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.