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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Foreign vs. Domestic Pre-emption

Perhaps the best question of the latest debate on pre-emption was asked by our senior sometime Chairman: "If pre-emption is justified against foreign goverments which threaten us, why is it not justified against our own citizens who we believe to be a threat."

I think the best answer to this question is: pre-emption against domestic threats is justified, and has always been recognized as justified. We lock up the mentally ill deemed to be dangerous. We define verbal or written threats (merely words!) to be crimes and lock up those who make them. We outlaw weapons which are not useful for self-defense. (I can't go buy an anti-tank weapon at Target).

So I guess the question can be reversed. Given we take these pre-emptive actions on the domestic front, why would it be wrong to use the same principles in our relations with foreigners?

Blogger ssc said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:33 PM, November 19, 2004  
Blogger ssc said...

The question addressing foreign and domestice preemption raises important questions about our preferences. Do we prefer order to freedom? Do we prefer our order to foreignor's freedom? To what extent are we willing to treat foreignors differently than we would ourselves? I think just war theory has a lot to offer regarding answering these questions. To not ask and answer these and similar questions is to lack the precision required of wise decision-making.

2:38 PM, November 19, 2004  
Blogger Mark S. said...


3:22 PM, November 19, 2004  
Blogger King Oliver said...

The question of preemption, either domestic or external, can be disposed of by Occam's razon. We don't need a category of preemption in addition to the categories of self-defense and prudence. If circumstances make it more desirable to strike before rather than after harm has been inflicted, and the costs (including moral costs) are acceptable, by all means strike. I guess the purpose of the preemption category is to "market" an additional moral cost or benefit from the prudential pre-damage strike. The SSC correctly differentiated "marketing" from other purposes for adopting a doctrine.

Just war doctrine may be similarly disposed of, except as a valuable reminder that moral costs must always be taken into account.

4:21 PM, November 19, 2004  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Another way to distinguish domestic vs. foreign is the concept of civilization vs. the Law of the Jungle. In Kagan's famous essay Power & Weakness See http://www.policyreview.org/JUN02/kagan.html

he quotes Robert Cooper and argues that the law of the jungle prevails outside the borders of western civilization and that it would be perilous not to understand the law of the jungle. Therefore, even if it were hypocritical to use pre-emption against foreign powers and not in your own neighborhood, it would stupid not to be hypocritical.

11:21 PM, November 19, 2004  

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