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The Morality of Pre-emptive War

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Posted (edited)

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

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Posted (edited)

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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?
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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.

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Posted (edited)

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
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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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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..................

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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?

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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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I don't have much time to post this so this is going to be really basic and I will probably have to explain this more in detail later, but I am suggesting the premise of the question is flawed to begin with. Morality is a human construct to help justify an action and is relative to each person so trying to figure out if anything is moral or not is pointless because to each person they are morally correct. To the person who starts the preemptive war to themselves they are morally correct and to the person on the receiving end of the preemptive war it is an immoral act. Now if you are part of a vast majority view point or the victor who was able to silence the opposition it will appear as if morality is not relative but an absolute but it still doesn't change the fact that morality is still relative.

To me bringing morality into anything or trying to determine when an act is morally correct or incorrect is utterly pointless. Personally for myself I never use morality in anything because of how relative it is.

I am not sure if any of this will make sense, I been up most of the night working on varies assignments and I am a bit rushed so this may make no sense at all to anyone besides myself.

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Yes. There is no such thing as preemptive war. War is war. "preemptive" is just a word used by politicians to justify a first attack. Iraq was actually incapable of truely waging war against the us. It had nothing to do with possible violence, it had to to with oil and stabilizing the region.

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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.

War has always been hell, where many people are killed , in my opinion the US was attacked and 3000 people were killed, a country has the right to retaliate. However the attack did not come from a country and of their miltiary men to fight , but from groups of hidden terrorists.I do believe the retaliation was more of a war strategy to fight the terrorists in Afrganistan and set up a front base in Iraq to bring them out, at the same time finally end Hussan of his domination and wars against Kuwait and other counties.

I don`nt think the US would ever attacked a country with nukes frist, if NK or Iran does send a nuke ,we have a pretty good missle defence system to shoot them down.But then looked out we would attacked that country with a full blown retaliation.Russia and the US knew if there ever was a big nuke war between us there would be no winners, so hopefulley these small countries that are now creating nuclear bombs know better. Same with Isreal and Iran if the nukes do start flying there will be no winners.

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Morality is the only way to make important decisions, and it is not relative. We may not be able to discern all the consequences, but generally we can do a good enough job to decide if the consequences are good or bad, moral or immoral. I think saying we should not use morality is a huge cop-out, an attempt to escape moral responsibility.

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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:

*'

How do you propose we make peace with North Korea?

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....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?

I do believe we currently fall under the disqualified to preemptively attack a sovereign nation category of nations, Iran, NK, China, and many others are not allowed to preemptively attack those they deem a threat so what makes us more or less special then any of the many nations that dont have that world right. Or are we appointed the worlds policeman ? If we behaved more responsibly in the world we wouldnt have wolves around every border waiting to get a bite at America. Our foreign policy has been a complete failure.

And if we were serious about threats to the USA wed be at war with a good part of South America/Mexico for sending "chemical" weapons by the ton to America and robbing us while were stoned. But I guess that form of terrorism was sanctioned by our Govmnt as well.

It matters not. What we cannot get away with anymore with our armed forces we just use drones and mercenaries to keep our policy of cronyism going.

BTW I believe there is very few countries that can actually reach out and attack America on American soil so the rest is just protecting overseas interests. You know all those cheap jobs we sent overseas. Lotsa rich people need to protect those investments at all cost. Its starting to feel like Baskin Robbins and the flavor of the month with the next ally we MUST protect from evil.

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I don't have much time to post this so this is going to be really basic and I will probably have to explain this more in detail later, but I am suggesting the premise of the question is flawed to begin with. Morality is a human construct to help justify an action and is relative to each person so trying to figure out if anything is moral or not is pointless because to each person they are morally correct. To the person who starts the preemptive war to themselves they are morally correct and to the person on the receiving end of the preemptive war it is an immoral act. Now if you are part of a vast majority view point or the victor who was able to silence the opposition it will appear as if morality is not relative but an absolute but it still doesn't change the fact that morality is still relative.

To me bringing morality into anything or trying to determine when an act is morally correct or incorrect is utterly pointless. Personally for myself I never use morality in anything because of how relative it is.

I am not sure if any of this will make sense, I been up most of the night working on varies assignments and I am a bit rushed so this may make no sense at all to anyone besides myself.

I don't have much time to post this so this is going to be really basic and I will probably have to explain this more in detail later, but I am suggesting the premise of the question is flawed to begin with. Morality is a human construct to help justify an action and is relative to each person so trying to figure out if anything is moral or not is pointless because to each person they are morally correct. To the person who starts the preemptive war to themselves they are morally correct and to the person on the receiving end of the preemptive war it is an immoral act. Now if you are part of a vast majority view point or the victor who was able to silence the opposition it will appear as if morality is not relative but an absolute but it still doesn't change the fact that morality is still relative.

To me bringing morality into anything or trying to determine when an act is morally correct or incorrect is utterly pointless. Personally for myself I never use morality in anything because of how relative it is.

I am not sure if any of this will make sense, I been up most of the night working on varies assignments and I am a bit rushed so this may make no sense at all to anyone besides myself.

Morality is the judgement of what is right and what is wrong as concerns human behavior. It is NOT relative. One can justify themselves based on their perceptions but that does not mean they truly are in the right on an issue. If I gave an order to destroy Pyongyang with small, precision nukes before they could do the same to Seoul, I would be responsible at least partly for the deaths of tens of thousands at least. But if I did NOT stop the north from acting I would also be responsible for the deaths of as many or more. In such a situation it is imperative to trace it back to it's beginning. Would ANY action have been necessary but for the acts of an aggressor? Were their acts moral or not?
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I do believe we currently fall under the disqualified to preemptively attack a sovereign nation category of nations, Iran, NK, China, and many others are not allowed to preemptively attack those they deem a threat so what makes us more or less special then any of the many nations that dont have that world right. Or are we appointed the worlds policeman ? If we behaved more responsibly in the world we wouldnt have wolves around every border waiting to get a bite at America. Our foreign policy has been a complete failure.

And if we were serious about threats to the USA wed be at war with a good part of South America/Mexico for sending "chemical" weapons by the ton to America and robbing us while were stoned. But I guess that form of terrorism was sanctioned by our Govmnt as well.

It matters not. What we cannot get away with anymore with our armed forces we just use drones and mercenaries to keep our policy of cronyism going.

BTW I believe there is very few countries that can actually reach out and attack America on American soil so the rest is just protecting overseas interests. You know all those cheap jobs we sent overseas. Lotsa rich people need to protect those investments at all cost. Its starting to feel like Baskin Robbins and the flavor of the month with the next ally we MUST protect from evil.

I'll say this for you at least, AsteroidX, you have the strength of your convictions. If our nation's leadership is really as corrupt as you believe then it should be overthrown. Failing our desire to do this then we, as nation, will deserve whatever happens to us. But if you are wrong and most Americans (as I believe) are honorable people who just need motivating to do the right thing, then we have a duty to defend ourselves from evil. We also have a right to survive - just as our enemies feel they do.
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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

I dont wish to derail this thread but I recite these words in my sleep thesedays. :tu:

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Morality is the only way to make important decisions, and it is not relative. We may not be able to discern all the consequences, but generally we can do a good enough job to decide if the consequences are good or bad, moral or immoral. I think saying we should not use morality is a huge cop-out, an attempt to escape moral responsibility.

I have to disagree with this entirely. From everything I have experienced logic is by far the best way to make important decisions. I view making decisions based on morality as on the same level as making decisions based on emotion. I can not figure out how you can say morality is not relative, there are no absolutes in morality at all, what is moral for one is immoral for another, and what is moral in one situation is immoral in another situation. Morality lacks any absolutes and varies from person to person and situation to situation. Does it really matter if a situation is good or bad, what is good for one is bad for another so wouldn't it make far more sense not to worry if a consequence is considered good or bad and focus on how it benefits or hurts you or the group of whatever is making the decision. I also don't agree on your view with not using morality being a cop-out but instead ___

Morality is the judgement of what is right and what is wrong as concerns human behavior. It is NOT relative. One can justify themselves based on their perceptions but that does not mean they truly are in the right on an issue. If I gave an order to destroy Pyongyang with small, precision nukes before they could do the same to Seoul, I would be responsible at least partly for the deaths of tens of thousands at least. But if I did NOT stop the north from acting I would also be responsible for the deaths of as many or more. In such a situation it is imperative to trace it back to it's beginning. Would ANY action have been necessary but for the acts of an aggressor? Were their acts moral or not?

Like what I said with Frank Merton how isn't morality relative, is just simply does not have any absolutes to it at all. When dealing with humans perception is all that matters and nothing else. The biggest problem with morality is that it is a solely human construct so it lacks any absolutes. In medieval times it was morally acceptable to completely destroy a city and to kill everyone in it during a war and was expected, now it is completely immoral to do such an act. Countless other examples of how morality has changed for the better or worse can be named but the fact is that morality is a human construct and thus dependent completely on the person so it is relative. While it is true you are going to be at least partially responsible for the deaths no matter what happens in your scenario it doesn't matter what the beginning is since no matter how it ends you end up being responsible for thousands of deaths. To the aggressor there acts where moral but to the attacked they where immoral, so you have one situation being viewed as both morally correct and morally incorrect depending on where you are at for the situation so the morality of the event is then based on perception of the event making it relative. It is only in history after a victor has been determined are the events morality absolute, but even then they can be changed if the person writing the history changes so even in history morality is not absolute.

Once again I had to type this is a hurry and rather tired while doing this so I feel that I am still not describing my view as accurately or as clearly as I would like.

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