Defense and the Preemptive Shot

By Hal Lindsey
A murder suspect runs into an alley. A pursuing police officer slows as he approaches the alley. He raises his gun to the ready as he carefully enters. In the alley, he sees the suspect waiting for him, gun in hand. When the suspect sees the officer, he raises his gun to shoot. The officer has a split second in which to make a decision. What does he do? He shoots.
The finer nuances of Star Wars films don’t usually make much of a blip on my radar. But in 1997, hard core fans of the films raised such a ruckus that their cry reverberated almost everywhere. That year, the creator and then-owner of the Star Wars films, George Lucas, produced and released an enhanced, slightly altered version of his original movie. Extreme fans hated one change in particular. Early on, one of the film’s heroes, Han Solo, encounters a bounty hunter named Greedo. The bounty hunter holds a gun on Solo, promises to kill him, and is clearly about to fire when….
What happens next depends on which version you watch. In the 1977 version, Solo fires from a hidden gun before Greedo can shoot. In the 1997 version, Greedo fires at Solo and misses him (despite shooting from pointblank range). Solo then returns fire. George Lucas explained the change by saying, “Good guys shoot in self-defense.” But that raises a basic question. Can firing first be an act of self-defense?
The police officer shooting I described earlier shows that firing first can be self-defense. A TV cop might try to “talk the suspect down” even as the man puts him in the crosshairs. But in real life, the officer must fire when he sees the gun moving toward a kill position. The policeman must assume that the man will shoot the millisecond the gun is aimed in his direction. Earlier I asked how the officer should respond in such a situation. I could have asked, “Does the policeman shoot, or does he allow himself to be shot?”
Yes, “Good guys shoot in self-defense.” And sometimes, self-defense demands a preemptive shot. Imagine that you are holding a gun on a person with a dagger over your child. At the moment he begins to strike, you shoot. You cannot wait. You cannot say, “Well, the man hasn’t stabbed anyone yet.” You shoot him because he is obviously in the process of killing the child even though the blade has not yet touched that child.
All this is especially important right now because of something that recently happened in Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched a preemptive attack on a Gaza terror group known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). This terror group is funded to the tune of millions of dollars by the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world — Iran. The terror group rejects the idea of living in peace. They want nothing to do with a two-state solution. They are all-in on the total and complete annihilation of Israel and the Jews.
On August 1st, for good cause, Israel arrested one of PIJ’s terrorist leaders. The group immediately accelerated their final preparations for a massive attack on Israel. Evidence of the coming missile attack was overwhelming and incontrovertible. Israel warned them, and when the jihadist group ignored the warnings, Israeli Defense Forces went into action. International law allows preemptive strikes under these circumstances. Also, the IDF has been careful to only strike PIJ military sites — not Hamas, and certainly not civilians. 
Self-defense sometimes requires a preemptive strike. In the United States, that idea is often referred to as the “Bush Doctrine,” named after the 43rd President. But it was actually a part of US foreign policy decades before he entered office. For a nation, saving the lives of its citizens is not just permissible. It is a moral imperative.
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