The Null Device

Preemptive self-defense

The principle of preemptive self-defense gains more followers: North Korea assert its right to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on the US rather than waiting for the US to invade them after they've conquered Iraq:
"The United States says that after Iraq, we are next", said the deputy director Ri Pyong-gap, "but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."

Perhaps the sissified, effeminate world of multilateralism and negotiation wasn't so useless after all? Oh well, too late now.

There are 9 comments on "Preemptive self-defense":

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Thu Feb 6 06:10:23 2003

The principle of pre-emption has always been recognised, but up until Dubya took office it required some overt sign that an attack was imminent. Troops massing on the border kind of thing. Now all that's needed is suspicion. It is typical of the way the language of war has been hijacked to serve the purposes of the powerful.

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Feb 6 07:50:15 2003

You're lucky if you get an 'overt sign' that, say, there's a nuke being smuggled through your borders. But 'preemption' has proven a hard sell; possibly a reason why they went to the UN and added the legalistic argument that we all (including Iraq, when it signed the Gulf War ceasefire) already agreed that Iraq must verifiably disarm.

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Feb 6 08:08:59 2003

Incidentally, while we're discussing the rhetoric of war, note that the USA has also changed its stated goal from 'regime change' to 'disarming Saddam'. This could just be window-dressing for the benefit of multilateralism, or it could indicate an operation like Clinton's 1998 Desert Fox, in which many facilities were bombed but Saddam himself was left standing.

There are some intricate calculations here. Why would they intend to leave Saddam alone? Well, because he is most likely to use WMDs only when the survival of the regime is threatened. In other words, the attack on Iraq could materialize exactly the sort of WMD terrorism it's meant to prevent. So, 'disarming Saddam' could be a signal to Saddam: we're not coming after you personally. But then you can argue that the WMDs are ultimately what keeps the regime in power; if he didn't have them, he'd become much more vulnerable to a revolt by conventional forces from within his own army. In which case 'disarming Saddam' would lead to his overthrow anyway

Posted by: acb Thu Feb 6 08:12:21 2003

Desert Fox? You mean "Operation Monica"?

How many civilians perished again because of a stain on a dress?

Posted by: acb Thu Feb 6 08:14:03 2003

Re: "disarming Saddam": do you mean it would lead to his overthrow by rivals in the Iraqi army, or to his faction's defeat by rival groups (Kurds, Shiites, Islamists, &c.)?

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Feb 6 09:31:18 2003

They called the bombing (missile-ing?) of Sudan and Afghanistan in the same year "Operation Monica", too. And Kosovo the next year was "wag the dog". I think Clinton went soldiering in spite of the impeachment, not because of it.

As for who might overthrow Saddam, if he's stripped of his mustard gas, etc.: any of the above, maybe all in combination. I can't see a post-Saddam junta lasting if it doesn't promise a more pluralistic system.

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Feb 6 09:33:08 2003

Oh, almost forgot - Monica was a Mossad agent (but then isn't everyone):

Posted by: acb Thu Feb 6 09:44:54 2003

Though Saddam would still have a tightly-knit secret police, comprised of relatives from Tikrit, to keep a grip on the country. Without mustard gas, I imagine him being reduced to a regional warlord may be more probable than him (and his apparatus) being swept away entirely.

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Feb 7 00:42:25 2003

I can see him making a last stand there, but how long would he last? The rest of Iraq would be after him, and they'd probably call for US airstrikes.