Preemptive Attacks

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Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 03:08 pm
Is it ever, or rather, should it ever be morally acceptable to, in the name of self defense, preemptively attack?

I think most people would probably say that self defense is, at minimum, morally acceptable but as many have probably heard at one time or another in their lives, there are those who seem to espouse the phrase, the best defense is a good offense.

But I'm not so sure I agree that such a thing ought to be the case when we are talking about taking lives.

Now obviously this mentality leaves one open for attacks, especially if one is much more offensively equipped vs. defensibly fortified, and, if that be the case, the strategy to use your offense as a form of defense makes some sense, but I think eventually someone is going to have to leave themselves vulnerable and trust the other person otherwise the whole situation will just continually self-perpetuate itself.

EDIT** my apologies I just noticed that there was a thread similar to this but it hadn't been posted in since 2008...feel free to move this there if deemed necessary to do so.
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 03:43 pm
If you guy start to pull out a gun, and has the intention to kill, then hit him over the head with a rock. Nothing wrong here.

What is the problem is to establish intention to kill, and that is not obvious. It might also be physically impossible to see the gun being full out.


In theory , it is perfect.

In practice, it is not.
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 04:21 pm
Think there are some laws about this topic, along the lines of "clear and present danger".

If a group of people are heavily armed and at the same time are intrusive on private property one is allowed a preemptive strike.
(not sure about the excat details)

USA has done this for decades on covert ops.
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2010 09:08 am
Is it ever, or rather, should it ever be morally acceptable to, in the name of self defense, preemptively attack?

This depends on whether you have both or just one. Is your action simply preemption or actually delf-defense? Of course preemption includes the assumption of pending action from the other, but this may or may not be real.

For example, suppose a friend (we'll call him Bob) and I live on a deserted islan and we work together to collect various foodstuffs. In time Bob could begin to realize that he really does not like my company and would rather be alone. With me gone he could keep the foods we have collected and have the rest of the islands bounty to himself. This could lead to a plan to bash my skull in while sleeping one night. If this idea and plan were simply what I think he is going to do (without evidence) and I take preemption then it was unethical and immoral, because there is no real danger from which to defend myself. If there was good firm evidence that this was Bob's plan then my preemption is allowed. To require me to wait for him to try is to require I leave myself in my attacker's power. Now consider the first option where I was deluded into thinking Bob was going to kill me so I decide to kill him first. If Bob sees good evidence of of my delusion and the resulting plan of attack, then he is in his rights to take preemptive action to save his own life.
harlequin phil
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 09:38 am
the only problem i would have with a preemptive attack cannot know the future, so you do not know if the person is going to attack or not. even if he says "i'm going to kill you" and pulls out a gun, you cannot be 100% sure he is going to pull the trigger, because the future, while we can accurately predict an outcome, is 100% unknown.

so there is the possibility (however slight) that your "preemptive" attack could actually cause an attack, whereas if you did nothing, no attack would happen.

a threat, no matter how serious or viable, is not a fact. it is a hint at a possible future. the only way to know completely that something is going to happen is to wait and let it happen. we can only know what has already happened.

so a preemptive attack is really just an attack. the question is - is it ok to attack someone first if you think he might attack you. you can simplify it as - is it ok to attack someone? because that is the question. to me.
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 11:48 am
@harlequin phil,
Amperage, et. al.

There are a few things that I think may aid you in your search for an answer as to whether or not there is any moral justification to preemptively attack. One of the prevalent theories that I can think of is just war theory. Within just war theory, there are two defining categories, justice for war (just ad bellum) and justice in war (jus as bello). Jus ad bellum determines the just reasons before a war begins. Think of it basically as a list of criteria a certain country would have to meet in order to declare war on another country. Within this concept, there are issues of sovereignty, rights, obligations, etc. For example, a war may be undertaken if it is; undertaken by a legitimate authority, waged for a just cause, waged as a last resort, rely on a declaration of war, and the chances of success are more than reasonable.

Of course, once one enters into this issue, then the consequent of just ad bello takes effect. Jus in bello determines the just methods during war. Think of it as a list of things opponents can or cannot do during the conflict, like the Geneva Convention treaty. Within this concept, there are issues such as asymmetric warfare (guerilla warfare), heavy, biological, nuclear, etc. weapons usage, etc. But I think as far as your question is concerned, what you want is an examination of the subtleties of jus ad bellum (justice for war). What I think is at the crux of your question is the validity of aggression and the consequences that follow. On that note, jus ad bellum possess an especially integral notion, which is that a war is just if it is in response to aggression. This is the trick though, especially in its application to a preemptive attack.

Who is really the aggressor in a preemptive attack? Jus ad bellum would dictate that if a legitimate authority has just cause, has exhausted all means of recourse, and has a reasonable chance of winning, they are fully justified in engage in a preemptive attack. But the aggressor must be established. I think many of us could think of wars, either in the past ten years, hundred years, or even few thousand years of wars that base themselves on the principle of labeling an aggressor as an aggressor and conforming to the rubric of just war theory.

So the source of aggression becomes the scale to which an attack is justified. Aggression does not have to be a physical form, like one country attacking another, one person attacking another. It could be in a form like economic threats, such as one country doing something which collapses another economy, etc. But suppose you had one country that had the ability to virtually ruin your countries economy. Does that country have the right to preemptively attack the country that may be able to ruin the other country? This is a huge issue that is still hotly debated. As a remedy to this, the US (and I would suppose other countries as well) have laws advocating seizure of foreign property in the event of war. Both countries would lose substantially if the other were attacked, a form of mutually assure economic destruction. In some ways is actually quite brilliant in the respect that as the countries of the world tie together more and more, an attack made on one country ruins basically everyone else, so in theory, no one would dare war on another. But that in itself is like putting all the eggs in one basket and we see the negative effects of this in the global economy today.

So an answer that I could conclude based on these arguments are that it is acceptable to launch a preemptive attack on another. However, it is acceptable under the terms that follow the same lines as just war theory and that there has to be some clear form of aggression which validates the preemptive attack. That form of aggression does not have to be physical, but has to be justified as being such.

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