Dr. Paul Hillmer
December 8, 2010
"Terrorism" - "The calculated use
of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain
goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through
intimidation or coercion or instilling fear" (WordNet).
"Wrong" - "Contrary to conscience
or morality or law" (WordNet).
"Preemptive War" - "Preemptive war
(or a preemptive strike) is waged in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived
inevitable offensive or invasion or to gain a strategic advantage in an
impending (allegedly unavoidable) war before that threat materializes" (Preemptive War).
Is Preemptive War Always Wrong?
War is, unfortunately, something that is intermixed throughout the
history of the human race. It does not happen only in one nation, but affects
all of humanity. Humans only need to casually observe to see the strain on the
economy and the death tolls that war causes. In today's world, many countries
are fighting a war against terrorism. The controversy is whether or not
preemptive war is wrong. The answer can be difficult to accept especially in a
world of idealists and dreamers. Simply stated, sometimes one or many people
have to strike first with the hope that this first strike is one of the only
ones. In many cases, preemptive war can be the only way to preempt World War 3.
Sometimes the first shots are fired
so that many casualties may be prevented in the end. In the most honorable
sense, preemptive war is not a vessel of revenge, but is designed to prevent
horrible loss. History shows that, when wars are fought, the results can be
shockingly horrible. In World War 1, 1.7 million were killed in Russia, 908,000
died in Great Britain, and 1.7 million were killed in Germany. This only lists
a few of the participants in Word War 1 (History Learning Site). It is easier to
simplify the result of war to a sheer numbers form since the cost of any war
can be overwhelming. Using this method, one can come to the best conclusion by
carefully calculating the advantages and disadvantages of the conflicts.[i] The
saying, "The best defense is a good offense" is also a way preemptive war may
be deemed correct. Instead of waiting to be
attacked, war preempts it and takes the advantage away from the opposition. By
striking first and without warning, the opposition is thrown off balance which
causes them to be slower to respond. This can make for a quick victory. The
less fighting it takes to achieve victory, the better off both parties will be.
Engaging in all out by both sides uses many resources, countries, and even the
world. This is why a preemptive strike and a quick victory are so important.
This is an intellectual way of assessing war. Using reason, one can analyze the
variables hoping that the desired conclusion is found.[ii]
Preemptive war can also make sense
from an emotional standpoint.[iii]
Many of the people of the United States began living in fear when the World
Trade Towers were hit. Government buildings and tourist attractions were closed
and many feared flying because they thought they were potential targets. A
state of fear, panic, and hysteria was induced for a time. These conditions
caused violence within the US. Certain religions and ethnicities were also
stereotyped with terrorists; this caused their lives to be difficult for a
while. This terror couldn't continue, so action had to be taken. If action
hadn't been taken, the country may well have been facing another time like the
searches for communists during the cold war or the Salem Witch Trials. A
country cannot function and stay orderly for long with conditions like this.
Fear mounts when rumors are spread of weapon stockpiles or the growth of
nuclear potential in other nations. When people can see that something is being
done, like preemptive war, fears ease and the nation as a whole can breathe
easier. The preemptive war also puts fear into the hearts of the enemy because
of they see that the US won't sit back and take it. The hope is that preemptive
war will cause the enemy to change their minds about pursuing a large-scale war
that could continue for years, leaving devastation in its wake. Hopefully with
the negative emotions building in that country, they will not continue. This
type of surrender, caused by a preemptive strike, has its initial cost, but in
the end it avoids economic strain, extra loss of life, land destruction, etc.
that are results of a prolonged war.
Looking at preemptive war in the aesthetic
sense shows that preemptive war avoids damage done to the spirit or soul of
humans. The style of literature written during times of war is often dark and
depressing. Death may be a common theme, as loss of hope and the evils found in
human nature may be. This is a poem written during World War 1 which displays
the theme of predicting death:
The first said, 'Here's a right brave solider
That walks the dark unfearingly;
Soon he'll come back on a fine stretcher,
And laughing for a nice Blighty.'...
Though bitter the word of these first twain,
Curses the third spat venomously:
'He'll stay untouched till the war's last dawning,
Then live one hour of agony' (Gurney).
In the end of this poem, the soldier spends
the rest of his time wondering about and dreading the year, waiting to see if
it will happen. War has a way of crushing morale and destroying the spirit. These
effects should be avoided if possible; this may mean that a preemptive war is
needed. Many people find beauty in nature as well, but there is no beauty in a
war torn land. When blood stains the earth, that area no longer carries a sense
of peace; when the earth is torn by craters, burned, and scarred, it is no
longer inspiring. Even though it may not appear so, preemptive war works to
protect this inspiration. When a full blown war is in progress, nature suffers
along with those who get their inspiration from nature. The land and surroundings
are easier to protect if only one side attacks.[iv]
For the Christian, preemptive war can be
right. Paul writes in Romans that God himself has established the governments
and gives them authority. Thus, Christians are to obey the government unless it
goes against God. "Let
every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority
except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God... for he is
God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not
bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries
out God's wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:1, 4). When the government makes
the decision to carry out preemptive war, the people should comply and aid the
government, not criticize it as many do. The government has the task of
protecting the people so it must do everything it its power to do just that,
even preemptive war. God, Himself has told Christians to strike first. This is
extremely important for Christians to note because one should do what God says.
God, in his perfection, is never wrong and knows the consequences of every
decision since he knows the grand plan. God gave the people a pre-occupied land
in Joshua. "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.
Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or
forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to
inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them" (Joshua 1:5-6).
For Christians, how can anything God says be wrong? However, when it comes to
many situations, one must test everything to see if it is actually from God
rather than from humans or the Devil.[v]
Preemptive war is not always wrong and the
fact that this is an age of terrorism doesn't really factor in. Sometimes,
preemptive war is necessary to prevent additional war. After looking at numbers
from previous wars, striking first is worth it if it would prevent many deaths
and destruction of nature. Preemptive war is also a way of protecting this
country even though war isn't an easy choice. To say something is always or
never wrong are judgments that can't be made until the end. There is no way to
know the result of a preemptive war, thus it will be right in some cases and
wrong in others.
Ivor. "Ballad Of The Three Spectres." 1917. Old Poetry. 7
Learning Site. n.d. 7 December 2010 <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/FWWcasualties.htm>.
War." 3 December 2010. Wikipedia. 7 December 2010
WordNet. n.d. 7 December
Science - This is using science to look at and study the history of previous
wars to see the effect they had and how that relates to preemptive war today.
Reason - Reason allows humans to think through what the enemy will think and
decide as a result of being attacked first. This demonstrates the potential
psychological benefits of preemptive war.
Emotion - This is showing how emotion plays a part in deciding if preemptive
war is right or not. Emotion can cause many other things to happen, so
preventing negative emotions by going to war preemptively can be beneficial.
- War causes negative literature to be written and can ruin the landscape where
battles are waged. In the Aesthetic sense, preemptive war prevents these things
Revelation - Because guidance is given regarding war in the Bible (revelation),
preemptive war is supported in some cases through revelation.