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Hey Invictus -- you're right about terrorists not lending themselves to analysis based on utility maximization... but neither do we in the US (or anyone else), if all our calcualtions based on wrong information and misinterpretation. We attacked Iraq to rid it of WMD... but didn't find any. All this business about costs and benefits is reduced to fluff if our calculations bear little relation to reality. And if the US can't do this well, who can? Russia? The EU?

Carl Kraeff

Those who question the wisdom of United States having applied preventive war principles to Iraq either do not understand the concept of preventive war or are ignorant of the role of intelligence in the modern decision making cycle.

First, President Bush clearly identified Iraq as a "gathering" danger. I don't need to go into the various reasons why; they are well published. The important concept here is his clear and decisive rejection of imminence as justification. Those who claim that the administration raised the specter of imminent danger from the WMDs are obtuse or dishonest. In this new war (WWIV, clash of civilizations, the euphomistic war against "terrorism," or, as I prefer to call it, the war between modern civilization and 12th century jihadist Islam), Becker and Posner appreciate the paradigm shift--we cannot afford to wait for imminence to occur, as defined by November 10 policies and attitudes. I must say, though, that the criminal justice analogy cannot be operative here because we are faced with religious fanatics who are anticipating martyrdom--not rational beings who may be deterred by the prospect of death or suffering. The goals of preventive war would thus be to kill them before they kill us and/or to make it as difficult for them as we can. Thus, under this new concept both Iraq and Afghanistan actions are amply justified if we can demonstrate that the administration used intelligence properly.

Second, intelligence is not reporting of facts or of past events, although it takes both into account. Intelligence is an estimate of the enemy's capabilities and intentions. Although difficult, the decision maker tries to force the intelligence analyst to make a call--out of a range of possibilities, with an attached probability factor. We know that the United Nations, the United States (certainly including the Clinton administration, both the Democrat and Republican controlled Congresses, and even both of the 2004 Democrat candidates), and many of the Western European and other intelligence services thought that Iraq had the capability in both conventional and unconventional munitions to supply "terrorist" groups. We also know that Iraq was led by a person who had demonstrated unmatched cruelty against foreign and domestic enemies, to include the use of chemical and biological weapons. Indeed, our Congress supported President Clinton's Saddam regime change policy precisely because of his past history and our determination that he could not be deterred by normal means. Thus, any intelligence analyst worth his/her salt would have estimated that Saddam's intentions would not ever be benign. And, any decision maker worthy of his/her office would have concluded that Iraq had the capability and the intention to harm us. This calculation cannot be disproved post facto; thus,it does not matter if WMDs are ever found--the actions against both Afhanistan and Iraq were undertaken in accordance with the principles of Preventive War, sound decision making, and proper intelligence processes.

At the end it boils down to risk/benefit analysis. As a former intelligence planner, I fully support President Bush's evident calculation that the benefits of armed and other actions outweigh the risks of not undertaking them. In addition, I admire his bold, almost Wilsonian, initiative to introduce democracy to the region, a step that is also in line with the preventive war principles.

Carl Kraeff

Michael Walker

Carl: I agree. Yet I am concerned about proper intelligence processes when conducting risk/benefit analysis. As a former intelligence planner, are you concerned about the new intelligence law?

See http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/AngeloCodevilla.pdf

Why US intelligence is inadequate, and how to fix it by Angelo M. Codevilla

Conventional wisdom used to be that US intelligence was the lifeblood of the war on terror. By 2004 no one contested that intelligence, especially the CIA, was at the heart of policies that had failed to stem terrorism and had turned military victory in Iraq into embarrassment. The high level commissions that examined current failures began to suspect that these reflected longstanding, basic faults. They only scratched the surface. In fact US intelligence in all its functions collection, quality control (otherwise known as counter intelligence), analysis, and covert action is hindering Americas war.

Steven Kyle

You seem to have ignored a key part of reality - In the most important case of preventive war to date, the method chosen for preventing terrorism -invading and occupying Iraq - is actually creating more terrorists than it is deterring. It would seem difficult to justify under any reasonable approximation of what is actually going on in the real world.


An act of deterrence seems to describe an act to affect another's cost/benefit analysis by increasing the perceived cost of a violent action.

Humanitarian aid and free & fair trade (and the consequential threat of loss of these benefits) are another way of increasing the cost of violent action. You didn't touch on these methods during your analysis. Given the recent and costly problems that the military has had to subdue a "rogue" state, could you comment why you feel that violence is the preferred method to raise the costs associated with terrorist behaviors when alternative methods could be employed?

Carl Kraeff


The new Intelligence Reorganization Law can be viewed as smoke and mirrors--as an artificial makeover that is unlikely to improve our intelligence failings that are described by Angelo M. Codevilla (http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/AngeloCodevilla.pdf).

However, as with any organizational change, we need to look behind the boxes and look at the resource allocations, as well as to a change in culture. By putting more resources into HUMINT (human sources intelligence) and into processing capabilities, the law is certainly plugging some huge holes. The problem with HUMINT, however, may not be solved by simply hiring more case officers with appropriate linguistic skills. As "Spengler" has pointed out, the United States may just have to rely on the Israelis and the Indians for HUMINT. See his thought provoking article in Asia Times (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EK11Ak01.html).

A deeper problem has been analysts' predilection to either fudge or to overstate their estimates. Of course, this is to be expected whenever intelligence is treated as a support function--to be rewarded when "right" and punished when "wrong." If the command/decision making environment is "zero defects," the analyst will get punished not only when the intelligence is incorrect but also when the operation is not successful. (A planning corollary is the maxim that the planners take the blame if the operation has problems but the operators take the credit if the operation succeeeds). The successsful analyst learns to survive by not taking many chances (CIA analysts, in particular, are quite adept at this). Given this dynamic, the establishment of a National Intelligence Director may eventually result in the production of more useful intelligence if the decision makers (a) truly make intelligence a command function and demand that analysts do not fudge their estimates, and (b) evaluate the performance of the intelligence analysts on the basis of the process and not the outcome.

Carl Kraeff

Peter Konefal

This debate, like so many others, indicates that many viewers and writers do not share the same assumptions and understandings that are necessary to wage a cohesive, structured debate.

All debates generally take place within assumptions about how the world is, and what definitions correctly apply to oft-used terms like


rogue state


preemptive war

defence (canadian spelling)

etc etc,

As a result of fundamental disagreement and a lack of unity in our historical understanding of US-global and middle eastern relations (partly due to commonsensical understandings diffused throughout the US mainstream media), discussions such as these tend to become a battle between conclusions based on premises that are alien to one another's arguments.

Kirk Parker


Becker explicitly referred to changes that increase the power and accessibility of weapons

Sure, but you're the one that brought up "cuts both ways" and "raises the costs of intervening", which is why I addressed my comment to you, not Becker. Do you not realize that we aren't using nukes, chemical weapons, or biologicals, whereas we are using RPVs, JDAMs, and concrete bombs? So far, at least, we have in fact chosen the less-collateral-cost innovations over the higher-damage-per-dollar ones. Do you see any indication we're likely to change this anytime soon?

Freder Frederson

At the end it boils down to risk/benefit analysis. As a former intelligence planner, I fully support President Bush's evident calculation that the benefits of armed and other actions outweigh the risks of not undertaking them. In addition, I admire his bold, almost Wilsonian, initiative to introduce democracy to the region, a step that is also in line with the preventive war principles.


If you are indeed a former intelligence planner, it is no wonder that the intelligence services of this country have been surprised by and miscalculated all the major events since World War II including the nuclear, military and economic capablilities of the Soviet Union (alternately under and overestimating them), the Iranian Revolution, the revolutions of 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and on and on.

First of all a preventative war is clearly prohibited by the United Nations Charter of which we are still a signatory. If we want to say preventive war is now okay, we are throwing away 100 years of progress and the sacrifice of over 100 million lives. Sorry, I don't want to go there.

I believe that the war in Afghanistan was defensive in that it was in response to an attack by Al Qaeda, an organization that for all intents and purposes was an agent of the Taliban, and was therefore justified under international law.

But the arguments you use to justify the Iraq war are just not true even if you are trying to justify an indefensible preventitive war.

We know that the United Nations . . . thought that Iraq had the capability in both conventional and unconventional munitions to supply "terrorist" groups.

Although there was quit a consensus that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMDs, there was no evidence or consensus that Saddam had ever, or had any intention to, supply weapons to "terrorist" groups. In fact, as a secular, socialist state, OBL and other fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups hate Saddam almost as much as they hate the U.S. About the only real link that the administration could point to in the run-up to the war was that Saddam was paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. This is a pretty weak connection especially considering that the Saudis do the exact same thing. And Saddam was a paranoid meglamaniac. He was not about to give his most prized weapons to anyone he could not control.

Also, Saddam had allowed weapons inspectors back into the country and was cooperating. They were finding nothing. We claimed it was because they were hiding their WMDs, turns out it was because they actually had been destroyed. If war was justified, it would have been when the inspectors reported to the U.N. that Saddam was no longer cooperating, not before.

Indeed, our Congress supported President Clinton's Saddam regime change policy precisely because of his past history and our determination that he could not be deterred by normal means

Actually, it was obvious that he could be deterred by normal means. He had tons of stockpiles of WMDs during the first Gulf War and never used them. Apparently he was afraid of massive retaliation by Coalition forces and Israel if he used his chemical weapons on us or Israel.

This administration has destabilized the middle east further by this ill-advised, poorly planned, budget busting war. We now stand at over 10,000 casulties with no end in site. Democracy is not spreading. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf States, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East are just as corrupt, oppressive and anti-democratic as they were four years ago. The countries with oil have actually become more oppressive since they have been able to use their increased oil revenues caused by our actions to bolster their governments and use the "war on terror" as an excuse to crack down on descent.


"It is quite remarkable that Bushs argument for war can be regarded as the predatory imperialist aims outlined by the crypto-fascist Project for a New American Century. On the other hand, a minority of warmongers and apologists can be seen in the light of the apparent fabrications which lead to the end of any possibility of social justice in a reactionary state. Let us never forget that the pro-Sharon neoconservative cabal provides a pretext for an oil war masquerading as an endless crusade against "terrorism." Clearly, the influence of Leo Strauss is solid evidence of the flagrant lies promulgated by the political donor class."

A gem of obscurantism. What exactly is remarkable about being able to interpret events along the lines of some alleged conspiracy? Any train of events can be so contstrued. What exactly is a 'crypto fascist"? Some old Nazi hidden away in the Pentagon, with his enigma machine? The sentence prefaced by "on the other hand" hardly seems contrastive, so why the "on the other hand"? One wonders what the "apparent fabrications" are, and what a "reactionary state" is? It's really all about oil. Original.

Jason Ligon


The quote to which you responded was generated by something similar to Chomskybot. It isn't supposed to mean anything in particular. I forget the website ...

Carl Kraeff


Your argument is very rational but it is sadly a pre-9/11 one. As both Posner and Becker have pointed out, we need to change our approach and our way of thinking--the paradigm has shifted so much that the pre-9/11 concepts are not helpful.

Please consider that we need to address the enemy's capability first: what does it have to hurt us/our interests and can he employ those capabilities? Second, we try to figure out the enemy's intentions; this is much harder and accounts for most of the miscalculations and surprises that you pointed out. Keep in mind that both capabilities and intentions are estimates, that is they are mere probabilities. So the challenges for the various actors are as follows:

(1) analysts must compile orders of battle and interpret their significance (capability to cause damage) and try to project if, when, and how the enemy may act, to include its reaction to our own actions (intention). During WWII, our success in breaking both the German and Japanese codes allowed us to determine the enemy's plans/intentions/and even actual movements/locations. During the Cold War, this had become much more difficult but we could estimate the Soviet Union's intentions vis-a-vis a direct confrontation with the West based on its history of actions and non-actions. Thus, Mutually Assured Destruction was at first a threat, and later a theory that gained in strength as the years passed. We did not know that MAD worked (or the enemy's true capabilities) until after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, but we were pretty close. Now, intelligence work has become even more difficult as we are facing a world-wide movement of religious fanatics and rogue nations who are using unconventional weapons and/or terror. So, the probability factors are even lower than previously, except that at the tactical and operational levels (using tactical, theater and national means), the battlefield is much clearer than ever before.

(2) planners must prepare either in accordance with worst-case scenarios or with assumptions that are given to them by policy makers. Keep in mind that it is the planning process that is important, not the actual plan itself. Also, remember that the planning process uses a problem-solving logic model.

(3) decision-makers apply cost/benefit analysis to set benchmarks. Before 9/11, our go/no-go benchmark was imminent hostilities, with the probability of hostilities being quite high. This was based on our estimate that the Soviets would not risk being annihilated by our counter-strike (MAD). Thus, we had to make sure that our counter-strike capabilities were always up to snuff (thus the arms race). After 9/11, our enemy changed drastically; the Islamic Jihadists would not be deterred aby a counter-strike--indeed, they welcomed martyrdom. They also demostrated creativity and a degree of boldness not seen since the kamikazis. They also were actively pursuing the use of unconventional weaponry (WMDs) that are capable of inflicting enormous damage. Finally, in case of Saddam, we had a megalomaniac who had a penchant for the unexpected and the abnormal.

I hope that you can see that, if the primary mission is to prevent a repetition of 9/11 type catastrophic attacks, the decision maker must use a different benchmark, one that is based on lower probabilities (less certainty). Of course, in Afghanistan's case the pre-9/11 paradigm was still operative, as we took action against the jihadist organization that had already attacked us and the government that harbored it. In Iraq's case, the logic of the new paradigm was applied in a logical, proper and successful fashion,at least in the first phase. Of course, there have been difficulties during the occupation/pacification/rebuilding phase that we now find ourselves. These difficulties do not, and cannot, detract from the soundness of the basic decision to take military action. Incidentally, I do believe that we should have attacked the day after Hans Blix reported that Iraq had not fully complied with 1441.

Joshua Harden

"Terrorism" or "terror" is not an economic word or concept, unlike communism or fascism or imperialism, it is psychological. The hellish reality is that terrorism (like war) is an extension of politics. Unlike traditional warfare, though, terrorism can be successful without a successful terrorist attack. The success is in the terror created by the unknown probability of a terrorist attack. The only way to defeat to terror is to solve the unknown probability factor, thus defusing the psychological weapon with intelligence. The degree to which a traditional war disables the terrorist infrastructure and decreases the probability of a terrorist attack is, again, an unknown probability which can only be solved with intelligence. Uncertainty is the enemy, but we are a capitalist culture built on intelligent risk managment. It is this spirit and philosophy which will dilute the psychology of terrorism until Bin Laden is scratching his beard in bewilderment at the cost-benefit analysis of his efforts. We should fight psychology with psychology, it is our national and cultural strength. And our psychological weapon is INTELLIGENCE.

Michael Walker

Carl: How would an intelligence planner go about conducting a risk-benefit analysis of a preemptive military strike on Irans WMD capabilities?

See http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iran-strikes.htm

Kropotkin Beard

Preventive War or Preventive Thought?: The Logical Conclusion for an anti-Chomskyite

B: You look deep in thought J. What are you thinking about?

J: I was just thinking about preventive war and how it seems a good logical idea.

B: Really? You think its logical?

J: You dont?! You cant be that nave. Of course its logical.

B: Please explain yourself.

J: Well, I mean if we just go kill the other people first, it will just save us the trouble of having to do it later after they attack us, and could possibly save many more lives than if we wait. And its probably cost efficient. Why would any intelligent person wait? Its like preventive medicine. You dont wait until you get the illness before you start taking preventive medicine. Otherwise, its not preventive medicine. How much simpler could it be?

B: Hmmm Im not so sure you can apply the preventive medicine analogy when talking about human affairs and war. Its a little more complicated than that, dont you think?

J: Hell no! Its not complicated! If we know that these folks may eventually do something to us, why shouldnt we just go after them first? Killem! Killem all!

B: How will we determine who may want to do something to us in the future?

J: See?! This is the perfect example! I can tell by the way youre questioning me that its possible that youll probably want to attack me in the future.

B: You can tell that simply by the questions Ive asked you?

J: There you go again! Youve just proved my point! You are attacking me! I knew I shouldve kicked your red-ass after you recommended that therapist! You commies are always sneaking up on us just waiting to pounce when our guard is down.

B: Commies?! What are you talking about? Ive asked you five simple questions and now youre calling me a commie? You say that Im attacking you? You say that Im sneaking up on you? And you say that you should have kicked my red-ass earlier? And you said Ive proved your point? What are you talking about?

J: Yes, you have proved my point.

B: How have I done that?

J: Well, if I would have just killed you earlier on I wouldnt have to endure all this pain youre inflicting on me. See?

B: Im inflicting pain on you? What have I done?

J: You may as well have stuck a knife into my back you unappreciative, Che T-shirt wearing, traitor.

B: So what if everybody else decides to implement the preventive doctrine? What will keep them from killing you first?

J: Because I believe in God and country and(BANG!)

(Just then a gun shot went off and Js head splattered against the wall. Everyone turned around only to see Barbara, his wife, standing there wearing her NRA T-shirt, her Wal-Mart sneakers, holding a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi in one hand and the smoking gun in the other.)

Barb: Sorry, B. I heard what J said and thought he was going to kill you.

(Barbara drops her gun, opens a Pepsi, looks into Bs eyes and says..)

Barb: Be sure to vote for Bush!


well, preventive war is good for our nation, good for our people'safety, but no war is the greatest thing i can ever imagine


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great post,and you will lovetiffanys,


Thank you, you always get to all new and used it
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Thank you, you always get to all new and used it


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