The last two weblogs raise the issue of what seems to be a popular tactic these days: nations preemptively striking, or threatening to preemptively strike others who may or may not be compromising their national security. The Bush doctrine, or at least the useful parts of it, has taken the international rules of engagement by storm. And to tell the truth, in many cases, moral legitimacy, protection of innocent civilians, and clear, evidenced-based reasons, not to mention, widespread international support or agreement, seem to be lacking.

In this precarious time, does it matter that these “wars of aggression” increasingly are the modus operandi? I think so. Further examination of the motivations behind the Bush doctrine and the preemptive strike corollary and how it has been used or misused in the last years is critical to gauge its success as a tool of attack prevention. Furthermore, such a doctrine allows any nation, not just the U.S., to put its own strategic interest above international standards. The consequences are clear: now that wars of aggression are “legal”, and the entire rule of international law to check and balance the power of states is practically defunct, many countries are utilizing the preemptive strike to their own advantage. In other words, this doctrine allows a virtually unchecked range for abuse and fundamentally undermines collective security.

Before commencing the attack on Iraq, Bush, asserting America’s superpower status, cited that that the U.S. has the right to protect itself from the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and cited U.N. Resolution 1441 and two other U.N. resolutions adopted at the time of the first Gulf War as grounds for using force. Most military law scholars believed that a military operation of this scope, in the name of “self defense” without an imminent threat of attack, could not be justified by U.N. resolutions. The unilateral action, it turns out, were completely unjustifiable: WMD were not found, and yet not only has the Bush administration not recanted, it has gone full steam ahead with its hardline doctrine and even used the compliance of Libya as evidence of false accomplishment on the campaign trail.

But the threats of Russia to use preemptive strikes against terrorists/freedom fighters (I recommend reading up on Russia’s historic brutality against the Chechnyans); the threats of Iran to preemptively strike against U.S. forces before they might attack growing nuclear capabilities; the stubborn blustering of India against Pakistan (link to funny, relevant cartoon); and the preemptive strike Israel launched on Syria in last year, citing Article 51 of the UN Conventions with reasons of self-defense are clearly showing that it is easier and easier for states to practically do whatever they want. (By the way, the UN Security Council immediately convened and everyone, except the United States, unanimously denounced this military action.)

It’s no surprise, however, that this hardline stance – “Protect the civilians at any cost” gets the popular support, and understandably so. In this seemingly one-dimensional world, it’s us against the terrorists, and we all have seen just how powerfully the terrorists can effect change – through the kidnapping of journalists and aid workers, influencing nations to back out of Iraq’s reconstruction effort and, as we have seen with Spain, facilitating the replacement of actual governing parties.

Gone is any attempt to sympathize with the terrorists/freedom fighters, or any attempts to reckon with the world situation with the beliefs of “the other” in mind. But a strategy, as we learned with Iraq’s reconstruction, has a clear end goal in mind and a workable means to the end. The way that nations are using preemptive strike ignores the long-term realities of conflict resolution and coexistence in a multi-cultural and multi-sociopolitical global community.

Is this ideology really that different from the terrorism which it is trying to eradicate? The radical possibilities of the preemptive strike doctrine encourage the “rogue states,” which we are trying to contain, to act. We would like to think that with the advancement of technology and socio-political thought we would work together for a more peaceful world. With this in mind, one might ask why we are cultivating a future of mutually assured violence and unilateralism, blinding ourselves and others to less radical possibilities. It just could work.

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