Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Kerry and the Policy of Pre-emption

Correspondence with a Co-worker

Dear Abraham,

I wanted to say something about the AP article you forwarded:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said he would be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against terrorists if he had adequate intelligence of a threat.
This is actually the opposite of the Bush doctrine, which reserved the right to launch a pre-emptive strike against terrorists with no intelligence or proof of a threat whatsoever; and not simply a strike--a full-scale invasion and occupation. And not against terrorists, either. Apparently they were all in Iran.

Remember, the problem isn't the policy of pre-emption. Pre-emption has a meaning roughly approximating what Kerry describes, as laid out by the UN Charter. If someone is going to attack you, and you can prove it, then you can use force pre-emptively to stop the attack. Of course, it doesn't say anything about taking over other countries. It says you are permitted to use an amount of force proportional to the threat, etc. And, as always, the burden of proof is on the people advocating use of force.

Anyway, what is wrongly being called Bush's "pre-emption" policy is not pre-emption at all but rather a doctrine of global dominance as laid out by the neo-cons in the National Security Strategy of 2002. In effect, the US has the right to maintain global dominance by force against any threat, perceived, imagined, or otherwise, in order to destroy the challenge before it becomes reality. That's not pre-emption. That's unprovoked aggression, in the name of US interests.

Do neo-liberals tend towards militarism in solving world problems? Yes. But that doesn't make them the same as neo-conservatives, per se.




Sheryl said...

Thank you for writing this email to your co-worker. A friend of mine, who has been venting on my shoulders for 4 years about Bush, just called me up and informs me tonight that he isn't sure he can vote for Kerry. Not just venting--telling me all the gruesome details that I would have otherwise ignored.

I'm so tired!!! I can't handle having people who have been solidly on my side talking that way. I live in Texas where people tell me there's no point in fighting. That it's all a done deal. But I can't handle another 4 years of Bush. Honestly, I couldn't take that. :-(

So thank you for writing this email to your co-worker and for sharing it in your blog.

J.R. Boyd said...

Note: Article 51 of the UN Charter does not say anything explicitly about preemption; however, in granting states the right to unilateral force outside the UN framework in cases of self-defense, it is commonly accepted that this may include an anticipatory component when threat is "imminent." What constitutes imminent threat today may be more difficult to know, since unconventional warfare cannot always be detected by conventional means. Nevertheless, the burden of proof is on those who claim use of force is legitimate, under any circumstance, as is the responsibility for its effects.

With the National Security Strategy of 2002, the Bush administration radically broadened the scope of preemptive legitimacy by rejecting the necessity of "imminent threat." By raising preemptive defense to the doctrinal level, the administration has employed it as an orientation instead of a limited tactic. This orientation has since been called "prevention" for those wishing to preserve the pre-Bush conception of preemption, as recognized by international law.

Sheryl said...

If I recall correctly, they hashed out what constitutes a "just war" at the N├╝rnberg Trials and the Tokyo Tribunal. Bush is just a thug with no regard for international law. :-(

Somewhere I have notes about all that, but I'm not sure where I put them at the moment.