Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Dubya's Game: Motive Utilitarianism and the Doctrine of Preemption

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Dubya's Game: Motive Utilitarianism and the Doctrine of Preemption

Article excerpt

In his 2002 commencement address at west point, president george w. Bush offered up this defense of his administration's often moralistic foreign policy rhetoric:

   Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak in
   the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different
   circumstances require different methods, but not different
   moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every
   time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder
   is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always
   and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice
   and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a
   conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its
   name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a
   problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in
   opposing it. ("West Point")

Months later, this remark was quoted, in part, as an epigraph to the "Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity" section of The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS) (United States 3). Commonly referred to as the Bush Doctrine, the major precepts of the NSS expound a US self-defense policy of preemptive military action as directed against perceived terrorist and other national security threats to safeguard "our freedom, our cities, our systems of movement, and modern life" (31). The inclusion of the above statement implies that the strategy is predicated upon some identifiable normative ethic which logically begets preemption as a national security measure. And naturally so, for the document itself continually references the "moral imperative" (21) and "moral obligation" (22) of the United States.

But what could this morality be, of which President Bush and his NSS speak as being so plainly self-evident? The NSS declares itself neither explicitly Kantian nor consequentialist. President Bush asserts that moral truth is a universal construct recognizable to all, but upon what epistemological basis?

The Rosetta stone for decoding the NSS normatively lies in science fiction. Albert Wendland, with his exhaustive study of the field, Science, Myth, and the Fictional Creation of Alien Worlds, observes that "Science fiction ... tries to achieve the ideal of a rational literature that ponders our position in history and space, discuss[ing] what we might encounter, what we might become and what we might do about it" (3). Thus, the genre is a laboratory ripe for in vitro thought experimentation. Situating a doctrine of preemption within a text of science fiction, we can extract its causal normative ethic, elucidating, also, what its finer points mean for foreign policy in the long run; its story will work out, parallel to reality, how such diplomacies take shape, what effects they might produce, and even what improved alternatives are possible (Bartter 170). As it does this, the science fiction text becomes a normative literature or "vehicle for disclosing assumptions" as Martha A. Bartter, in her essay on the subject, describes it (173). It is a place where

   we bring our assumptions into the open, and try other assumptions
   out without having to deal with the consequences in fact. Yet, by
   trying out these assumptions in fiction, we have in fact
   irrevocably altered our transactions with our socio-cultural
   environment as surely (though differently) as if we had put them
   into "realtime" operation. (173)

Such a hypothetical test of the Bush Doctrine is much safer than the one it is currently undergoing in Iraq, where (as of 8 September 2006), "The number of US troops killed ... stands at 2,660 since the 2003 invasion" ("Iraq Violence"). But even as the Bush Doctrine is played out in the Near East, concluding in its way whether the Iraq War was, and whether military preemption is, wise diplomacy, such tells us nothing of whence, morally, the premises of the NSS arise. …

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