Monday, June 12, 2006

Preemptive Strikes: The Law of the Jungle

Anytime your geopolitical philosophy looks like something off the Discovery Channel, the planet is in serious trouble. That's what "Preemptive Strike" really means, doesn't it? The Law of the Jungle. I'll attack you whenever I feel like it, just like the lions and hyenas do. The world has spent thousands of years moving away from this concept, yet now we have a President who believes in this behavior. And here's the cute part: He thinks he invented it. They even call it "The Bush Doctrine", when it's no more original than a mountain lion biting a coyote. Remember when Saddam invaded Kuwait - how the world reacted with outrage, saying this aggression won't stand? Looking back Saddam was just a precursor of the Bush Doctrine - so early that George was still teetering on a barstool when Saddam was acting it out.
Wait, you might say - Saddam didn't think Kuwait was about to attack him. Frankly, neither did we with Iraq. That's the chilling beauty of the preemptive strike doctrine: You just announce you feel threatened when you want to invade someplace. No proof is needed because it's all in your mind.
Let's follow this through from how the doctrine is supposed to work, to its logical conclusion. We start with a community of nations, each with an assumption that if they live peacefully with their neighbors, they won't be attacked. Of course, people like Saddam come along and invade Kuwait, at which point the community of nations retaliates. Enter the second President Bush: He believes he has the right to attack other nations based on what he thinks they might do in the future. He lies and speculates about the imminent threat and when it turns out he's 100% wrong, he is undeterred. In fact, he's looking at Iran right now, and wondering if he should attack it. The initial result of this strategy can be more security for the one who attacks first, although with Iraq we didn't gain a damn thing because Iraq was not really a threat. It was contained. But let's overlook how little benefit we've gotten from this adventure, and assume it had worked out to our great advantage. Even dumb ideas sometimes work well in the beginning. It's the longterm effects after you've declared "Mission Accomplished", that are a little trickier.
For example, after the preemptive strike, the community of nations realizes it is no longer enough to exist peacefully - they can be attacked anyway. Some countries will emulate us and attack whomever. And the race is on to get more protection from this new type of threat. The new global agenda is to beware of America. Suddenly much of the world hates us. Why? Because they live in fear of what we'll do next. We are the lion sipping at the water hole. Who knows when we'll attack? We're not governed by international law. That's like asking the lion to follow a treaty. Instead of a world pulling for America to remain strong, the world begins to want our power to fade. We are now reckless and dangerous. We are a threat. So let's say America is one day challenged by an emerging superpower like China - will we support the Bush Doctrine then? Will we be saying an unprovoiked attack by China is only fair - it's the way things are supposed to be? No, in that situation, we'll try and advocate the international law that protects the weak and checks the power of the strong. We'll say we are not animals. We are civilized nations. We don't act this way. But that concept is all gone with the Bush Doctrine: Thousands of years of trying to build a framework for coexistence, tossed out in a flash. We're back in the jungle. Just look at how Pearl Harbor fits into the Bush Doctrine. You know...December 7th? "A date that shall live in infamy." That was a preemptive strike, wasn't it? Sure, to neutralize our navy in case we threatened Japan. Bush supporters should admire Pearl Harbor. It was a Bush-style move. It's life at the water hole. It's how the lions and hyenas act. You see this behavior every day on the Discovery Channel: Sneak attacks and preemptive strikes are what the Law of the Jungle is all about.


At 5:02 AM, Blogger Idler said...

And if France and Britain had invaded Germany in 1936 when it was clear that the latter were rearming and building an air force, would that have been another terrible case of a preemtive strike?

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Would you want every country that armed itself and built an air force to be invaded? Is that what you'd want as the threshold for what is the right thing to do? How about if the guy down the street bought a gun? Would you want the legal right to go into his house and kill him, based on what you thought he might do with his gun later? It sounds like anarchy to me.

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that guy down the street CREDIBLY told me on numerous occasions that he was going to come to my house and murder my 4 yr old son, and then I saw him walking toward my house with that gun, damn straight I'd shoot him first.

PS - Merry Fitzmas

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Idler said...

No, I don't want that, since you ask.

Now, why not answer my question?

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Dear Idler, If we had known what was to come, why wait till 1936? Find Hitler in the nursery and kill him. But that's just it. We don't know what's to come. It's dangerous and wrong to have a doctrine where Hitler just has to say he feels Poland's going to be a threat someday, so he's got the legal and moral right to invade it now.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Idler said...

Of course Hitler was wrong to invade Poland because the latter posed no threat to Germany and no other legitimate pretext for action. France and Britain would have been justified in their invading Germany because Germany was in violation of the terms of peace. The justification for the coalition invasion of Iraq was not a matter of just “feeling like it.” Like Germany, Iraq was in violation of the terms of peace of the first Gulf War. Furthermore, resolutions had been passed in the U.N. providing further justification based on Iraq’s non-compliance.

At 12:26 AM, Blogger true_slicky said...

What armies did France and England have at the time to invade Germany with? Perhaps they should've invaded with their puny armies and made things easy for Hitler?

But the Germany comparison isapt, after a decade of getting bumbed the fawk out of him coupled with sanctions, Saddam's war machine was impressive, being built on the backs of Egyptian slaves to the point where attack on the U.S.- on the other side of the globe- was imminent.

Oh, wait.

Idler, are you goin to tell me the invasion of Iraq had nothign to do with oil and a desire by the neo-conservatives ot reassert American superiority that had waned post-Nam.

Or are you sticking with "9/11."

The arguments you and your consevative backers make continue to border on the ridiculous, and the sheeer lunacy amazes me. It's like Perle in "why We Fight" asking if someone was goign to punch you, wouldn't you punch first?

Of course. But In iraq's case, we walked across the street and stomped on a baby because we thought, for some reason, it threatened us.

Does war make one great?

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Idler said...

“True Slicky” I’m sure it’s taxing for you, but try to follow the argument. And spare me any pretension that you know the first thing about what military capabilities the French and British had during the interwar period.

Like so many people who argue both unreasonably and stupidly, you assert that the 1930s analogy isn’t appropriate because the situation isn’t identical in every respect. It’s true that Saddam’s mustache was wider and Germany is actually in Europe, so we’ll let that go. It’s also true that both Germany and Iraq were under the sanction of peace terms, which they violated. If you don’t care to address that you’re simply not addressing my argument. Which, come to think of it, is probably your best strategy.

One can argue whether the U.S. should have exercised its discretion to act the way it did, (along with its allies) but it most certainly wasn’t acting out of nowhere and without justification. In addition to violating the terms of peace of the (first) Gulf War, the U.N. had passed resolutions calling for action. You probably don’t want to explore too minutely why the organization was willing to make such a resolution but not actually carry it out.

In any case, this argument is about what is preemption and what, if anything might justify it. You’ve contributed exactly nothing to the discussion. If you want to discuss consequent or tangential questions, but let’s take one thing at a time. In the mean time, try to stick to the point in question. Ritalin might help.

On the other hand, if all you have to contribute is “conservatives suck,” don’t bother.

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys all miss the big point. We all got god on our side, so our actions must be right. Just ask Pat Robertson or that Jerry guy.

With Bush (The Decider) leading us (on), and god as our coach, the little heathens in those desert countries had better watch out! We're coming to git 'em.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Idler said...

You know, I like this site because Bill is a very talented, funny guy and because I enjoy a little friendly argument now and then. Thus I'm sorry to use a less-than-friendly tone. But I can't help reacting contemptuously to the kind of post the most recent anonymous regales us with.

There are genuine, grade A, non-hyperbole theocrats and murderous religious fanatics in the world, but anonymous II is focused on the religious inclinations of Americans. I suppose this passes for very sophisticated thought in some circles.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

The level of rancor in the national discourse is a true worry to me. Many people in this country have never experienced how easily differences of opinion can lead to a social meltdown. To me we are racing towards some kind of breaking point here when unhappiness with the events of these years will boil over into domestic violence. It seems like there is a new low every few weeks. Ann Coulter is the latest new low, yet her book is #1 and she's on the Tonight Show.
The mood in this country is toxic right now, and that's going to be reflected in the comments. As unsettling as that may be, the events that have inspired this mood are even worse.

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, not to beat a dead horse from an earlier thread, but as despicable as Coulter's comment was, it is hardly a "new low". It is a low that has been broached numerous times before.

"“If someone did thisto get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C., and the planes' destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!” - Michael Moore


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