Preemptive war

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Preemptive war is a unilateral "first strike", in the face of an imminent armed threat. This type of war may be sanctioned under international law, but requires the nature of the threat to be credible and significant.

Definition

Wikipedia Definition

"A preemptive attack (or preemptive war) is waged in an attempt to repel or defeat an imminent offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (usually unavoidable) war.

"Preemptive war is often confused with the term preventive war. While the latter is generally considered to violate international law, and to fall short of the requirements of a just war, preemptive wars are more often argued to be justified or justifiable.

"The intention with a preemptive strike is to gain the advantage of initiative and to harm the enemy at a moment of minimal protection," particularly when the enemy is vulnerable. [1]

Daniel Webster

In 1841, U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster "articulated a set of demanding criteria for acting with a 'necessity of self-defense'—in particular for a legitimate use of preemptive force. Preemption, Webster said, is justified only in response to an imminent threat; moreover, the force must be necessary for self-defense and can be deployed only after nonlethal measures and attempts to dissuade the adversary from acting had failed. Furthermore, a preemptive attack must be limited to dealing with the immediate threat and must discriminate between armed and unarmed, innocent and guilty." [2]

International Court of Justice

"The International Court of Justice (ICJ) spelled out exactly what no nation can legally do in light of its commitments to uphold the U.N. Charter: 'Thus it would be illegal for a state to threaten force to secure territory from another State, or to cause it to follow or not follow certain political or economic paths'," according to Ann Fagan Ginger, Executive Director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute. [3]

Anticipatory Self-Defense

"The prevailing view probably is that, one way or another, anticipatory self-defense is permissible but traditionally has required the existence of an imminent threat," writes Steven C. Walsh, research analyst at the Center for Defense Information. [4]

Justifications for the US-Iraq 2003 war: "preemption" or "preemptive war"

Quotes

Preemptive war "punishes the defenseless not for what they have done or are doing but for what they might have done or could do."
Eduardo Galeano, PaxHumana, September 2003.

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links