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Pre-emptive vs. preventive

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Mary Anne points to an interesting statement delivered earlier this week to the Senate by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), about the difference between a pre-emptive attack and a preventive attack. An interesting distinction, one I hadn't seen made before. I think the term pre-emptive is, these days, usually used to encompass both concepts, but Kennedy makes the point that it shouldn't.

He also touches on a point in passing that I'm surprised isn't made more often: the Bush administration's new "National Security Strategy" is essentially one of Might Makes Right. The notion that since we have the best military in the world, we should go out and attack anyone who we think might ever pose a threat to us (as long, of course, as they fit other criteria, like being small enough for us to handily beat) feels to me rather like the kind of thing King Arthur was trying to stop in The Once and Future King. The old doctrine: who has the military power is by definition right. The new doctrine: people live together under rule of law. That seemed pretty compelling to me when I first read T. H. White. But, y'know, power corrupts and all that.

On another note, entirely unrelated to any sort of actual substance, I couldn't help noticing that the big navigation letters that run down the left side of Kennedy's newsletter page (ignoring the initial "t") read "fideLc." This just seems like a bad idea for a leftist in today's America, especially next to an article that discusses Cuba. Why open yourself up to irrelevant criticism from those who would no doubt say this is evidence of Sen. Kennedy's communism?

Also, while I'm nitpicking, there's an odd switch in the paragraph about Cuba: he mentions President Kennedy, then in the next sentence he mentions the views of Robert Kennedy. The sentence structure suggests that he's implying that RFK was president. I was going to drop him a note pointing out the mistake, but then I remembered who wrote this; presumably he's quite aware of which Kennedy was which. But I still thought the sentence structure was confusing.

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