The U.S. Doctrine of Pre-Emption vs. The Book of Mormon Doctrine of Self-Defense

Modern-day America has been styled recently by both Republican and Democratic governments as the savior of the world. The natural result of such illogic is to claim that whatever America does is right. Out of this supposed inability to do wrong was hatched the "Doctrine of Pre-Emption"--or, in other words, to attack "them" before "they" attack us. The United States government would be more successful if it heeded the Doctrine of Self-Defense as advocated in the Book of Mormon.

The United States has employed the doctrine of pre-emption to some degree for decades now, but it has been most used blatantly by the George W. Bush administration. It is now, therefore, more commonly known as the Bush Doctrine. As fine-tuned by Bush's National Security Council, the Doctrine of Pre-Emption is this:

The security environment confronting the United States today is radically different from what we have faced before. Yet the first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests. It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.

To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense.

It wasn't always that way. The United States started out as a country that wisely avoided entangling alliances. But then we started involving ourselves in military alliances and police actions on the other side of the globe. We have now comfortably mired ourselves in the geography and the affairs of the Middle East. As time marches on, the claim that virtually anything in the world is considered "an American interest" has become the further ironic result of American pre-emptive action.

The Doctrine of Self-Defense runs contrary to the doctrine of attacking them before they attack us. Moroni, ancient American Captain of the Nephite armies, understood that proper self-defense can never be pre-emptive. There must be an offense first. In The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni did teach that war is sometimes necessary:
47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.
Additionaly, though, he taught that we should join war only when an offense has been committed against us, not simply when we can imagine a potential one. Therefore, it wasn't until after
the armies of the Lamanites had gathered together in the land of Antionum [that] the armies of the Nephites...prepared to meet them in the land of Jershon.
Integral to the Doctrine of Self Defense is a reliance on God--not so that we can feel justified in launching a crusade against our enemies, but rather so that God will protect us when our enemies ultimately attack us. Lachoneus, the governor of the Nephite nation, taught this critical concept to his people.
12 Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them.
Contrarily, the Bush Administration (as well as some previous administrations) has determined that since we are somehow God's chosen country, we can imagine or provoke any offense at all, in order that we can attack anyone we want to. We're not the first land with such foolish dreams of empire.

The Nephite populace of Lachoneus's time had much less patience for the Doctrine of Self-Defense than did he and his military chiefs. The people petitioned their leaders to allow them to pre-emptively take care of the problem. Fortunately, however, the people had elected as their leaders individuals who were wiser and more patient than themselves.
20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.
The Doctrine of Pre-emption is conducive to lying, whereas the Doctrine of Self-Defense is not. The War in Iraq was purely pre-emptive, and it was based on a demonstrably false pre-emptive justification. Six years later, some of the same people that advocated a pre-emptive strike against Iraq are calling for a similar attack on Iran. Pre-emption seems to have given the United States the idea that it can play the part of the sandlot bully. If we'd heeded counsel from modern-day statesmen and stateswomen--similar to that of ancient American prophets--we would have never gotten involved in Iraq in the first place.

I believe that America has been and can be a great nation, but only if we serve God as he should be served. God has only ever sanctioned the Doctrine of Self-Defense. If we fight much longer according to the Doctrine of Pre-Emption, we as a nation are doomed.


  1. By definition ‘self-defense’ does not exclude the use of preemption against an attack, indeed a preemptive strike may forestall an attack. Bush’s attempts at preemptive strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq were hijacked by oil corporations whose interests are inimical to ordinary people. In Afghanistan after weeks of speculation President Karzai of Afghanistan said: ‘If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices: remove me or leave.’ Omar is the self-same leader of the Taliban that the US vowed to throw out of Afghanistan after el Qaeda murdered three thousand innocent people in America; there’s a hefty ransom on Omar’s head. Karzai knows full well that if the US/coalition forces pull out he wouldn’t last till the weekend. What gives Karzai the confidence to issue ultimatums? As a past consultant for the Union Oil Company of California, Karzai knows that the oil corporations need the pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea for the huge Asian markets. In Iraq the new agreement between the US and Iraq which replaces the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) ultimately removing all US forces withdrawn from Iraq by 2011 but Defense Minister Obaidi leaves the door open for more troops post-2011. What is not explained in detail is that the US will control profits from Iraqi oil exports. As well as that the US remains in control of $10billion of Iraqi money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. So, what appeared as preemptive strikes of short duration, were in fact corporation oil wars. I wrote a book which in part deals with oil wars.

  2. Stan makes a valuable point that most of our wars have essentially been trade wars, although, there have been other elements involved. For example, after years of making payoffs, we finally went to war against the Barbary Pirates beginning in 1801. While we were protecting trade, the additional problem was that sailors that were U.S. citizens were being captured and forced into slavery. That was not tolerable, and no amount of payoff stopped the attacks.

    Frank writes as if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had no just provocation. Most people, however, agree that there was just provocation for the Afghanistan incursion; although, there is far less consensus about Iraq.

    Still, what do you do when Saddam continually flouts sanctions and attacks the aircraft that are policing the situation? What do you do when he says he has WMD and is willing to use them? Maybe invasion goes too far.

    At any rate, Stan is correct that things went awry once we went into Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Many conveniently forget that the U.S. has repeatedly been attacked by militant forces in the Middle East for over a quarter century now. It's easy to dismiss these attacks as warranted. If we didn't have any military ships, military facilities, or embassies in some of these places, we'd never have been attacked there. It's easy to scapegoat the entire foreign policy of the U.S., ascribing little if any blame to the actual perpetrators of these attacks. But frankly, that's ridiculous.

    There have always been creeps on the international scene. Although we were spending 20% of all federal revenues on paying off Barbary pirates in 1800, Jefferson thought that we could buy them off if only we spent enough money. Later, as president, he quite opposing the establishment of a national navy and went to war against the pirates. It finally required some fairly brutal treatment over a number of years by the U.S., the U.K., the Dutch, and the French to close down the pirates.

    If you will study your Book of Mormon, you will discover that the good guys weren't always simply reactive when it came to warfare. They were sometimes pro-active as well. The secret is to have the right strategy at the appropriate time. And that's no simple feat.

  3. Reach,

    I don't dispute the "just provocation" for Afghanistan. However, along those lines, you say

    Many conveniently forget that the U.S. has repeatedly been attacked by militant forces in the Middle East for over a quarter century now.

    You're not going far enough back in your history. For more than 55 years (read: 1953 Iranian Coup) we have been meddling in the affairs of other nations for no good reason, and starting in roughly 1979, it's been haunting us.

  4. An underpinning of the vague "war on terror", is ultimately to empower the President as the Commander in Cheif to exercise the perogatives that an imperial president wants, but is not granted by the Constitution.

    Dick Cheny believed in unfettered executive discretion long before 9/11, but 9/11 became the means of declaring war on a tactic, and ensuring the Presidency would have unlimited powers.

    There are times for pre-emption. A police officer has the discretion to shoot someone aiming a gun at them pre-emptively. However, whenever the police shoot anyone, great care is taken to ensure that that threat was real. In the case of Iraq, the evidence was never there to support pre-emption.

  5. I am as frustrated as anyone that Bush and Cheney appear to be succeeding to the end of their terms without being impeached.

    As much as it muddies the water of my original issue, I like your example of the policeman encountering a gunman. In a sense that may be pre-emption, but I think it a clear case of self-defense.

  6. The decision regarding whether an attack is "imminent" to me is the reasonable factor to be considered. If Roosevelt had 24 hours notice that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor, would he be justified in sending his warships and airplanes against the Japanese fleet?

    Pre-emption vrs. self-defense? Where you draw that line is difficult.

    Best regards.

  7. You're right. It's a difficult line. I guess the way I'd answer the Pearl Harbor example is that FDR would have had every right with earlier notice to put his warships and planes in position to fend off an attack by the Japanese in open waters. Likely, the Japanese would have (should have in such a situation) fired the first shot, but if not, the approach, after several US warnings, of an armada to foreign shores would have been tantamount to an attack and would have warranted self-defense.


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