutch upon which the writer must rely; else they may feel they have misrepresented their cause. One would hope that the editors of such writings would at least attempt to move an introduction like this to somewhere more appropriate, such as the end of the paper; rewording the introduction to be as neutral as possible to retain as wide a readership as possible. Then again, I suppose that would require academia to stop preaching to the choir and start leveraging its collective mind against the everyman. Please, accept my apologies for digressing so far from the good doctor’s argument. Shall we proceed? Excellent.

The first major attack on the doctrine of preemptive war, as outlined by the so-called Bush Doctrine for peace in the Middle East, is one grounded in the stalemate that is arrived at via the pragmatic (notice the little p) rationale. For each reason given for invading Iraq on pragmatic grounds is thwarted with an equally plausible pragmatic dissension. The primary reason given for preemptive war in the Bush Doctrine is that if one of the main ‘problem states’ is toppled, others will fall in line, therefore paving the way for peace in the Middle East. The reality of the situation, as it appears four years after the writing of PPW, would seem to vindicate Dr. Galston’s predictions. Pakistan’s Musharraf has, for all intents and purposes, capitulated to many of the American demands made on hims since the AUFM was granted and the ousting of the majority of the Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan. This is to the credit of the Bush doctrine, although a weak standard by which to guide us in the decision to invade Iraq. There are, however, three recent discrediting examples: the democratic election of the group, Hamas, into power in Palestine, the current stand-off in Iran concerning nuclear enrichment and the fervor surrounding the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad (it is arguable that the backlash from the Islamic community over the cartoons mentioned would not be at the scale it is had America had not essentially declared war on Islam in its previous description of the Axis of Evil in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq). As much as I would like for a show of force to be good enough to placate violent people throughout the world, it is fairly obvious that this tactic is lacking in foresight. There are many ways to react to any action, and as has been made clear by the differing reactions of the people of the Middle East to the doctrine of preemptive war, in general, and the invasion of Iraq, specifically, the weight of the argument for preemptive war is lessened greatly. Add to this the decreased ability of the American military to respond to domestic threats due to the continued occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq, the monetary consequences to occupation, not to mention the drastic increase in the price of crude oil (on which the economies of the world rely) and one could easily make the argument, after the fact, that the Bush Doctrine was a doctrine based on overly optimistic consequences. There is no alternative given in PPW, nor in this paper. This does not, however, decrease the reality that, on pragmatic grounds, preemptive war is a sound methodology.

The second argument is made on the basis that we are members of an international community, one that we have striven much for since the end of World War II; and as such, we should behave as a member of said community. This is essentially the legalist argument as it is laid out by Walzer, although he will come into the argument directly. This argument, I believe, is a lot closer to the first than Dr. Galston would most likely concede. I do not necessarily agree with the legalist stance, although it is one that I will turn into something more akin to the first argument on prudence in order for it to seem, to me at least, more palatable. At this point in PPW, Dr. Galston appears to be considering the “broader questions of principle” that he mentions, yet he basis his principle on the shaky ground that, interestingly enough, Realists tend to tread. Somehow, for Dr. Galston, it is enough that we have built a “framework of global security” for us to not to participate in the doctrine of preemptive war. While it would greatly simplify the legality question concerning international warfare, I do not believe that simply due to the supposed existence of a world-wide societal norm we are exempt from acting disharmoniously. Do not misread me, while I do not fully endorse contractual ethics, I do not think that preemptive war is justified simply because it bucks the trend. For instance, I do not agree with the Framers of the Constitution that agreed to allow slavery in the states that demanded it simply because they had been doing so before the Constitution’s conception. This is where things turn prudential. The Framers, while I may feel they behaved immorally, they did have the foresight to allow for the day when popular legal doctrines would allow for something closer to morality (read here, Pragmatism... big P). This is where I believe Dr. Galston may have been intending his argument to lead the reader. The international community (legally, economically, etc.) is the stop-gap measure by which independent members are slowly steered toward a morality. Breaking from this community does more harm than good in the long term goals of attaining this morality. He explicitly states that by breaking from the community, the United States may have hindered this movement toward morality that may have the effect of granting a license to ignore morals (do not confound morals with laws here, I am saying that laws should reflect morality, not prescribe morality).

The third and final argument which appears further removed from the overall argument than the first two is one that hinges on its contextual importance. Dr. Galston first introduces this third argument by again invoking Walzer. Specifically, he provides Walzer's justification for preemption which falls squarely within the realm of the Last Resort clause in JWT. Essentially, it allows for preemption if and only if the Last Resort has been met, not before and not on a possibility of it being the Last Resort. The contenxt in which PPW is working is the preemptive invasion of Iraq in based on the possibility that the government of Iraq may or may not have had 1) WMD 2) the ability to deploy said WMD and 3) the actual, not perceived, predilection so to do. As the argument is written, it assumes that conditions 1 and 2 are met. Dr. Galston works on this basis due to historical precedent. Given that Hussein's military did not deploy WMD during the first Gulf War due to the United States' threat of invasion versuse simple repulsion in the defense of Kuwait, whether he had them or not, should aptly provide evidence that he would not, unprovoked, utilize WMD. Basing the argument on clause 3 having not been met, Dr. Galston avoids the puerile shouting match that ensues whenever a person posits, in post invasion terms, taht 1 and 2 had been met. The point of this argument is that even if the weapons were available and the means were accessible, they were not used and therefore the threat is not as 'imminent' as it was being purveyed by Bush Administration officials.

Now, to bring it all back home as Mr. Dylan would say it. Dr. Galston’s thesis in PPW tends toward the Pragmatic and yet has the Utilitarian feel. Long term goals besting those of the short, reason being forward looking to the consequences, PPW attempts to draw attention to the fact that there is a ‘whole other world’ out there aside from the United States and that by its unilateral behavior, it may be impeding a truer sense of morality at which only cooperation and long-term consensus can arrive. Given the space and the time (if there is such a construct) I believe that this contextually dependent argument could be distilled and a greater Truth be found. For the moment, however, this conception of the good will suffice.


Anonymous jamie mccall said...

Well, given the obvious modern political implications of what you've written, and my desire not to want to start (another) political ideology war on here (sorry, just dont have the time), I'm just going to focus on a small part of what you said:

"and the fervor surrounding the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad (it is arguable that the backlash from the Islamic community over the cartoons mentioned would not be at the scale it is had America had not essentially declared war on Islam in its previous description of the Axis of Evil in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq)."

Perhaps I am reading this wrong, but are you saying that if Bush had not named some Islamic countries as the Axis of Evil in the State of the Union speech that year, that the backlash from the Muslim community on this whole cartoon issue would be less? If that is what you are saying, I have no idea how you mage that logic leap...especially since the Islamic "backlash" has been global and against many countries, especially the one that "started it".

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

The leap, as it were, is made in this way:

The protesters and Islamists (note here that I make the distinction between Islamists and Muslims... its in the bombs!) are both equating Denmark & Co. with the West.

The West is pretty much dominated by the US.

The US is, for all intents and purposes, waging war against Islamic countries. Think of it this way... we attacked Iraq instead of North Korea.

From there, the leap is more like a step.

The whole point of the cartoons being included in the paper is was to point out that there is a whole other world out there and while I may not personally care what others in the world think about me... it is important to recognize that those out there in the world that have the means to impinge some sort of retributive force upon me (justly or not) should, in some way, guide my behavior.

See also: common sense

5:36 PM  
Anonymous jamie mccall said...

Thanks for clarifying the point for me. It is as I presumed. However, while I see the way your logic is working here I'm not quite so sure that the US's "war on Islamic countries" would really matter on this issue. The Islamists will always, *always* find a reason to hate the United States. Radicals do that, on all sides.

See also: cut the pompous comments. No one is amused.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...


10:38 AM  
Blogger Wesley Gibbs said...

I find the first reason you address as the most interesting (the one about if one falls in line, then others will). It reminds me of the Domino Theory from the 1960s that stated if Vietnam fell to Communism then the whole southeast of Asia would fall. That was proven wrong, and I think that similar reasoning was used for the Iraq situation. Also this raises the question, is Al Qaeda attempting to protect the Middle East from democracy the same way the US attempted to protect Vietnam from Communism?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mitch, (sigh)
Comments on the "discrediting examples" of the Domino effect. 1)the Palestinians had a DEMOCRATIC election. (Domino effect works)The fact that they elected Hamas, was in response to the corruption of the Fatah party, not necessarily in support of terrorism; we will see how that one turns out. 2)Iran has had nuclear ambitions for years and has nothing to do with the U.S. invasion of Iraq or the domino effect. 3)The backlash from the cartoons (which no one protested against when they were published last fall) was in response to Muslim leaders reprinting, adding some of their own much more offensive cartoons, and widely distributing the cartoons (along with Danish flags[where else do you think they got them?]). Other examples of Bush possibly being right about the domino effect: Lebanon kicking Syria out of their country, Jordan planning democratic elections for some parts of the government, Egypt had democratic elections, Saudi Arabia implementing some civil rights for women.
As for the decreased ability of the American military to respond to domestic threats...well that's not their job (posse comitatus). and the FBI seems to have done a fine job in arresting 3 would be terrorists in Ohio.
Your second argument is that we are part of an international community and should act as such. When said community does not enforce its own rules then what? If there is no "punishment" for breaking the rules (17 UN resolution violations) why have them at all? And with the tremendous help that Russia, China and France have been (sarcasm)(though France at least seems to be coming around) its no wonder the UN is a "shitastrophe".
Argument 3...ever hear of Gulf War Syndrome? Soldiers were exposed to something (I'm guessing chemical) during the first Gulf War that has since cause all sorts of physical problems for them. As for whether conditions 1 or 2 have been met...according to the tapes released by the Intellingence Summit this weekend, Chemical and Biological weapons programs were purposely hiddden from UN inspectors. And according to General Sada, one of Saddam's top military chiefs, materials related to WMD were loaded onto commercial aircraft and removed to Syria and other locations(with Russia's help; there's Russia involved again).
Oh and in your conclusion...unilateral is not defined as a 30 country coalition.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Ullman said...

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan

Of this list, how many have a military trained, paid for and supported directly by the US? Of the rest, how many do you think could actually give any sort of help worthy of mention outside of the "Oh, look, we aren't unilateral" sense.

Yes, Hamas was elected in a DEMOCRATIC election (emphasis yours). They elected a known terrorist organization to run their country. I wonder why that is?

We've not done anything about the Iran nuclear situation until we've realized that they now have clear intent and motive. I wonder where that came from?

What makes you think that the Islamist leaders are prompting these riots? Encouraging post hoc? Sure, I can dig it. Orchestrating them in the first place? I don't know about that. The most likely reason for the delay is that most, if not all, Middle Eastern inhabitants don't read European newspapers. Makes sense to me.

There are examples of the supposed Domino Effect working. That is the whole reason I wrote this paper is to show that while there are reasons to believe it works, there are enough reasons to think that it wouldn't. Therefore, there should be an alternative sought.

Now, as for your misreading the domestic issue, I was meaning that the territorial integrity of the US is the US military's prime subject of defense. Taking the US military out of the territory sort of, well, defeats the purpose.

I also would like to say that yes, the UN fails at life. However, we made the damned thing. What does that mean to us? Perhaps we should take the initiative and attempt to make it effective instead of just galavanting off and doing whatever the hell pleases us at the moment. Perhaps, and I could very well just be blowing smoke here, if we attempted to convince member countries that it means something to be a part of the UN and that we are willing to "eat our own dog food" then we might not have such an impotent world organization.


5:19 PM  
Anonymous Kim Morrison said...

I have to say I'm a bit hesitant to make a comment right now. All of you seem to know a lot more about the situation than I do. I used to read the Fayetteville Observer and USA Today every morning at breakfast. That is until Bush declared war on Iraq in March of 2003. I won't try to speak intelligently on this subject because I can't. I quit reading the newspaper because I thought it was a big mistake going to Iraq when Bin Laden was still out there and I didn't want to read about my friends dying for something I didn't agree with. Anyway...Mitch, I thought your paper was quite interesting. Certainly brought me up to date. The only thing I can say with any conviction is that I agree with when you said that 1) if the UN is going to work we all have to make it work and 2) the military's 1st concern should be protecting our country by being here at home. Personally I think the whole situation stinks and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"We've not done anything about the Iran nuclear situation until we've realized that they now have clear intent and motive. I wonder where that came from?"
Are you saying that we should have done something sooner? I thought your argument was that you had to have clear intent and motive before something could be done. So are we justified in a preemptive attack against Iran?
As far as Hamas, I explained why they were elected.
The cartoon riots did not start until the cartoons were republished. So in 4 months time all the Arabs started reading European newspapers? No, it was extremist Muslim leaders in Europe and then the Mid-East that fomented the reaction. (and handed out flags to burn) Well, maybe not. I know I keep a stockpile of flags to burn under my bed. Especially those really popular countries to riot against, like Denmark, oh and Lichtenstein.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Adam Johnson said...

I'm also not convinced of the wonders of the domino effect. Now I could be wrong, but isn't the basic premise in the Bush version that the surrounding states fall in line out of fear for being invaded as well? Basically, that means countries we don't like have to resort to a doctrine of APPEASEMENT, which I had thought had been dismissed in general already for the most part.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Steven Grueshaber said...

As Adam says, the domino effect only works when other countries decide to appease the US. If we decide to take the offensive in order to force people to behave, then I think we're making a mistake. I think we should be doing so defensively. Let's look at 2 scenarios.

1) We attack countries who we think may do something to us in the near future, without them actually having done it.

2) When countries act aggressively against other countries, we aid the defending country.

Now, which actually causes countries to behave? In scenario 1, the offending country really has no reason to act nicely, becuase they'll think: "Oh, they'll attack us one way or another, we really don't have to commit heinous acts in the first place. So, let's just do whatever and hope we get it done before they attack us."

In scenario 2, the reasoning would be more like this: "We'll only get attacked when we actually do something wrong, so let's not actually ever do it."

So, while the first one could reduce offensive actions by other countries, I think the second does a much better job.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous jeremy page said...

Looks like Jamie is doing some calling out! (nice job btw)
Oh, wait, so is Rick!
Sorry, I found it pretty funny.

I can almost agree with you on your first point about "each reason given for invading Iraq on pragmatic grounds is thwarted with an equally plausible pragmatic dissension." I must say, this seems to be what politics is all about. So far in this week, the political ideologoies of each person has indeed shaped his or her response to the Iraq War. Now I'm not sure whether or not we can discuss this as political scientists or philosophy students...

4:38 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

the conclusions that are made are not exatcly parallel with those are his sources. i see where your coming from and i completly agree with your approch but i have a hard time understanding how your facts line up with your arguement, this was a little confusing for me.

2:04 PM  

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