Victor Davis Hanson:

"...Preemption is a concept as old as the Greeks. It perhaps was first articulated in the fourth book of Thucydides's history. There the veteran Theban general Pagondas explained why his Boeotians should hit the Athenians at the border near Delium, even though they were already retreating and posed no immediate threat. The Boeotians did, and won — and were never attacked by the Athenians again. On a more immediate level, preemption was how many of us stayed alive in a rather tough grade school: Confront the bully first, openly, and in daylight — our Texan principal warned us — before he could jump you as planned in the dark on the way home.

"Despite the current vogue of questionable and therapeutic ideas like 'zero tolerance' and 'moral equivalence' that punish all who use force — whether in kindergarten or in the Middle East — striking first is a morally neutral concept. It takes on its ethical character from the landscape in which it takes place — the Israelis bombing the Iraqi reactor to avoid being blackmailed by a soon-to-be nuclear Saddam Hussein, or the French going into the Ivory Coast last year, despite the fact that that chaotic country posed no immediate danger to Paris. The thing to keep in mind is that the real aggressor, by his past acts, has already invited war and will do so again — should he be allowed to choose his own time and place of assault.


"Nor has the United States established 'a dangerous precedent' in hitting Saddam Hussein before he could add any more corpses to his three-decade-long record of carnage. Turkey did not jump back into Cyprus. We did not move on to hit Havana. Pakistan and India are now talking — not in smoke amid cinders. Neither was emboldened by the three-week war — as shrill critics in the United States promised — to strike the other first. No front-line Arab state saw the March 2003 attacks as an invitation to bomb Israel, now convinced that the United States has sanctified first-strike strategy.


"Of course, today multilateralism is deemed 'good,' while unilateralism is 'bad' because, in the unipolar, post-Cold War era, the United States has a military monopoly unparalleled in civilization's history. For good or evil it alone can alter political situations rather rapidly through use of its military power, while friends and enemies alike flock publicly to the U.N. to object — or flock privately to us to ask for help.

"The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of 'unilateralism' per se — or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. No, the rub is something altogether different. A Christian, southern-accented, conservative Republican president, coming off a disputed election, has chosen to preempt. And when you hit first in a therapeutic America, you are at least supposed to bite your lip and squeeze Hillary's hand on national television. You do not dare say, 'Bring 'em on' and 'Smoke 'em out' — much less fly a jet out to an aircraft carrier.


"So like preemption, in today's super-charged political climate, unilateralism and multilateralism no longer convey any meaning. Those words too have now become little more than coded nomenclature to denigrate the present American administration's efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Once again the Democrats are guilty of word abuse.


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