That’s an epistemology joke in the title, in case you don’t get it. That said, I read in my New York Times that “President Bush and his senior aides on Friday justified American actions against Iranian operatives inside Iraq as necessary to protect American troops and Iraqis, and said they would continue as long as Tehran kept up what they called its support for Shiites involved in sectarian attacks.” In this context, “actions” refers to killing people or else capturing them by threatening to kill them.
In large part, I think this shows the limits of the language of justification in considering the use of violence abroad. Whether or not US forces are justified in doing this or that depends on a whole variety of controversial questions relating to, among other things, the legitimacy of the very presence of American forces in Iraq. The real question here has to do with the wisdom of the policy. We learned in the Post yesterday, that “Advocates of the new policy — some of whom are in the NSC, the vice president’s office, the Pentagon and the State Department — said that only direct and aggressive efforts can shatter Iran’s growing influence. A less confident Iran, with fewer cards, may be more willing to cut the kind of deal the Bush administration is hoping for on its nuclear program.” This is, of course, a reminder that our country is being run by deeply unwise people who appear to ground their policies primarily on a series of staggering wrong assumptions about human behavior. No possible good is going to come of this. Meanwhile, I know plenty of smart people who insist to me that a military confrontation with Iran is unlikely even as one is unfolding before our eyes.