Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pre-emptive War - Why Not?

My colleagues at Pike Speak and Simianbrain have been having a discussion on when the left would support a war. Follow their points here, here and here.

Shamanic at Simianbrain notes that the left mostly supported war in Afghanistan and earlier in the splintered fragments of the former Yugoslavia and John notes that the left doesn't seem to believe in the doctrine of pre-emptive warfare. He ends by saying

And typical of many on the Left, she posits the same "Then why not Iran or North Korea, since they are a greater threat?"

How many believe if we were to invade Iran next month that she (or at least a great majority of the "Why Not Iran" crowd) would be against that war also?

I am not sure John realises the rhetorical nature of the question about Iran or North Korea. It is designed to point out the paucity of reasons for invading Iraq, since no-one is really suggesting the US invade the far more dangerous North Korea. Then again, maybe it's me that is missing the point - it often depresses me how often Americans (whether left or right) having bought into the "US is bigger, biggest, best" notion at an almost cellulur level, believe that just because America has the military power to dictate a Pax Americana, it therefore should.

However, working on the assumption that "why not invade Iran or North Korea?" is a rhetorical question, maybe the mental block on the right is that both belong to the "Axis of Evil" and deserve to be invaded! Let's see if I can help Shamanic make her point. Let's change the question a bit by out-Adaming Yoshuda...

Then why not invade Pakistan, since they are a greater threat?

Let's look at the reasons for pre-emptive invasion:

  • Pakistan is a military dictatorship. Although there have been many calls by the international community for President Musharraf to step down as General in charge of the army which he led to a bloodless coup in 1999, something he promised to do more than a year ago, these calls have been ignored.

  • Pakistan harbours terrorism. Under Musharraf it was one of the few nations on earth to recognise the Taliban government in Afghanistan and is still home to thousands. As Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor reported today:

    Since the US swept the Taliban movement from power in Operation 'Enduring Freedom' in 2002, it is more often than not in Pakistan's cities, rather than its barren frontier provinces, that many of the most important Al-Qaeda suspects have been located and detained. The restive port city of Karachi, in particular, has found itself the destination of several key operatives, including Ramzi Binalshibh, who is suspected of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US and is currently being detained at a secret location...When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, and established training camps along with a multitude of other jihadist groups, thousands more volunteers crossed the border to train and fight. Security officials estimate that nearly 25,000 men from Karachi alone attended over the years, learning a wide range of skills from small arms handling to surveillance techniques and bomb-making.

    Perhaps we should be a little more suspicious of Pakistan's assertion today that it has "lost" the trail of Osama binLaden - a very tall man who requires dialysis regularly.

  • Pakistan not only has weapons of mass destruction, it has actively exported technology for nuclear bombs to "rogue states" including North Korea, Iran and Libya. Although it had publicly said that such exports had been ended, there are signs that the illegal trade may have started up again. In any case, Pakistan is blocking access by international investigators to the main perpetrator of the trade, nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, even though it maintains the government had no prior knowledge of his actions. As Jane's reported in December:

    The Pakistani authorities are still refusing to permit investigators to interrogate Khan, who despite his televised 'confession', is still considered to be a hero by many Pakistanis and has been pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf. Since the US administration needs to keep Musharraf on board for the global war against terrorism, Washington has been oddly quiescent about being barred access to the disgraced scientist.

    All of this should put Pakistan firmly in the category of "rogue state", a danger to world peace and stability. It doesn't. General Musharraf has been warmly welcomed by both Blair and Bush as an "ally" in the war on terror and no-one wants to rock the boat as long as the General makes the right noises even if some facts say otherwise.

    It's worth asking the right here: are your reasons for "pre-emptive" warfare going to be based on consistent morals, or are they to be cheapened by expediency? If the latter, kindly admit it and get off your high horse about fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

    So, Shamanic...next time it may be better to ask "why not invade Pakistan, since they are a greater threat?" That way those the question is directed at won't get misled by knee-jerk reactions and false morals.

    shamanic said...

    What's interesting, and what John misread in my post on the subject, is that I didn't say, "Why not Iran or North Korea?". I said that if you support the doctrine of pre-emption, then I'm not sure how you could argue against Iran attempting to invade the United States. The United States clearly poses a threat to the government of Iran, and if it's now okay for nations to invade other nations who they perceive as a threat, then much of the world has the green light to attack the United States.

    I further stipulated that the only way to win a war against the United States would be with nuclear strikes, and as a result I believe firmly that the world should disavow the policy of pre-emption.

    It's an extremely dangerous road to go down. This doesn't mean that it can never be used, but the fact that we have a policy of pre-emption is another way of saying that we have a policy setting precedents whose results we almost certainly won't like.

    Cernig said...

    Great point, Sha. Too few in the US truly realise that much of the rest of the World are thinking "what's good for the goose..."

    Regards, C