Shoot the moon

Couple of people have sent this transcript in, from an
August press conference. To answer the obvious question, no, I’d never seen it when I wrote this one.

Q: You’ve talked on a couple of occasions on philosophically perhaps the need to preemptively strike a nation — not necessarily Iraq, just somewhere. And I’m wondering if you have a litmus test or a set of conditions that you would need to see in order to make the call for a preemptive strike? What has to be in place? Is it a nuke? Is it complicity with al Qaeda? Have you considered any of those things?

Rumsfeld: I have considered a lot of those things. And the problem is, if I answer your question, someone’s going to think I’m talking about Iraq.

Q: Let’s say you’re definitely not talking about Iraq. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: We’ll go to Dick Myers’ “the moon.” (Laughter.) Remember? Were you here for that when he — theoretically, the —

Q: What makes a preemptive strike legal under international law, in your eyes?

Rumsfeld: Well, I’m not a lawyer, Pam. You know that. Don’t give me that —

Q: Okay, skip the international law part. What makes a preemptive strike okay, acceptable?

Rumsfeld: Well, I would make the case that there are a whole series of things that ought to be looked at, and that there isn’t a single one that’s determinative, and that what one would have to do is to evaluate those and weigh them.

And the construct I would suggest would be what are the benefits — what are the advantages and disadvantages of not acting? And of course, the advantage of not acting against the moon would be that no one could say that you acted; they would say, “Isn’t that good, you didn’t do anything against the moon.” The other side of the coin, of not acting against the moon in the event that the moon posed a serious threat, would be that you’d then suffered a serious loss and you’re sorry after that’s over. And in weighing the things, you have to make a judgment; net, do you think that you’re acting most responsibly by avoiding the threat that could be characterized — X numbers of people dying, innocent people — and it’s that kind of an evaluation one would have to make.