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Pre-emptive War: e.g. Should we nuke Tehran?

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I never really understood that line, because in a dictatorship, I'm sure most people would be able to do nothing about it and could not have prevented it. Clearly some governments attain power through force, so I don't see how, in those cases, anyone would be responsible for that except those of the oppressive government and those who explicitly or implicitly support the government in question.

Think of it in terms of goods on a market. The politicians a country has is supplied by the kinds of politicians its citizens demand, even if through passivity. No dictatorship gets in, or stays in power simply by force alone.

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Could you please elaborate on proportionality? I ask because, as I understand your "point 1", it is wrong. Proportionality to me means a kind of tit-for-tat back-and-forth use of force, where the violence of one side resembles the violence of another. Wars aren't won this way, and when they are fought this way they last forever. Nations that want to win wars will aspire to using much more force than their opponents. In other words, they will use force disproportionately. Superior numbers at the point of attack, bigger bombs, etc. Using force disproportionately is not only effective, it is the right thing to do when warred upon.

By proportionality I mean to use just the force necessary to achieve a rational goal. Not more.

I didn't mean that, if you hit me once, I should only hit you once. And if you hit me twice and on the nose, I should hit you twice and on the nose. I meant whatever is needed to accomplish your rational self-interest, but nothing more. If you don't keep this principle, then it is not retaliation, but revenge. And then it is not guided by reason, but by guts.

As an example, if a bastard kills my son, I will seek to kill the bastard... but not his mother and his sister and his daugthers and his wife and his new baby, etc. Some of them could be incidentally killed, and that will be his fault, but I will not go after them.

One of the problems I see in this thread is that we are following an old vision of WAR BETWEEN COUNTRIES, when addressing the September 11th attack. To me this is wrong approach, and it is driving discussions the wrong way.

When dealing with modern terrorism, we must change our paradigm from war between countries to retaliation against evil men, organized in networks and fueled by evil ideas.

We don't nuke networks and ideas.

We do not treat metastatic cancer with surgery.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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Isn't pre-emtive war initiation of force?

Yes, which is why the title is a misnomer containing a contradiction. I believe most of us have answered the question: "should we nuke Tehran?"

What I do think is that the minute they initiate force we wipe them off of the face of the earth along with any other nation that has the gall to attack us.

Iran has been initiating force against the US for at least 30 years so your conclusion above should follow.

I have not read this thread because it is 43 pages long.

You and whYNOT should read it, all of your questions are answered.

So four years later, and 800+ replies, the topical question is finally being met with a resounding "NO".

About time.

No Objectivist should consider nuking a city, except in the very, very last resort of self-defence.

Even the 'surgical' bombing strikes are immoral, unless two nations are in a proclaimed state of warfare.

This is only one page of a 40 page thread and I don't see a resounding "NO" to the titular question.

Iran has been initiating force against the US for at least the last 30 years. If we nuked them, they would deserve it.

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So four years later, and 800+ replies, the topical question is finally being met with a resounding "NO".

About time.

Actually, the "oh you're a horrible human being for considering the option" arguments from intimidation took over the thread, that's all that happened. A nuclear attack on Tehran should be an option, especially now that Iran is developing weapons to wipe out Israel. For a country which is running out of other options in stopping Iranian sponsored terrorist attacks, and an outward Iranian threat to its entire existence, wiping out the enemy entirely might end up being their only choice.

P.S. If you wish to redefine genocide, to include actions which are strictly from self defense against an ethnic group organized behind a nationalistic/religious cause against your nation, then so be it. I'm being genocidal here, and perfectly happy about it.

Edited by Jake_Ellison

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Yes, which is why the title is a misnomer containing a contradiction. I believe most of us have answered the question: "should we nuke Tehran?"

Iran has been initiating force against the US for at least 30 years so your conclusion above should follow.

You and whYNOT should read it, all of your questions are answered.

This is only one page of a 40 page thread and I don't see a resounding "NO" to the titular question.

Iran has been initiating force against the US for at least the last 30 years. If we nuked them, they would deserve it.

There is no such thing as just nuking one's enemy today; remember something - Japan did not possess the A bomb, and could not retaliate. It was guaranteed that the US bombing there would end hostilities, and save Allied lives.

This is the practical argument, not the ethical one: to use "extreme prejudice" in today's world, is an invitation for every piss-pot nation that can buy the technology, to nuke whoever they feel like, anytime.

Besides, there is a protocol to follow! If the USA (or Israel for that matter) has good reason to believe that Iran is escalating its threat against them, then declare war.

A quick and deadly war, that must destroy Iran's capability to threaten anyone again.

Without nukes.

As for "proportionate response", I agree with some of Hotua's thoughts, but definitely not with this one. All war, almost by definition, has to be disproportionate - the enemy must be hit back with 10 times the force that they initiated.

But whether one likes it or not, there must be a level of self-responsibility and restraint when a supremely powerful nation (the USA) is forced to deal with one far weaker. Iran does not pose quite the same threat that the USSR once did with its nuclear ICBM's.

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Jake, I just saw you post. My first thought is that, in actuality, this is more Israel's problem, than America's. (The "Little Satan," rather than the Big one.)

If any nation has the right to declare war on Iran, it surely must be Israel first. Then if they see no other way - NO OTHER WAY - to survive, it will be Israel that will nuke Iran.

Not only because I have a vested interest in Israel ( having some family there), I hope like hell that the US will militarily back Israel in whatever they decide - conventional war or otherwise.

I wonder if your present government will...

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Jake, I just saw you post. My first thought is that, in actuality, this is more Israel's problem, than America's. (The "Little Satan," rather than the Big one.)

If any nation has the right to declare war on Iran, it surely must be Israel first. Then if they see no other way - NO OTHER WAY - to survive, it will be Israel that will nuke Iran.

Not only because I have a vested interest in Israel ( having some family there), I hope like hell that the US will militarily back Israel in whatever they decide - conventional war or otherwise.

I wonder if your present government will...

The US is currently backing Israel. Not in a principled fashion, but it is backing it. And Obama will do very little to change that. He may not want to do it, but he's a pragmatist who will never withdraw US support from Israel simply because others would disapprove. So, the US gov. is complicit in any action Israel takes against Iran, there's no point in pretending "they" did it, not us, if they do attack Iran.

And it is an American problem. There are 300 million Americans, and only five million Israelis. If we must pick somebody who has the primary moral responsibility to defend freedom, it is the government of the 300 million free people. But, in reality, both governments have that same responsibility, and they also have the obligation to act together if at all possible.

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The US is currently backing Israel. Not in a principled fashion, but it is backing it. And Obama will do very little to change that. He may not want to do it, but he's a pragmatist who will never withdraw US support from Israel simply because others would disapprove. So, the US gov. is complicit in any action Israel takes against Iran, there's no point in pretending "they" did it, not us, if they do attack Iran.

And it is an American problem. There are 300 million Americans, and only five million Israelis. If we must pick somebody who has the primary moral responsibility to defend freedom, it is the government of the 300 million free people. But, in reality, both governments have that same responsibility, and they also have the obligation to act together if at all possible.

You know for someone shown to have no knowledge of the situation at all you speak with absolute conviction. Why do ignorance and arrogance hang together like that?

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** Mod Hat: ON **

I'm going to make two general comments about something needed to keep this thread alive if you guys want that;

1) The conversation is heated up and I would recommended sticking to supporting your arguments and not attacking the participants of the thread.

2) If you are newly interested in entering this thread and you have questions, go back and read the rest of it. Yes, it is long, but other people should not have to do your work for you researching or reguritating the answers that probably are already contained therein. Yes, I know it's long so if you don't really have that much of interest in that much reading, perhaps you don't have enough interest in inserting yourself into the conversation at this late date.

I don't think any of the mods, including myself, mind doing a little work to keep this site and these conversations going, but this thread already has some other issue going on with it and if any particular thread becomes too "high maintenance" to deal with it, it can easily be shut down. Please, work with us folks.

Thanks.

** Mod Hat: OFF **

Edited by RationalBiker

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Could you please elaborate on proportionality? I ask because, as I understand your "point 1", it is wrong. Proportionality to me means a kind of tit-for-tat back-and-forth use of force, where the violence of one side resembles the violence of another. Wars aren't won this way, and when they are fought this way they last forever. Nations that want to win wars will aspire to using much more force than their opponents. In other words, they will use force disproportionately. Superior numbers at the point of attack, bigger bombs, etc. Using force disproportionately is not only effective, it is the right thing to do when warred upon.

Yes--Dr. Peikoff talks a little about this in one of his recent podcasts on the concept of Total War. I don't see Kolker as necessarily vile or despicable in his recommendation here, just that he's excessively gloomy and it's encouraging him to spout some irrational conclusions. Total genocide has never been necessary to remove the military threat even of horrifically repugnant ideologies. If this were true, you'd expect there to have been more and deadlier terrorist attacks against the U.S. since the war began, and continually escalating, especially during the "surge". This has not been the case. What is the case is that almost all of the accurate information about the war (and the success of the surge) has been completely filtered out and replaced with words like "quagmire" and "unwinnable". (Read Thomas Sowell's remarks about the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war for more on this same issue in his book Intellectuals and Society).

War is not about exterminating possible threats or dealing out some kind of "reciprocal" smack. It is about protecting the lives and property of the citizens of your country, INCLUDING your soldiers, from ACTUAL military threats. Anyone conversant with Objectivist philosophy, particularly the epistemology, should be well aware that there is no possible way to protect yourself from the things that people may choose to do. It simply can't be done. Attempts to do so, whether by genocide or by any other method are doomed for failure because they ignore the fact that man has a volitional faculty.

The problem here isn't an ethical one, it's epistemological. So maybe those arguing would like to visit the fundamentals a little more closely instead of shooting epithets around.

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A quick and deadly war, that must destroy Iran's capability to threaten anyone again.

Without nukes.

This seems self contradictory to me. How much more quick and deadly can you get than a nuke?

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You know for someone shown to have no knowledge of the situation at all you speak with absolute conviction. Why do ignorance and arrogance hang together like that?

I'm aware of most of those imaginary claims you consider "knowledge of the situation". I just happen to know they're not real, so I don't consider them when passing judgement on Iran.

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I'm aware of most of those imaginary claims you consider "knowledge of the situation". I just happen to know they're not real, so I don't consider them when passing judgement on Iran.

lol

Read a book. Hey Jake, what countries did Israel fight in 1967?

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Isn't pre-emtive war initiation of force?...

I can see no justification for attacking another nation, regardless of it's inhabitants, without said nation taking violent action first...

What I do think is that the minute they initiate force we wipe them off of the face of the earth along with any other nation that has the gall to attack us. NO ONE has the right to initiate force; why should this not apply to nations?

your problem is that you do not correctly understand what is meant by the "initiation of force." IoF does not simply refer to the person who threw the first punch or the army that fired the first shot, it applies in a wider context. If someone is up in your face shouting, swearing, acting aggressively, he is initiating force against you and you can legitimately push him away, punch him etc in self-defence. if a nation puts its army on your borders, you don't have to wait for them to attack you in order to act in self-defence. why give them the advantage of the first-strike? I really can not comprehend your position, do you really believe that that you have to wait to be stabbed before you can defend yourself?

do we have to wait until DC or London on Tel Aviv is nuked before you will permit us to respond? ludicrous.

In 1936 Germany placed their troops on the French border, in the Rhineland. It was their own land and they did not fire a shot - under your definition, they did not initiate force. Yet this was clearly an act of war, as under the terms of the Treaty of Versaille, it was illegal for Germany to militarise the Rhineland - and placing troops on your neighbours border is an aggressive act (especially given the revanchist rhetoric and the fact that Alsace-Lorraine a disputed province claimed by Germany, lay just the other side of the border). The invasion of the Rhineland by French troops would have been a pre-emptive attack, responding to the German initiation of force.

Reason suggests that pre-emptive force is nothing less than terrorism.

no, it doesn't. pre-emptive force is sometimes necessary. Israel in 1967, after months and years of bellicose rhetoric and armies massing near their borders, had absolutely no option but to eliminate the Egyptian airfleet. If it did not act rationally and pre-empt an invasion by striking first, it was at a grave risk of destruction, fighting a war on many fronts. no genuine morality could hold that you have to be murdered before you can respond in self-defence.

also, I am not sure many people suggest the use of nuclear weapons to deal with Iran at present, however, it certainly should not be ruled out as a possibility.

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By proportionality I mean to use just the force necessary to achieve a rational goal. Not more.

Right. Some in this thread (myself included) are arguing that, even in today's delicately nuanced world, a nuclear option should remain on the table. Others eve have a firm conviction that a nuclear option is the best way to achieve that goal. "If it would ultimately save one soldier from injury, etc.". The "proportionality" argument has been used in the recent past to condemn Israel for legitimate defensive actions, so I'll caution you that there is a lot of baggage associated with it.

One of the problems I see in this thread is that we are following an old vision of WAR BETWEEN COUNTRIES, when addressing the September 11th attack. To me this is wrong approach, and it is driving discussions the wrong way.

This thread is about war between countries - America (and western countries in general) vs. Iran. Are you suggesting that we should primarily be concerned with satellite terrorist organizations instead of the governments that support them with material and false moral legitimacy?

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I'm aware of most of those imaginary claims you consider "knowledge of the situation". I just happen to know they're not real, so I don't consider them when passing judgement on Iran.

You have me highly interested to know which of my beliefs are imaginary.

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Try thinking back. Which are the ones you imagined?

I recall one conversation we had in which you stated Israel is not a Zionist State, maybe that is what you are referring to?

I mean don't get me wrong, your reply was characteristically poetic and beautiful in its rhetoric, but what exactly am I imagining?

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I never really understood that line, because in a dictatorship, I'm sure most people would be able to do nothing about it and could not have prevented it. Clearly some governments attain power through force, so I don't see how, in those cases, anyone would be responsible for that except those of the oppressive government and those who explicitly or implicitly support the government in question.

This view seems to be a large part of the argument for avoiding the use of highly destructive force. It's one that I have been somewhat sympathetic to through most of my life but have recently begun do doubt. The notion that bad countries are situations in which a small group has taken over a large group of honest, law-abiding peaceful capitalists with a strong ideological basis upon which their love of negative liberties rest, seems to be a fiction. In every historical circumstance that I am aware of, the people(generally) are only barely worse than their leaders. H.L. Mencken's belief that "in democracy, people get the government that they deserve," is fairly true for any governmental system.

The Russian Revolution could not have happened without it's highly mystical uneducated serf based population. A few Nazis could not have taken over Galt's Gulch as they did the Weimar republic. I'd challenge you, and anyone else who holds this view to look around at whichever country that you happen to be in and honestly consider whether most people don't, in a sense, deserve the results of their views. The Greeks rioting in the streets demanding that Germany subsidize their retirement at 50 is a great example. Was socialism pushed on them, or did they willingly line up for free bread? In the US, how many elderly, conservatives or otherwise, vote based on their social security benefits and then complain about welfare programs?

I'm not saying that there are no innocents in terrible places, but I would suggest that there are very few innocents left once a nation falls to such serious depths that nuclear annihilation or bombings is a serious concern.

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I recall one conversation we had in which you stated Israel is not a Zionist State, maybe that is what you are referring to?

I mean don't get me wrong, your reply was characteristically poetic and beautiful in its rhetoric, but what exactly am I imagining?

I didn't mean it to be poetic or beautiful, I just meant it to be appropriately dismissive. Any chance for a meaningful conversation between us ended when you insulted me.

P.S. I guess the question is nonetheless valid, so, if anyone's interested, I should add that I meant this: any claim which assigns any degree of being "in the right", or moral equivalence, to any Arab person or group which commits or condones violence, be it against civilians or Israeli or American soldiers acting within the parameters of their job, is based strictly on imagined facts.

This view seems to be a large part of the argument for avoiding the use of highly destructive force. It's one that I have been somewhat sympathetic to through most of my life but have recently begun do doubt. The notion that bad countries are situations in which a small group has taken over a large group of honest, law-abiding peaceful capitalists with a strong ideological basis upon which their love of negative liberties rest, seems to be a fiction. In every historical circumstance that I am aware of, the people(generally) are only barely worse than their leaders. H.L. Mencken's belief that "in democracy, people get the government that they deserve," is fairly true for any governmental system.

Personally, I would never advocate nuking a city as an act of justice over its inhabitants, only as a judgement of the moral imperative of saving one's own, free nation. Justice should be applied to individuals. Always. Sometimes, war is not justice, every time a single innocent among a hundred guilty dies, it is deeply unjust. But the blame for the injustice has to be laid firmly at the feet of the aggressor, not those defending themselves.

That said, I of course agree with what you are saying, the majority is usually guilty in these countries. But there are innocents among them, it's just that it's not really our obligation to save them, when that would mean jeopardizing our own security in the process. I say that realizing one day, I might be that one innocent who ends up killed by an act of self defense. Who knows what the future holds for this country, after all.

Edited by Jake_Ellison

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I say that realizing one day, I might be that one innocent who ends up killed by an act of self defense. Who knows what the future holds for this country, after all.

You know, I've had the same thought before, myself. But I don't even consider it a future question. This country has already done some unjust things and if one of the victims of that injustice came to my door and kicked it in, I'd do what I had to in order to defend myself and my house, but I couldn't exactly call the guy wrong.

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This country has already done some unjust things and if one of the victims of that injustice came to my door and kicked it in, I'd do what I had to in order to defend myself and my house, but I couldn't exactly call the guy wrong.

Do you care to name what these "unjust things" are and which nation on earth would be justified in initiating or (if you think that we have already initiated force against them, then) retaliating against us?

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[...]if one of the victims of that injustice came to my door and kicked it in[...] [...]I couldn't exactly call the guy wrong.

If he kicked in your door, that would be beyond the realm of collateral damage; that's targeting you, specifically. Do you believe yourself to be the legitimate target of personal combat because you pay taxes or some such? (no need to confirm or deny.)

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You know, I've had the same thought before, myself. But I don't even consider it a future question. This country has already done some unjust things and if one of the victims of that injustice came to my door and kicked it in, I'd do what I had to in order to defend myself and my house, but I couldn't exactly call the guy wrong.

That's a very different thought from mine.

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