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The Morality of Pre-emptive War


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#1    and then

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:45 AM

Listening to the input of many, many ideas on the M.E. forum I have concluded that the US is considered wrong and even evil for it's pre-emptive war in Iraq.  In fact many consider Afghanistan unjustified as well but those are the extreme anti American types and I give their opinions little regard.
My question is, in light of technology and weaponry in the 21st century is it immoral to strike first when it may be the only way to survive?  Iran vs Israel or even the USA vs North Korea come to mind.  If intelligence sources of a nation give evidence to it's leaders that weapons are being created that can be used to devastating effect with the deaths of thousands or even millions of citizens then is this a moral rationale for striking that country first?  If the US got evidence that NK was actively engaged in launching a strike against Seoul in hours then would it be justified to use nukes to eliminate the imminent threat to millions of the citizens of an ally?  If not, why not?  And if a nation has the capability to destroy it's enemy prior to that enemy inflicting horrendous casualties is it moral NOT to defend it's own citizens?

Edited to add:  This thread is not about the justification of the Iraq war.  It is a general question of using force to save one's citizens when they are threatened.

Edited by and then, 16 March 2013 - 11:46 AM.

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#2    lightly

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 12:31 AM

View Postand then, on 16 March 2013 - 11:45 AM, said:

Listening to the input of many, many ideas on the M.E. forum I have concluded that the US is considered wrong and even evil for it's pre-emptive war in Iraq.  In fact many consider Afghanistan unjustified as well but those are the extreme anti American types and I give their opinions little regard.

Right... except for the anti American part.  I have concerns about our government's policies for love of country .

As for your question???   I don't know. ..  I do know that i don't see a whole hell of a lot of effort going into making peace. i guess there's just no money in it. :w00t:



       *'

Edited by lightly, 17 March 2013 - 12:33 AM.

Important:  The above may contain errors, inaccuracies, omissions, and other limitations.

#3    Doctor manhattan

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 01:53 AM

I see nothing imoral about pre-emptive war, but only if your adversary is a real threat to your country, or allie's.


#4    AsteroidX

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 02:12 AM

One should best be sitting on the moral high ground before attempting such ventures.


#5    Frank Merton

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 05:52 AM

I've been trying to frame some sort of moral framework for when its justifiable for one country to invade another.  We need to start from the fact that we are all human beings and that national divisions are artificial creations that mainly serve ruling classes. Therefore an absolute non-interference standard is out.  Still, wars are bad by definition, so starting one carries huge responsibility.

If one's neighbor's wife is being beaten by her husband, and there is no police to call, do you physically intervene?  What if you have good reason to believe that he intends to kill her?

This is somewhat different (intervening to save the people) from a pre-emptive war because a nation is preparing to attack you, but the analogy to the hostile neighbor still works.  One who asserts one must wait for the actual attack is obviously a moron and can be well argued to be putting their own people at risk -- hardly ethical itself.


#6    Frank Merton

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 05:54 AM

I've been trying to frame some sort of moral framework for when its justifiable for one country to invade another.  We need to start from the fact that we are all human beings and that national divisions are artificial creations that mainly serve ruling classes. Therefore an absolute non-interference standard is out.  Still, wars are bad by definition, so starting one carries huge responsibility.

If one's neighbor's wife is being beaten by her husband, and there is no police to call, do you physically intervene?  What if you have good reason to believe that he intends to kill her?

This is somewhat different (intervening to save the people) from a pre-emptive war because a nation is preparing to attack you, but the analogy to the hostile neighbor still works.  One who asserts one must wait for the actual attack is obviously a moron and can be well argued to be putting their own people at risk -- hardly ethical itself.


#7    GreenmansGod

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 02:50 PM

I was opposed to us going into Iraq, I didn't think there was enough justification and it would, as the first Bush thought, turn into a never ending quagmire. Which it did. Afghanistan wasn't a pre-emptive strike.  There was enough evidence that the Talibon was letting terrorist using it as training ground.   I think a some carpet bombing of airports and Government buildings and training camps would have done the trick without sending ground troops. IMO the goal of the terrorist was to get us into a war to tank our economy and they did it. We had an idiot as a president and was got suckered right into it.

A lot of these regimes like N Korea will eventually fall of their own accord when their people get sick of be abused and act. I don't think we can afford to police the world and people need to take responsibility with their own governments not be victims of them.

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#8    Frank Merton

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 03:00 PM

View PostDarkwind, on 17 March 2013 - 02:50 PM, said:

A lot of these regimes like N Korea will eventually fall of their own accord when their people get sick of be abused and act. I don't think we can afford to police the world and people need to take responsibility with their own governments not be victims of them.
I wish that were true but I think the technology is such that a regime willing to be ruthless and to close its borders to outside influences can hold on in spite of intense unpopularity, and the technology of power is constantly getting better.


#9    and then

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 05:32 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 17 March 2013 - 03:00 PM, said:

I wish that were true but I think the technology is such that a regime willing to be ruthless and to close its borders to outside influences can hold on in spite of intense unpopularity, and the technology of power is constantly getting better.
Assad is a good example.  There is far less than a majority who support him and he is riding along seemingly fine after 2 horrendous years of brutality and 70 thousand or so dead.  NK is the same story I think.  The key is the willingness of the world to intervene and that willingness is lacking.  Some reports are that he has been using chemical weapons in a limited way, yet  still no intervention has occurred.  IF this is true then it's only a matter of time before a miscalculation leads to an unacceptable level of chemical weapon use and an intervention by the Israelis or possibly the Turks.  

View PostAsteroidX, on 17 March 2013 - 02:12 AM, said:

One should best be sitting on the moral high ground before attempting such ventures.
I assume this means that a nation like the US is disqualified from acting pre-emptively as it is immoral and there would be no justification.  Many do believe this and possibly they have a small validity to their credit but it begs the question, if a government is reasonably sure that huge numbers of it's citizens were in danger of death from an enemy who is just waiting for the appropriate time to attack, is it MORAL NOT to stop that enemy?

  We've cast the world, we've set the stage,
  for what could be, the darkest age...
“This is like playing poker with a guy who cheated you twice before. You know who does that, a moron.

#10    Frank Merton

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 05:38 PM

Almost everything we do in life has a good and a bad side.  If one waits until only good consequences are possible one will never act.

I hasten to qualify that.  Most of the time one does not act when there is significant harm to be expected.  It is a matter of balance.


#11    Jinxdom

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 04:43 AM

Considering how the weapons we have now work the only options we have are preemptive strikes(Personally I'd use coups and assassinations instead of wars for less civilian causalities,then destroy those capabilities, then warn the next in command that's what happens when your a prick, wait that sounds familiar...:P.). Should we let ourselves get wiped out first before we march? Problem is though the threat has to be real, and you would have to eliminate the threat completely.
Easier said then done because for every person that dies, you end up creating more people that want you dead, simply because people don't realize that the person they know and care about are acting like a monster(for lack of a better term). Which continues a completely insane cycle of never ending crap.

Protecting your life and the people you care about or watch them die when you could of acted? I would choose the first option every single time, if the threat was really there.

What is debatable for me about war and morality is when is it ok to intervene on the citizens behalf? Do we wait until they revolt or do we help them start a revolt? What if it is the only way they know, is it moral to open people's eyes to a better system? That is when it gets real tricky.

Edited by Jinxdom, 18 March 2013 - 04:55 AM.


#12    Almagest

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 05:32 AM

The most horrific and deadly military campaign in history - the German invasion of Soviet Russia - was a 'pre-emptive' war. The threat to Germany was very real, so if the Iraq War was justified then so too was Operation Barbarossa. Moreso in fact, Germany and Russia were sharing a border, and both had fanatical ideologies which could not co-exist on anything but a temporary basis. The fact that they were seemingly destined to go to war meant that whoever went first could call it a pre-emptive war and be right.

As for Iraq, no WMDs, no plans to attack their neighbours. Their army was swept away very quickly. As bad as Saddam was, he was not a religious fanatic, nor was he a Hitler. He was a run of the mill ME dictator who was more concerned with staying on top of the pile than with attacking the United States. Yes, he deserved to answer for his crimes, but just like Gaddafi he served a useful purpose in keeping a lid on the sectarian violence.

If you're a subscriber to the doctrine of pre-emptive war, just wait a few more decades until Iraq starts causing some real trouble and tell me it was all justified.

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#13    himalyanmystic

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 07:22 AM

In case of the iraq war so many iraqis are dead and they dint need to bush should have stayed out,
Pre emptive war is justified for real threats not for fake created ones,
but if a country is powerful enough then to protect from rougue states and dictators..................maybe its even justified..........
but why kill toothless saddam his wmd's were aging tanks and chemical weapons of obsolete kind,
either oil or just to please and finish the buisness of senior bush..................

[HIMALAYANMYSTIC

#14    Frank Merton

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 07:42 AM

View PostAlmagest, on 18 March 2013 - 05:32 AM, said:

The most horrific and deadly military campaign in history - the German invasion of Soviet Russia - was a 'pre-emptive' war. The threat to Germany was very real, so if the Iraq War was justified then so too was Operation Barbarossa. Moreso in fact, Germany and Russia were sharing a border, and both had fanatical ideologies which could not co-exist on anything but a temporary basis. The fact that they were seemingly destined to go to war meant that whoever went first could call it a pre-emptive war and be right.
So?  Does that make all pre-emptive wars wrong?


#15    Frank Merton

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 07:43 AM

Near if not at the top of any government's responsibilities is protecting its citizens from foreign attack.  Pre-emptive strikes can never be ruled out.





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