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Discussion Guide: Grades 9-12

Based on the article “More Pre-emptive Strikes?” by K. Subramanyam, published in The Times of India (independent), New Delhi, India, June 10, 1981 and reprinted in the World Press Review Iraq Anthology 1981-2003.

The author of this article asks an important rhetorical question about Israel's pre-emptive strike on the Osirak reactor near Baghdad in 1981: “Is this the beginning of the process of legitimization of ‘assertive disarmament’ by some nuclear weapons powers that have appointed themselves international gendarmes?”

Discuss his question in light of the current war against Iraq: The Bush administration says war is necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against American targets. Much of the international debate, however, has centered on the legality or legitimacy of a war that defends against the possibility of a future attack rather than against an aggression that has already taken place.

Questions to consider:

1. In your opinion, has the United States today appointed itself to be an “international gendarme” [international police officer], as the author feels Israel did in 1981?

2. What do you think policing the world would involve?

3. Do you think the United States should play this kind of role on the international stage?

4. Do you think people in other countries want the United States to police the world?

List reasons why someone in another country would or would not want the United States to play a law enforcement role with power over the entire world.

List reasons why an American would or would not want the United States to play a law enforcement role with power over the entire world.

5. What other ways, apart from having the United States police the world by itself, can you think of to make sure that all governments abide by international law?

6. How do you think the fact that the United States is a nuclear power and has the strongest military in the world affects its relations with other countries, especially countries without nuclear weapons?

7. Do you think there is any contradiction between the United States on one hand having nuclear weapons (and using them, as they did in WWII, or threatening to use them, as they have against Iraq), and on the other hand going to great lengths to prevent other countries from developing these same weapons?

8. Do you think any country should have nuclear weapons? Why or why not?

9. The United States says it is justified in going to war against Iraq because it believes Iraq will one day attack or aid an attack on U.S. targets. Using the same logic, would North Korea or Iran (both named by President Bush as part of the "axis of evil," alongside Iraq) be justified in going to war against the United States because, having seen the invasion of first Afghanistan and now Iraq, they believe they are in immanent danger of U.S. attack?