Becker on Preventative War
Gary Becker makes the case for preventative war against terrorist organizations and dictators because traditional modes of deterrence and relatiation may not be effective given the mindset of the perpetrators and their widely dispersed nature.
The same argument applies to dictators who are willing to use weapons of mass destruction to attack their enemies when they do not care if many of their populations are killed and maimed by retaliation from other countries. Dictators, like Saddam Hussein, may also greatly underestimate the likelihood of massive responses because sycophants feed them bad information, or they believe that democratic victimized states will be reluctant to make swift and decisive responses.
I have been surprised so many people who I normally consider my philosophical kinsmen disagree with these statements. Terrorists and dictators need to be killed or incapacitated.
Yet, the means to carry out the task may be inadequte, inefficient, or counter-productive. The end result might be consequences that are undesirable. Advocates of laissez-faire economic policies often make the argument that it is not enough to call some state of affairs "market failure" and propose a state solution; the intended solution may make the state of affairs worse. "Government failure" often aggravates "market failure".
So too must a proposed policy to neutralize terrorists and dictators be evaluated. Though I sympathize with Becker's views on the need to actively and preventatively disable terrorists and dictators, I have a difficult time believing the US government will be effective in this task without becoming even more corrupt and creating a worse state of affairs than already exists.
Update: Posner provides his own analysis and argues that a preventative war could have defeated Hitler before WWII began based on a NPV analysis of costs and benefits. Again, I strongly disagree with the idea that the US government can effectively neutralize modern-day would-be Hitlers in their regimental infancy without succumbing to problems of interest and power, and without creating bigger problems than already exist.