Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Research on Preemptive War in Cambridge University Press

I'm working on what I hope will be a new journal article on preemptive war. It is coming along nicely and I hope to post a preview here soon. I came across a rather great book called, The Ethics of Preventive War. Its a collected volume from Cambridge University Press. I was rather excited to come across this book because its a frank, calm, and rational discussion about the topic, which is rather lacking. In fact, during my research I found a quote that talks about the "demonic hatred" that many have for the practice. (As a frequent object of that hatred I can relate.)   But here is an author, Chris Brown, who discusses the topic using language very similar to mine: 

[W]hat is different today is the combination of speed and destructiveness; in the Caroline case a decision had to be taken very quickly by the man on the spot, but although the volunteers carried by the Caroline would have been a nuisance had they landed on the Canadian side of the river, they did not pose an existential threat to large numbers of civilians, or to the colony Britain itself. The stakes today are potentially a great deal higher. 9/11 killed nearly 3,000 people and could easily have killed more; the use of some form of WMD could push the death toll much higher, and there is no reason to think that potential terrorists would be loath to cause such mayhem. The central point is that although "instant, overwhelming....[leaving] no time for deliberation" sound like absolute criteria they are in fact, and must be, relative terms- a second was, in practice, a meaningless unit of time in 1839, but in 2007, the average laptop can carry out a billion or more "instructions per second." (34)

Although the new world in which we have to live is not quite as different from the old as it might, at first sight, seem to be, nonetheless there are organizations (state and non-state) in the world whose ideological foundations make them difficult to deter, and whose potential capacity to deliver serious damage to the infrastructure of industrial societies and to their populations make them difficult to ignore. It does seem plausible that some kind of rethinking of the notion of preemption is required... (36)

I wrote the following back in 2009. In fact, this was one of the ideas I wanted to explore, which made me start the blog in the first place.   It turned out to be the basis for my first presentation in the Mormon world and became part of a publication of which I'm rather proud.  Notice how I use follow the author's point about how technology and the threat of terrorists armed with WMDs to meet the justification for preemptive war:

Today battlefields stretch over many miles. The personal weapon of an infantrymen, the M-16, has an effective range of roughly a third of a mile. Jet fighters, stealth bombers, and cruise missiles can launch from one location and strike 6,000 miles away. And Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles can truly live up to their name and strike from continents away.

World wide airline and naval travel easily transport dangerous people and material. The Nephites must have been surprised at how narrow their strip of wilderness could be at times, our protection is just as thin if we do not set proper guards (Hel 1:18) or be "up and doing" in defense of our liberty(Alma 60:24).

During the Cold War we could nominally count on the international order to restrain the actions of our enemy. But even this existence led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Krushchev threatening to "swat America's ass" with the weapons he inserted there. Now we face regimes that explicitly reject that world order, support terrorism as an arm of foreign policy, and seek the most devastating weapons known to man.

The threat is just as real and apparent as the Lamanites marching on Zarahemla. Yet if we wait for the launch of nuclear missiles, or a terrorist attack using the same, we will be lamenting the desolation of Ammonihah instead. Arguing for a neo isolationist foreign policy based on The Book of Mormon ignores the strategic realities that both nations faced as a result of geography and technology. The nature of modern technology, the connection of rogue regimes with terrorist organizations, the precedent re enforced by 9/11, and the shrinking world of globalization demand that pursue an "offensive defensive" like the Nephites of old.

Thanks for reading! Who do you think said it better?  

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