Monday, September 20, 2004

Pre Emptive Strikes

MelbournePhilosopher

In order to keep up the frantic pace of posting every day, I have decided to do a very short piece on what's useful about pre-emptive strikes. This is currently doing the rounds in the Latham vs Howard show, with the occasional voice from stage left (or is that stage right?) Bob Brown.

Here's Latham's latest response : http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/09/20/1095651228288.html

This is not so different from arguments about the burden of proof required to convict criminals. There are, as I see it, a couple of relevant philosophical points to consider

-- What is pre-emptive about a pre-emptive strike?
-- What's wrong with international co-operation as it stands?
-- How does existing law view the rights of foreign citizens?
-- What checks and balances might exist?
-- What is the efficacy of this policy?

Okay, first point first. Pre-emptive strikes against random targets are silly, because they might be nice people. What you need to do is identify people who are about to hit you, and hit them first. The reason that the terminology "pre-emptive strike" is used instead of "putting them in jail for breaking the law" is because the laws governing the relationships of nations are vague. A pre-emptive strike puts the action within the purview of the military as opposed to the courts. Pre-emptive strikes in this context are military strikes, rather than police actions or legal actions.

Second point. This is what Latham is talking about. Essentially, why can't we all just pull together? Our countries aren't at war, therefore we shouldn't invade other countries. Remember, this is a military action, not a police action. Latham is arguing that pursuing terrorists is best done in the framework of international co-operation. He's right, so long as everyone co-operates. I think Howard's position would be the same if it were put in this framework. The Axis of Evil is different because their governments don't play ball.

To keep things short, I'm going to skip right to the final point, leaving the rest as an exercise to the reader. What is the efficacy of this scheme? Well, you just need to balance the flow-on effects. When we invaded Iraq, we irritated a lot of people who would probably have been happy just shooting eachother for a while. We may believe we have an international responsibility to stop that sort of thing, and make sure the children don't break eachother's toys. However, it's a different argument to suggest that is makes us safer. The balance is between taking criminals out of society, and the flow-on effects of war. War tends to increase the instability of a region, not the other way around. You've really got to watch it. I don't have time to launch into a full philosophical rant on this issue, but the basic questions are simple. How much does this terrorism threaten me now? How much will it threaten me in future depending on the various courses of action?

2 Comments:

Blogger Sean's Beard said...

Interesting little post. I never really get interested in Australian politics... I think Churchill got it right when he said "Democracy is the worst kind of government, except all those other types of government that have been tried". Certainly not the worst, but definitely the most boring and superfluous.

But you're quite right about the war. I mean if you see two drunk blokes beating the crap out of each other in a dark alley on a Saturday night, you don't get involved. Let alone actually start fighting them yourself. You just leave them be. Obviously Howard/Bush/Everyone else involved has never seen a drunken set-to.

Thanks for your comment on my blog by the way, and it's interesting because I have the Seventh Seal in my collection as well, I call it my 'pride and joy' because I can't find it anywhere in Australia, and in fact when I got the word out to family and friends I wanted it on pain of death a little miscommunication SNAFU led to me accidentally receiving two different copies of it... :)

Take care

9/20/2004 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger infidelchick said...

I think you're looking at the wrong question. I find it hard to see why we need to even consider the usefulness of something which is clearly wrong according to our laws and the ethics of our society.

9/30/2004 03:43:00 PM  

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