Monday, April 10, 2006


I was celebrating my Saturday night in by idly reading editorials and op-ed pieces from the Washington Times. [In my defense, I’m trying to fix my sleeping schedule to waking up early since I start working on Monday!] Anyway, amid articles about Hugh Hefner, Barbie, Tom DeLay and Immigration, I came across this gem…. And had a Homer Simpson ‘d’oh’ moment!

So how many times have you heard the whole ‘learn from past mistakes’ bit. But it never occurred to me to look up the ill-fated history of pre-emptive wars. A quick run through? Hitler was defeated in both; 1941 against the Soviet Union and 1939 against Poland. In 1941 Japan was defeated by the US. Israel won the attacks against it in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. In 1982, Israel found herself withdrawing from Lebanon. So safe to say that all the major pre-emptive wars (that I have brought up) didn’t end so well. Also, props to Harlan Ullman of the Washington Times. [I feel the need to point out that I’m looking at post WWI events. It gets iffy before that: Bismark was my favorite historical character in high school!]

The tricky part is making these facts as the basis for an argument saying that pre-emption doesn’t work strategically because of its history. Every single war has had different reasons why it went forward, a different set of threats and ideals behind it; and most certainly a different set of reasons why it was the best option. I thought about this for a while. Is it possible to draw parallels convincingly? And why did they lose?

Straight off the bat my answer would be that it’s because you invade the sovereignty of nation; nay, of a people, and that is enough to bring a tide of patriotism so strong that in the end those who need the victory the most will win. Why? I suppose desperation to keep what is yours. At the same time those sitting in the invader’s box might appreciate that this is more trouble than they realized and gains won’t outdo the losses. Unless they think it’s worth it; and then it’s a bitter struggle to the end.

But an argument on your theory on why invaded countries fight so damn hard is difficult to prove. Maggie Lawson, currently writing a book about the Hapsburg Empire wrote about the frightening parallels between the atmosphere around the Bush Doctrine and German exceptionalism. She certainly has done a better job of arguing why history is repeating itself and it resonated because I remembered reading George Kennan’s book on U.S. Foreign Policy stating that when your goal is defined as an ideal, it is incredibly difficult to stop. Can one actually claim an absolute moral victory? The pen is mightier than the sword et al?

The Bush Doctrine made it alright to launch a pre-emptive strike in order to avoid a nuclear threat. I wonder, did you know that when the Manhattan Project was in full swing- developing the bomb that later was dropped over Japan by the America- Albert Einstein was in the United States but was not invited to join the project as the government did not trust him? Probably a good thing for his legacy because he got to remain the sweet old physicist who’s work was later used as a base for nuclear weapons, and not the evil architect behind the bomb. Anyway, back on topic, this brings up the question what can be construed as legitimate action. Because it would be a horrible feeling to know that something devastating could have been avoided.

So let me ask you this: Can we learn anything from Minority Report? After all, wasn’t it a movie about pre-crime? And why it’s so damn difficult to convince someone they deserve to be punished for something they would (or may not) do in the future? It’s not about innocence or guilt is it? It’s about what costs less: letting the crimes happen and then dealing or dealing with the whiff of possible crime. The system just doesn’t give me any warm fuzzies.

Trying saying it all does make sense. Now once more, with feeling.


madiha said...

dude u havent put a new post in ages! hullo!.. ill take this page off my bookmarks if it isnt updated more regularly..


mahima said...

yes ma'am. the new one is for you!

Cyberswami said...

Pre-emptive wars can be lost for a lot of reasons:
1. patriotism
2. who comes to whose aid
3. why you invaded in the first place (e.g Hitler in Russia = foolish)
4. the strength of those who are being invaded (e.g US)
5. knowledge of local geography (Russians burning their own villages to prevent German soldiers from looting them or gaining access to supplies)

Other things, too, I'm sure. There have however also been pre-emptive wars that have been won. The problem the US has this time around is that the whole world is looking over its shoulder and making firm statements about what it should or should not do.

The age of unbridled unilateralism has passed. Now you have to, at least, pretend to have international support for what you do.I think that, to some extent, has cost the US in Iraq.

Aye Davanita said...

First and foremost, as I am getting acquainted to your blog - may I remark that am curiously impressed with your words and thoughts.

Now, moving on. As a bona-fide cynic it shouldn't come as a surprise that I believe in man's innate ability to do bad. The creation of religion and State, their combination and when appropriate - separation... all spawns from man's requirement to be governed. My view, (subject to obvious argument) is that we are innately inept of handling major responsibility. We do not fully comprehend the concept of sustainance. As such, we are required to be governed. Whether by State or Religion is irrelevant. And all of this boils down to fear (which also spouts distrust). Politics and politicians, their alterior motives and their images, all sourced to fear. Fear of not knowing what the hell happens when we collapse. We need to make it worthwhile. We need structure and we need to know that whats happening is for a real reason. The butterfly effect in, well... full effect.

You're questioning the current system. In my view, tandem exists because of inefficiencies. Otherwise, everything would be like Switzerland... beautiful but boring. Nothing ever goes wrong there!

Change will come about whether you want it or not, more importantly whether you instigate it or not. Make note of fact that it will NOT be without other inefficiencies. The concept of 'better' is solely dependent on the concept of 'worse', and that difference (the two poles) cannot be measured purely on a historical basis. For there to be a "better" now, there must be a "worse" now. It's easier to justify the way things are this way - it allows me to move along quicker.

I apologize for the fairly disorganized comment - I hope you make it through without a puzzled look.