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.