The Justice of Preemption and Preventive War Doctrines

  • Neta C. Crawford


The Bush administration reacted to the horrific September 11th attacks by proclaiming a right to preemptive self-defence, making preemption official US military doctrine. A preemptive war doctrine is, so it argued, the only way to make the United States safe. The Bush administration rightly points to the changed nature of military threats and poses a dilemma for scholars of just war theory: how long, in an era of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, can states afford to wait to use their military force in self-defence? But the administration’s doctrine is actually also a preventive war doctrine. And although the doctrine seems compelling at first glance, the logic of the just war tradition’s prohibition on preventive war still holds.


Nuclear Weapon Military Force Mass Destruction Bush Administration National Security Council 
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© Neta C. Crawford 2005

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  • Neta C. Crawford

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