President Bush and his administration have recently outlined a policy dubbed "strike first" —launching pre-emptive attacks on countries or terrorist organizations suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Let’s get this straight: Bush, despite the recent treaty signed with Russia, plans to keep 10,000 nuclear warheads indefinitely. Moreover, he plans to develop new types of nuclear weapons, target non-nuclear states, and, most likely, resume full-scale nuclear testing.
Yet under "strike first," if he says another country is attempting to obtain WMD, Bush deigns onto himself the right to launch a pre-emptive attack. Even if he can’t prove it and even if an attack against our country is not imminent, he claims, under this policy, the right to attack any country.
Despite any credible evidence connecting Iraq to the 9/11 attacks and the serious concerns of senior military officials, the administration plans to debut this policy as soon as they can—with an invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
David Sanger wrote in a New York Times article on June 17, "The administration, not surprisingly, is arguing for the widest possible latitude in implementing this policy, making the case that only it can define what poses a major and imminent threat to national security." The article continued, "... Mr. Bush's new policy could amount to ultimate unilateralism, because it reserves the right to determine what constitutes a threat to American security and to act even if that threat is not judged imminent."
Have our so-called leaders thought about the implications of this? Or are they so full of hubris, so drunk on power that they think they can do anything and that the rest of the world will swallow it whole, just as the supine media and a cowed Congress have in this country?
Under this same doctrine, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea would be justified in attacking the United States to "pre-empt" our development of new types of nuclear weapons which target them (as Bush outlined in his Nuclear Posture Review). However, if other countries were to do this, we would rightfully call it what it is—an act of aggression.
This "strike first" policy, along with Bush’s provocative, aggressive new nuclear weapons doctrine, will surely lead to two things—nuclear proliferation and more terrorism—making America and the world far less, rather than more secure. Bush’s policy practically invites attacks on Washington, New York, or other American cities.
If the US, as world leader, adopts this policy, why wouldn’t other countries? China could use it to justify an attack on Taiwan or Japan. India could use such a policy to attack Pakistan. Using this loosely subjective criteria —risk is in the eye of the beholder—allows any attack to be justified by any country. "Strike first" is an invitation to global anarchy, and yet another fundamental attack by the Bush administration on international law.
When Dick Cheney said that the war on terrorism "may not end in our lifetime," he forgot to mention that the administration was going to provoke such an on-going war through a decimating US subversion of international cooperation. "Even close friends are very, very nervous. This is really a serious assault on the international legal order," one Western diplomat was quoted as saying in The New York Times on June 19th.
Another problem that afflicts a "strike first" posture: the US military often makes deadly mistakes. Remember the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the bombing of a caravan of elders travelling to a meeting to support the interim government in Afghanistan? Remember the attack on an alleged chemical weapons factory that actually was a pharmaceutical plant providing half the medicine in impoverished and war-torn Sudan, to name just a few? Who’s going to preempt US mistakes that kill innocent civilians and risk world security?
Who’s going to preempt a Bush government that grows more out of control by the day?
We, as US citizens, must accept this duty. We must offer solutions that emphasize consistency instead of hypocrisy, diplomacy instead of threats, disarmament rather than an endless arms race, the rule of law rather than anarchy, and social and economic justice instead of survival of the most heavily armed. By organizing, mobilizing, analyzing, strategizing, and communicating real solutions for a safer world, we are furthering practical, time-tested solutions for building peace and security.
It won’t be easy. At first glance, who wouldn’t support action to stop tyrants and terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction? We need to address the threat head on, by a serious, unwavering commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament, not by threatening mass murder against the rest of the world with our own weapons of mass destruction.
Their way offers perpetual war, insecurity, and instability. Our way offers the only realistic chance for humans and nations to live together on this Earth.
Kevin Martin is the Executive Director of Peace Action (formerly SANE and
The Freeze). Peace Action is the country's largest grassroots peace and disarmament