Monday, December 06, 2004

Gary Becker and Richard Posner on preventive war

Gary Becker and Richard Posner have established a blog, in which they will discuss and debate various topics. They have taken up the question of preventive war, here (thanks Instapundit).

In a later post, I will discuss their views, as well as the views of Georgetown Law professor David J. Luban in his new paper in Philosophy and Public Affairs, Preventive War, which can be downloaded in pdf format from SSRN. (Thanks to Larry Solum's indispensable Legal Theory Blog.) The SSRN abstract of Professor Luban's thoughtful and careful paper:

"Abstract: A preventive war is a preemptive war in which the requirement of an imminent threat is relaxed. The present paper examines the justifiability of preventive war. First, it lays out the prevailing doctrine of just war and explains why preventive war does not fit comfortably within it. It then discusses the justification of the prevailing doctrine, first by examining Michael Walzer's rights-based justification for it, which it rejects, then by offering a broadly consequentialist justification, very close to the thinking of the U.N.'s founders. The most important point emerging from these arguments is that the real justification for the prevailing doctrine lies in the importance of a no-first-use-of-force rule for war prevention, not in the importance of protecting state sovereignty. The paper then turns to the question whether a general doctrine permitting preventive war to forestall immature threats is morally defensible, and answers no, arguing that giving a green light to preventive war would make wars too frequent and too routine. However, a more restricted form of the doctrine, which permits preventive war against serious threats posed by rogue states, is sound under certain conditions. The paper turns to the question of whether, given the incredible disparity in power between the United States and other nations, it makes sense any longer to ask about appropriate "general doctrines" of just war. Should we continue to think of just war theory as a collection of rules or principles that apply to all states, or is this legalistic model of political morality inapplicable in the dramatically altered political constellation we inhabit? Some prominent theorists and policymakers argue that in the current era a double standard is appropriate, in which the United States is not bound by rules of general applicability across all states. The U.S. gets to do things, like launch preventive wars or insist on its own military pre-eminence, that other states do not get to do. The paper concludes that to date proponents' claims that a Pax Americana would be generally beneficial have little to support them. "

I am still digesting this paper, and will hold off my comments until later, when I'll take up Posner and Becker as well.

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