I'm very proud to present my new journal article published at Square Two. It uses the story of Kishkumen's attempted attack on the chief judge to discuss preemptive war.
The Iraq war started while I was in college. So I've been thinking about this topic for a long time. Even though its been 20 years, whenever the subject arises we still don't rise about what one theorist called partisan talking points or the emergencies of battle.
I've read various accounts of preemptive war throughout the years like the Theban general Epaminondas. But my research really took off when I read seminal thinkers that relied on natural rights.
The most important was the concept that no one has to accept an attack from a "charging assailant with sword in hand" because of some mistaken idea that they have to receive the attack (or three of them) first.
The idea of a sword in hand highlighted a phrase in Alma 48:14 that no one had ever noticed before. It says the Nephites were taught "never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives."
The text instead says, “raise the sword,” not smite, strike, slay, or any other word to denote that the sword had been swung and met flesh. That isn’t simply an evocative phrase but illustrates a fundamental truth. Mormon didn’t have to explain the distinction between a raised sword and a sword strike because the two concepts are so closely related that they are the same.
Thus, while not explicitly stated in the Book of Mormon, if a Nephite attack is called “raising the sword,” Alma 48:14 seems to suggest the idea that righteous defense applies when a Lamanite soldier simply “raised his sword” to attack, and not after the first (or third) actualized attack. That means the Nephite standard for defense only requires an incipient attack, or someone that “raise[s] the sword.” The basic premise is that an individual who sees an attack in progress doesn’t have to wait for the first blow to assert their God-given right to defend themselves.
I've got the above and so many other good ideas in this piece I hope you get a chance to read it! It is adapted from my manuscript on Just War. So if you like this, you should like my manuscript as well!
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