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Lecture 9

LEC9 - Preemption and Prevention Oct 9 2009

Course Code
Tom Hurka

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– talk about essay-writing at the end of class
– discussing extension to legalist paradigm/UN conception of just cause that expands
conception of defence against aggression to allow some first use of force; talked last time about
pre-emption, as in Six Day War, when force is initiated to block an imminent attack by another
state; Walzer allows this, and so do many theorists; more controversial subject is preventive war,
as in War of Spanish Succession, where force is initiated to counter a threat that is not imminent
but more speculative and further in the future
– Walzer, who allows pre-emptive war, forbids preventive war; his reason is that there is
no “manifest intention” to aggress, let alone positive action on that intention; why is that
important?, and one explanation of the importance of that is given in the McMahan article: it is
permissible to use force against a state only when it is made itself morally liable to attack by
doing something wrong; actually attacking is a clear wrong that brings with it liability, but so is
intending to attack and starting a process of action aimed at attack; parallel with laws against
conspiracy; student question Tuesday about existing contingency plans, like Germany’s
Schlieffen Plan; I don’t think those are enough: you have to have further action specifically on
the intention to attack
– but, McMahan initially argues, there seems to be no liability in the case of merely
preventive war; consider case of Spanish Succession; there was then no specific intention to
commit any aggression in the future, especially since the aggression would be committed by the
Duc d’Anjou, who (while Louis XIV was alive) wasn’t yet head of the united French-Spanish
state; so pre-emptive war is allowed because there’s an intention on the other side and therefore
moral liability, but preventive war isn’t allowed because there’s no intention and no liability
– this is the standard view, but Bush Doctrine of 2002 was novel attempt to defend
preventive war; misleadingly used the language of “pre-emption,” but really meant prevention
– on what general ground does Bush Doctrine defend prevention? its idea is that the
world has changed, p. 13 x 2; p. 14 for rogue states and WMD; p. 15; the idea is that the harm
risked has got greater (WMD) and the alternatives, e.g. deterrence, have become less effective, so
the risk of waiting is greater (last resort more easily satisfied); BUT note that rogue states hardly
threaten the sovereignty of the US; the target is US civilians – is that more important than
sovereignty? is this a departure from the UN view that emphasizes sovereignty?
– more philosophical discussion in McMahan article; hard to read? twists and turns? first
considers, as justification for ban on preventive war, the idea that without actual or imminent
attack there’s insufficient evidence of unjust harm; p. 172, but answer 172 followed by paralysis
then introduces considerations of justice (vs. evidence), leading to his idea of liability,
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