Friday, September 27, 2002

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MAILBAG RESPONSE: Kurt B. writes that he's read the Michael Walzer essay I and others have recommended, and finds it wanting:

"What is his recommendation? Inspections? Not exactly. War? Not exactly? No war? ...You get the idea. There is no recommendation, just more of what he accurately calls 'dithering and delay.'"

To respond, it's necessary to realize that Walzer's concern is not whether an attack would rectify the current situation, but whether it would be a morally permissible action. To answer this he relies on his just war theory, which requires that all options short of war be exhausted. With regard to Iraq, he concludes:

“If the administration thinks that Iraq is already a nuclear power, or is literally on the verge of becoming one, then the past months of threatening war rather than fighting it would seem to represent, from the administration's perspective, something like criminal negligence. If there is even a little time before Iraq gets the bomb, the rapid restoration of the inspection system is surely the right thing to aim at--and immensely preferable to the "preemptive" war that many in Washington (including this magazine) so eagerly support.”

For him, the distinction is between a Bush-proposed "preventive war" and Walzer's definition of a "pre-emptive war." The latter is a just war, because it is a response to an immediate threat (think Israel in June 1967); the former is not, because the threat is sufficiently in the future to suggest outcomes other than war (think Germany in June 1914, afraid of Russia's growing power). For Walzer, "No one expects an Iraqi attack tomorrow or next Tuesday, so there is nothing to preempt."

Walzer's proposed alternative is to try and make the inspections regime work, even if the probability of success is miniscule. By pursuing this option, the U.S. can legitimately claim it has exhausted all options short of war.

If you believe that the U.S. should only engage in just wars, Walzer's argument requires opposition to the current strategy. As my blog indicates, I'm not as concerned with this criteria as much as Walzer. But it's very difficult to dismiss.

Keep those cards and letters coming!!

posted by Dan on 09.27.02 at 08:09 PM