To the Editor:

Unlike Davi Bernstein ’03 (“Get ready kids: Thomas L. Friedman is coming!” 4/14), I rather prefer Tom Friedman’s equivocation over Rumsfeld’s utter hogwash.

“Our exciting new doctrine of preemption,” as Bernstein puts it, is neither “new” nor “exciting.” International law has always recognized self-defense as a legitimate reason to use force if a country has been attacked or is in imminent danger of being attacked. The Bush administration has simply expanded and distorted “imminent danger” so that it now means “likely” or “possible” danger. This is an impermissibly vague standard. With a healthy dose of imagination, anyone can create future scenarios in which almost any country becomes a threat. Thus, preemption is the perfect doctrine for the bloodthirsty and the paranoid; it can be paraphrased as “the strongest gets to hit arbitrarily and first.” This is the oldest law of all — the law of the jungle.

Rumsfeld’s pre-emption doctrine is an old idea, not a new one; its consequences are not exciting unless one watches a CNN sanitized or a Fox cheerleading version of war. Then one can follow the war like a College Bowl game and root for our side. For those troops and civilians on the ground, however, who see death, mayhem, and destruction, terror rather than excitement seems an appropriate description for what they must feel.

Bernstein claims that Friedman preaches paralysis, and that such paralysis will lead to a world where “the most brutal” determine the future. It seems to me that Bernstein desires exactly such a world, except that he wants to make sure that the United States will take on the role of “most brutal.” Forgive me, I don’t want to be on board for this plan.

Claudio Salas LAW ’04

April 15, 2003