The right to self defense, in principle, strikes me as perhaps the most universally understood of our rights. This is doubtless due to its "intuitive" nature: when someone smashes you in the face with a baseball bat, you’ve no doubt about your rights in the matter.
On the other hand, in all but those cases where one is actually subject to attack, application of the right to self defense offers no bright-line rules. On top of that, "turn-the-other-cheek" styled "ethics" and "enlightened" modern society have further muddied the waters to the point that for many, unless they are actually being beat over the head with a baseball bat, they see any use of force as initiatory aggression.
With respect to the war, there are of course those for whom it’s nothing more than a political issue–on both sides. Those who believed that the war would be a winner politically were right (so far) and those who believed it could be made into a losing liability were wrong (so far). But then there are those people of good conscience, on both sides, who either sincerely believe we are doing the right thing or the wrong thing.
For any of those who’ve had trouble articulating a position based on the right of self defense (either way), then perhaps what follows will help. Keep in mind that an application of this principle largely concerns a weighing of one’s respective values. So, one may encounter a situation where self defense is morally justified, but the potential cost of exercising that right is judged to be too great. By contrast, one may be unsure about the moral standing of applyiing self defense in a given situation, but might be persuaded to one side or the other by an analysis of the values involved.
I’m foremost a moralist, not a consequentialist. That means that the moral principle is paramount, not the economic consequences one way or the other. However, having a right to act in a certain way does not obligate me to act in that way, and that’s where an economic analysis can be helpful as a tool, but never as a substitute for moral principles.
So, all that to introduce the "hottest new blog" on the scene, The Becker-Posner Blog. Here’s the scoop:
Becker is a Nobel-prize-winning economist who in addition to scholarly publications on a wide range of economic issues including education, discrimination, labor, the family, crime, addiction, and immigration, for many years wrote a monthly column for Business Week. Posner is a federal circuit judge and also a writer of books and articles in a variety of fields, including antitrust, intellectual property, and other fields in which economics is applied to law, but also topical fields such as impeachment, contested elections, and national-security issues.
Their first two posts (Posner’s / Becker’s), dealing with "preventative war," are up and include some of the cost-benefit issues that might help some work through the application of the moral right of self defense as it applies to Iraq.