Chris Bertram (Junius) has provided a detailed critique of my “one-free-bite” argument vis-a-vis preventive war with Iraq. Anyone who was at all persuaded by the original ought to review the response, much of which seems sound to me. In particular, Junius makes a good case that the proponents of initiating hostilities bear the burden of showing, at least a preponderance of evidence, and maybe something more than that, that their proposed course of action is the better one. That still strikes me as a different matter from the “burden of proof” in an evidentiary sense. The inference from Iraqi refusal of inspections to an Iraqi attempt to build a nuclear weapon wouldn’t pass muster in a courtroom, but I see no reason to wait until we find the smoking missle silo.
Junius accepts my Rhineland analogy, and replies that France would not have been justified, on facts then available, in intervening to prevent remilitarization. He argues that, since the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 to enforce reparations payments was clearly a bad thing to do, kicking the German Army out of the Rhineland in 1936 would have been a bad thing to do.
I don’t see how that follows. Not paying reparations was not a threatening act; moving troops into a demilitarized zone was a threatening act, as is preparing weapons of mass destruction. I still maintain that a threatening act, in violation of a treaty made to end a previous conflict by the aggressor in that conflict, can justify a warlike response that would not be justified absent the treaty and the previous aggression.
Again, whether making such a response in the Iraqi case would be prudent is a different question.