Preemptive Deterrence Must Be Proportional

I recently re-read the website of a former German government official having joined the private sector, doing both national and international work. His company profile’s German version states that in cases of doubt, he will tackle any adversary representing a challenge. He claims that action, which in German (“agieren”) also means agitate, is to be kept up at all times and will be achieved due to an informational edge: even when the desired result is not guaranteed, and by always attempting to keep the upper hand, thus staying “on top of the game.”

The entrepreneur, whose firm, I do suspect, he had his partner found in 2009, concentrates on fabricating majorities, according to the German version of his website. Still accorging to the website, the former official, among other things, also focuses on his prerogative of legality, which, in German, he names Deutungshoheit (“grandeur of interpretation”), even though he has long left government.

A stance of promoting constant attacks could boil down to preemptive strikes against individuals – and grossly violate their rights. According to the Charter of the United Nations, however, preemption is used in international law and legally only equals “force used in self-defense” against rogue actors beyond national boundaries, “proportional to the harm [with] which the [self-defending] actor is threatened” by the rogue actors (Wikipedia). The online dictionary also states that “deterrence is by definition a strategy of limited means. [D]eterrence sometimes goes beyond threats to the actual use of military force, but if force is actually used, it must be limited and fall short of full-scale use to succeed.” Thus, tailored but limited and, NB, proportional deterrence.

In fact, tackling an adversary in such a way that predominance is “always” (sic!) guaranteed, and justified by the will to keep a political edge, will most likely lead to a vicious circle of dangerous escalation and, depending on the means of engagement, will grossly violate the rights of the ensemble of aforementioned adversaries in the political “game,” to use that euphemism…

Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
27 February 2021

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