Q: Dr. Hurd, you advocate the use of pre-emptive force against terrorist states (e.g. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) yet, in seeming contradiction, you assert that the initiation of physical force is never justified for any reason. Am I missing something ?
A: Yes. First of all, no force used against terrorist-sponsoring states is, strictly speaking, pre-emptive. Islamic fundamentalists declared war on the United States back in 1979, when they seized control of American hostages in Iran. Since that time, there has been a steady stream of attacks against our country by Islamic fundamentalists culminating in 9/11. Any action our government takes against states known to sponsor terrorism is retaliatory in nature. There is controversy over the connections believed to exist between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, but it’s clear that Hussein’s was a state friendly to terrorism if it served the interests of advancing his fascist regime. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait back in 1990, for those who have forgotten. He clearly was a dictator on the march and any continued efforts to contain him since that time (9/11 or no 9/11) were absolutely justified.
It is true that no human beings ever have a right to initiate force against others. When a dictator initiates force against others–and Saddam Hussein surely fits that bill–the government of a free country has every moral right to attack that regime if it serves its interests. The same applies to the Taliban in Afghanistan; the same certainly applies to the number-one state sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world today, Iran, and the same applies to any country who initiates force against others.
You can debate whether President Bush made the right choice in focusing on Iraq before, say, Iran in the war against terrorism. You can debate whether he executed his plans competently after seizing control of the country and unseating Saddam Hussein. What is not debatable is whether the U.S. was morally justified in doing so. Dictators and thugs enjoy no rights. Anything the United States does to them is what they richly deserve.