Actually, I think I may be more of a turkey.
In the Franklinian sense of the word. In a letter, comparing the eagle and turkey as national emblems, he wrote (in part): "the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."
I'm hardly a "true original native of America," although my Norwegian and Irish ancestors have been here for a few generations, at least.
Franklin went on, observing that the turkey "... is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that), a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on."
Truthfully, I might hesitate. I am acutely aware how precious and fragile life is. But I do believe that self-defense is a legitimate option, on the personal as well as on the national level.
A comment on an earlier post, "Diplomacy: A Noble Ideal," observed that "... I get the idea that you are just a couple of steps removed from saying 'Pre-emptive Stike'. I might be wrong though."
My response at the time wasn't the best I've ever written. It was about 2 in the morning at the time. The point raised was a good one, so I'm taking another go at it here.
Traditionally, in American culture at least, 'the good guy' waits for 'the bad guy' to strike the first blow. That's a fine attitude to have.
These days, however, quite a few people can die in that first blow.
Let's assume, as a hypothetical situation, that an Islamic group, in an excess of zeal, decides that San Francisco should be wiped from the face of the earth.
This isn't as wild a stretch of the imagination as it may seem. San Francisco prides itself on a progressive and enlightened policy with regards alternative lifestyles.
This doesn't seem to be consistent with views expressed from some of the more extreme Islamic groups. In fact, Iran recently executed a couple of gay men. It's not quite as simple as it seems, of course. One homosexual publication ran a curiously conciliatory article on how Iran is really very tolerant.
At any rate, let's assume that some imam decided that San Francisco had to go.
A nuclear device, detonated in the sky over San Francisco, would very likely kill a sizable percentage of the three-quarters of a million people who live there.
Would it be right to stop such an attack by destroying facilities that make and maintain the weapon? Even if some people who make the weapon and maintain the weapon are killed in the process?
Well, maybe San Franciscans deserve it. After all, they're Americans. Many of them, anyway. And you know what Americans are like
Okay, let's pick another city: Bandar Lampung, in Indonesia. Isn't quite as big as San Francisco, but is home to over a half-million people. There's no particular reason, so far as I know, for wanting to destroy that city. But let's assume that someone with nuclear weapons decided that it wasn't sufficiently Islamic.
Again, would it be be right to stop such an attack, even if people involved in making the attack possible might be killed?
That's a tough one. Let's say there are two options.
- Maintain high and noble ideals, and let a sizable fraction of a half-million people experience, briefly, the inside of a nuclear fireball. And let others witness the spectacle of a shattered and burning city: up close and personal.
- Abandon hopes of being a 21st century Ghandi: Trade the lives of terrorists, and people hired by terrorists, for the a city-full of (relatively) innocent people.
Making things more complicated for me, I'm a devout Catholic. The Catholic Church has a 'just war' teaching. A good place to start looking at this teaching is in the Catholic Catechism, 2309: "The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain
- All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective
- There must be serious prospects of success
- The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
"The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."
Notice: "Just war" doesn't forbid all warfare. Self-defense is allowed, under carefully-defined conditions.
Back to hawks, doves, turkeys, and a "preemptive strike."
As I said, I'm more of a Franklinian turkey, than a hawk or dove.
I have no more information about what's going on in Syria, Iran, North Korea, or any other country with a regrettable policy regarding terrorism, than any other citizen can have. I don't know enough to say 'strike now.'
But, I very sincerely hope that the leaders of this country understand that they are dealing with people who are not at all nice, not at all reliable, who have demonstrated that they like to kill infidels: and that most Americans are infidels.
Ironically, if our leaders decide to maintain the high road of diplomatic non-violence, letting thousands, or millions, of people get killed in the next major attack, they are unlikely to receive the award they deserve.
Even if they survive, the Nobel Peace Prize may be abolished, for being insufficiently Islamic.