Author Topic: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?  (Read 41418 times)

Offline Wise Son

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #60 on: August 03, 2006, 04:30:02 am »
Or I can say that the ruler of Bigotea intentionally placed the facilities near residential areas, to create human shields to deter an attack, or in anticipation of a Luvanda pre-emptive strike he brings a lotta people to the site (because Luvanda would then suffer incredible international condemndation from any pre-emptive strike). 
Wouldn't they then be gulty of war crimes for deliberately putting civilians in harm's way? Not that it would excuse you from bombing those targets unless you did all you possibly could to reduce civilian casulaties.
I already provided you with the definition of pre-emptive strike. You seem to be using another definition.  My (and Dictionary.com's) definition is to strike the other guy before he strikes you.  Implicit in that is that he has taken some action in preparatin of striking you.  The defination does not say, "Strike the other guy before he takes any 'action' in preparation for his strike." 
I guess it's confusing because that is how 'pre-emptive strike' has been used by the likes of Bush et al in recent years, considering there has been no evidence of impending attacks from Iraq, yet we attacked them 'pre-emptively', Maybe politicians have corrupted the word, so it now means 'unprovoked' attack, which is certainly how I, and I suspect Rollo read it nowadays.

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michaelintp

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #61 on: August 03, 2006, 06:43:39 am »
Or I can say that the ruler of Bigotea intentionally placed the facilities near residential areas, to create human shields to deter an attack, or in anticipation of a Luvanda pre-emptive strike he brings a lotta people to the site (because Luvanda would then suffer incredible international condemnation from any pre-emptive strike). 
Wouldn't they then be gulty of war crimes for deliberately putting civilians in harm's way? Not that it would excuse you from bombing those targets unless you did all you possibly could to reduce civilian casualties.

Interesting.  Of course command and control centers are often placed in civilian areas.  One would imagine situations where in a pre-emptive strike some if not all of these centers would have to be taken out as well.  But getting to your point, I wasn’t aware that placing one’s military facilities and weapons in civilian areas (or bringing civilians to those military areas as human shields) constitutes an official war crime.  Wise son, if you could share something with me on that, I would appreciate it.  How about non-governmental organizations (i.e. terrorist groups)?    Because we’ve seen real world examples of Middle Eastern leaders and leaders of terrorist groups doing exactly that.  Including, as I’m sure you recall, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.  Of course the hypothetical I crafted does not expressly deal with Middle Eastern leaders or terrorist groups.  I intentionally took it out of the context of the Middle East and presented a very simple example so that people would not bring their personal baggage to the analysis of the moral questions surrounding the issue of pre-emptive strike.

… and I’ve found it interesting to see who is willing to confront those moral issues head on, and who is not.

Both your and Kami's comments on the substance of these moral issues are very interesting to me.

I already provided you with the definition of pre-emptive strike. You seem to be using another definition.  My (and Dictionary.com's) definition is to strike the other guy before he strikes you.  Implicit in that is that he has taken some action in preparatin of striking you.  The defination does not say, "Strike the other guy before he takes any 'action' in preparation for his strike." 
I guess it's confusing because that is how 'pre-emptive strike' has been used by the likes of Bush et al in recent years, considering there has been no evidence of impending attacks from Iraq, yet we attacked them 'pre-emptively', Maybe politicians have corrupted the word, so it now means 'unprovoked' attack, which is certainly how I, and I suspect Rollo read it nowadays.

Another reason I took the hypothetical out of the context of the Middle East or the Bush Administration.  So many people have such strong visceral reactions to both that when you are discussing a “real world” situation that baggage gets in the way of really analyzing each moral issue independently.

Of course by definition a pre-emptive strike is a strike designed to pre-empt something. It is designed to hit the other guy before he strikes you.  Which means he is preparing to hit you with his weapons.  Which means he is acquiring those weapons with the intent to hit you and perhaps has already put them in place to hit you.  That fully corresponds with the Bush Administration’s definition of pre-emptive strike as well (as applied to pre-empting a strike on the U.S. and/or its allies).  Where people often bicker on that point is really on the issue of whether the potential aggressor really is acquiring those weapons with the intent to strike the victim state or people.  Yet they cast it as a condemnation of the broad concept of pre-emptive strike.  Which was another reason why I intentionally created a hypothetical to eliminate that ambiguity and force people to think about what they would do when confronted with a need to launch a pre-emptive strike to save their own population.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 06:59:48 am by michaelintp »

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #62 on: August 03, 2006, 07:03:37 am »
… and I’ve found it interesting to see who is willing to confront those moral issues head on, and who is not.

Or at least who's willing to play the game on your terms.

Of course by definition a pre-emptive strike is a strike designed to pre-empt something. It is designed to hit the other guy before he strikes you.  Which means he is preparing to hit you with his weapons.  Which means he is acquiring those weapons with the intent to hit you and perhaps has already put them in place to hit you.

Actually, it means that you decide to take action because you believe those things.  For example, suppose you and I have an argument which ends with us calling each other all kinds of mf's, etc.  You then see me buy a shotgun.  Can you attack me?  Suppose you see me come out of my house with my shotgun.  Can you attack now?  What about as I raise the shotgun?  What if I am taking aim at a rattlesnake unbeknownst to you? 

Admittedly an imperfect analogy, but it seems to me that the point is to think about when a party (individual or nation) is morally justified in taking action, NOT to debate endlessly as to whether that action would be defined as pre-emptive or self-defense.  I actually agree with Rollo's assertion that it can't be both.  The point is where do we draw the lines between morally justified action (be it self-defense or pre-emptive) and unjustified action?

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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #63 on: August 03, 2006, 07:14:57 am »
That fully corresponds with the Bush Administration’s definition of pre-emptive strike as well (as applied to pre-empting a strike on the U.S. and/or its allies).  Where people often bicker on that point is really on the issue of whether the potential aggressor really is acquiring those weapons with the intent to strike the victim state or people.  Yet they cast it as a condemnation of the broad concept of pre-emptive strike. 

It seems to me that the Bush administration's case for pre-emption was a pile of manure intended to rationalize and generate support for a policy they had already decided to pursue for other reasons entirely.  Their deliberate misinformation campaign (how many believe that Iraq was behind 9/11?) does tend to tarnish the doctrine.  As it turns out, there was neither intent nor capability.  The "case" made by the administration was at best a paranoid misreading of the actual evidence.  Was the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq morally justified?  Keep in mind that none of Iraq's neighbors, including Israel, considered it to be a significant threat. 
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Offline Wise Son

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #64 on: August 03, 2006, 07:17:57 am »
Was going to reply, but Curtis did it for me. ;D

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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #65 on: August 03, 2006, 07:23:39 am »
Was going to reply, but Curtis did it for me. ;D

Glad to return the favor.  ;)
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michaelintp

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #66 on: August 03, 2006, 08:34:51 am »
Well guys, that's why I intentionally crafted the hypothetical to avoid discussion of whether this or that "pre-emptive strike" was justified.  We all are familiar with the arguments leading up the the invasion of Iraq and what was discovered (or not) thereafter.  With follow on debates as to whether the WMDs existed at the time of the invasion (everyone agrees chemical and biological weapons existed at one time and that at one time Saddam had a nuclear program but its extent is ambiguous), or whether the biological and chemical weapons were destroyed (and the nuclear program put on hold), or whether they were moved to Syria or hidden etc etc etc ...  With all the arguments going back and forth I think one thing is clear - things did not play out after the invasion the way its strongest advocates expected. 

To the extent that this experience "tarnished" the doctrine of pre-emption -- and I agree with you that it did -- that may be a very dangerous development in the age we live in.  Because looking down the road there may well be circumstances where a pre-emptive strike is necessary to avoid a much greater loss of innumerable innocent lives.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I am not a Bush cheerleader.  There are a lot of things the Bush Administration has done that I disagree with, or disagree with the way it went about them (while there are other things I do agree with).  But let's not turn this thread into a discussion of the Bush Administration.  I intentionally crafted the hypothetical to avoid such discussions and to focus on the moral issues involved in a pre-emptive strike.   Stripped of the baggage of other issues.  I would hate to see this thread turned into a debate on current events, if for no other reason, that such a discussion would distract us from discussion the underlying moral issues that we should stay focused on for purposes of this hypothetical discussion.

I also agree with you that bickering over what we call it is a waste of time.  If people don't like the term "pre-emptive strike" then we can call it a "first strike in self-defense" to avoid any confusion.  As applied to the scenarios in the hypothetical.

Hey Curtis, by the way ... you've interjected valuable thoughts here and there (as you always do) ... I was wondering if you were still reading this thread.  So why don't you take a crack at it -- and tell us what you would do as president of Luvanda? (You know, addressing the variouis scenarios -- low civilian casualties, high casualties, massive casualties -- and varied probabilities that Bigotia would launch a first strike, say from 100% to less than 50% -- which kind of touches on your point that people might evaluate the facts differently -- thouigh of course the president of Luvanda has to make his decisions based on the best information he has).  Curtis, the reason I'm asking you this is that I really am not sure what your position is, how you would respond were you in the shoes of someone like the president of Luvanda, and I'm interested to learn more about your thinking were you in that position.

Wise Son, I think you've addressed this in your general discussion of the issues, but if you would like to share your "word" on this just so we all clearly understand your position (though I think I do) that would be interesting too. 

Oh yes, and speaking of the "word" -- Sam, if you would like to give us your thoughts as president of Luvanda, hey, that would be interesting (though I know you usually don't like to get involved in these political discussions so I understand if you would rather not). 

And again, Sam, don't every think I don't appreciate your humor.  When things get tooooo intense, you've saved us more than once!   :)
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 08:49:02 am by michaelintp »

michaelintp

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #67 on: August 03, 2006, 12:56:49 pm »
Oh just to add, part of the reason I started this thread is that there is an issue that troubles me  – that comes up in the context of a preemptive strike (or for that matter, in a defensive war).  In an age of proliferating WMD’s and particularly nuclear weapons, is there a point where even a war in legitimate self-defense becomes immoral?  Where for example the casualties on the “other side” would be so immense that they dwarf the lives saved on your side?  That’s why I made a point of including that scenario in the hypothetical.  (And I don’t think the answer, “Such a war could never be in self-defense” is accurate.  One can imagine a small state dwarfed by a massive enemy with no hope of defending itself with conventional weapons that as a last resort could turn to WMDs as its last hope of survival.  It is not an outlandish scenario, and thus merits moral consideration).
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 01:26:27 pm by michaelintp »

Offline Cheirel

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #68 on: August 03, 2006, 05:52:05 pm »
Isn't self presevation number 1? So most of us although we don't like to admit it would strike.

Casualities are sadly are like pregnant teens,  you're better able to deal with them when they belong to your neighbor. But you know they happen all the time.

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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #69 on: August 04, 2006, 07:51:55 am »
I have hesitated to offer a response to the hypothetical because it doesn't seem to really get at the issues for me.  I think I understand what you're trying to isolate but the stark terms of the hypothetical don't really pose any difficult moral issues for me.  I believe Luvanda has the right to self-defense.  In the situation you describe, they are justified in taking action to disarm the aggressors.  They are, of course, obligated to take the least destructive yet effective course.  In effect, I agree with Wise Son's answer.

I was thinking of it from the other angle.  If the President of Luvanda in my hypothetical in my example might say, "The only way to save my nation is to kill so many of the Bigateans that I just can't do it ... that to do so is morally repugnant.  I will allow all my people to be exterminated rather than descend to the level of killing multiple millions of their innocent civilians."  (This is a variation of the "We must not descend to their level" kind of argument).  [Again, I'm using "millions" to make the analytic point, one could use any "horrible" number].  In contrast, the preident could say, "Self-defense is self-defense -- and casualties on the other side be damned." 
Well, obviously, there are places between those extremes. Refusing to take action is irresponsible, and repugnant, taking action regardless of the consequences is equally so. You have to do what youhave to do, but you should be trying to minimise casulaties as much as you responsibly can.
Also, both you and JV talk about Bigetia's "preparation" -- how far back do you go in that process?  If the president of Bigetia proclaims to the world, "I am building nuclear weapons and when they are ready I am going to exterminate all those vermin in Luvanda -- totally wipe them off the map!" is that building of those weapons "preparation"?  Or must Luvanda wait until the launch sites are built? Or the missiles are built?  Or the placement of the missiles?  Or the fueling of the missiles?  Or must Luvanda wait until Bigetia fires the first missile?  And where information is not totally perfect, and the President of Luvanda is contronted with probabilities, say a very high probability of attack, what then?  Must there be a phone call from the president of Bigetia to the president of Luvanda saying, "I'm firing those missiles now, you SOB!" (Just kidding, I know that is absurd, but you get my point).
I do, but it would depend. If you know they are aquiring material for their weapon, you could attempt to intercept or destroy it before they got it; If they are developing the weapon, you can attack their lab; If they are building launch sites, you could attack those; if they have the weapons prepped, you can try to destroy them before they launch. At each stage, the risk of civilian casualties will rise, so it's better in every way if you have reliable intelligence, and act on it early, and proportionately. Where a lot of conflicts have gone wrong in the real world is ignoring or not properly colelcting intelligence, leaving a situation where only ther more extreme measures become options.

Of course, it gets more interesting when you realize that intelligence is usually imperfect.  Although the government of Bigotea bears responsibility for placing its population in jeopardy, the fact that Luvanda finds itself left with only the option to attack or not is a massive failure on their part.

On to your question of whether self-defense can become immoral based on the relative loss of life, i.e. to defend yourself, you are required to kill more than you save by your actions.  This pretty much comes down to whether you could pull the nuclear trigger if faced with this situation.  I admit that the question is intriguing but I don't really have any problem with pulling the trigger.  The alternative is self-sacrifice for those who hate me and are going to kill me.  An Ice Cube line comes to mind: "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."  That said, just because I believed that the threat was imminent and there was no other choice does not make it so.  If I was mistaken or deluded then I am just a murderer.
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #70 on: August 04, 2006, 09:07:49 am »
umm.

I feel guilty for what I posted earlier, even jokingly. I always tell my wife never joke about stuff like that, death and violence are to serious and one shouldn't make light of such things, or talk about such things unless they are willing to go through with them.

Umm, not saying the standards I hold myself to are applicable to others here, I'm just saying I feel like a hypocrite for saying that stuff (even jokingly) when I claim I walk a warriors path.  So for that I apologize.  Again though, you all are good, I'm just sayin', that's the way I am.

Sam Wilson - we all know that you are a giant marshmallow and you could never
hurt anyone out of anger, hate or spite.  You've got too much love.  And that's
why we all love you.   :)

Kami, I know you're kind of kidding but nevertheless your post caught my attention...
You see, I believe Sam would severely hurt a mf threatening him or his loved ones (or anybody really) if necessary.  He would feel anger and possibly hate towards the evil bastard.  And, perhaps most importantly, he would feel genuine regret and remorse that the situation requiring his action occurred.  Being a warrior means being prepared for those situations, not seeking them.  Sam, as always let me know if I misrepresent you in any way.
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Offline Sam Wilson

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #71 on: August 04, 2006, 09:22:19 am »
nah bro, you right on as usual.  MEntal link.  8)

But yeah, Kami is right, I'm leaning more towards peace these days, but I still train for the worst.  It's the way of the warrior. It's the closest thing I have to religion. 

Offline Francisco

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #72 on: August 04, 2006, 04:53:43 pm »
So...Ciencano was right, and this is a veiled adaptation of the Lebanon scenario...

So basically, you are saying that you believe Israeli security is only possible through the annihilation of Arabs? Very interesting.


No, not Lebanon. I think he is talking about Iran. They are the ones pursuing nuclear power.
Don't get fooled by the bombs that I get I'm still I'm still Saddam from Iraq.

Offline Rollo_Tomasi

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #73 on: August 04, 2006, 04:56:17 pm »
So...Ciencano was right, and this is a veiled adaptation of the Lebanon scenario...

So basically, you are saying that you believe Israeli security is only possible through the annihilation of Arabs? Very interesting.


No, not Lebanon. I think he is talking about Iran. They are the ones pursuing nuclear power.
Is the prospect of genocide against the Iranians that much more appealing?
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Offline Francisco

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Re: Hypothetical Question: Morality of Preemptive Strike?
« Reply #74 on: August 04, 2006, 05:11:58 pm »
No, not at all. :(
Don't get fooled by the bombs that I get I'm still I'm still Saddam from Iraq.