The Justice of Preemption and Preventive War Doctrines

Neta C. Crawford

in Just War Theory

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780748620746
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672042 | DOI:
The Justice of Preemption and Preventive War Doctrines

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This chapter addresses the most controversial contemporary invocation of “just cause” in the justification of war: the “preemptive defence” argument offered by President George W. Bush in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After discussing the historical heritage of this justification, the chapter proceeds to draw a distinction between “pre-emptive” war, which is a response to an immediate anticipated threat, and “preventive war”, arguments for which purport to be a justification for the prevention of a supposed threat's very emergence. Demonstrating that the 2003 falls into the latter category, the chapter contends that “prevention” cannot constitute a just cause for war: it undermines the concepts and distinctions which underpin the stability of the international system and effectively erodes the distinction between war and peace. Preemption can be justified, but only under very specific applications of the relevant justificatory criteria.

Keywords: 2003 Iraq War; Justification; Preemption; Prevention; International stability

Chapter.  9422 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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