Eve of Destruction

Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Eve of Destruction
    Book Description:

    In an age of new threats to international security, the old rules of war are rapidly being discarded. The great powers are moving toward norms less restrictive of intervention, preemption, and preventive war. This evolution is taking place not only in the United States but also in many of the world's most powerful nations, including Russia, France, and Japan, among others. As centuries of tradition and law are overturned, will preventive warfare push the world into chaos? Eve of Destruction is a provocative contribution to a growing international debate over the acceptance of preventive military action. In the first work to identify the trends that have led to a coming age of preventive war, Thomas M. Nichols uses historical analysis as well as interviews with military officials from around the world to trace the anticipatory use of force from the early 1990s-when the international community responded to a string of humanitarian crises in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo-to today's current and potential actions against rogue states and terrorists. He makes a case for a bold reform of U.S. foreign policy, and of the United Nations Security Council itself, in order to avert outright anarchy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0294-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 A New Age of Prevention
    (pp. 1-13)

    The subject of preventive war is a difficult one, not least because it stirs a basic emotion in most people that it is simply wrong. Traditionally, the idea of using force based on a potential rather than actual threat has been viewed in the international community as morally offensive, akin to punishing an innocent person for a crime he or she might commit but has not. Discussing it in any but the most critical way seems almost to justify it, as it smacks of the gangster’s lead-pipe approach to solving disputes and curbing the rise of rival dons. But it...

  5. Chapter 2 Humanitarian Intervention, Sovereignty, and Prevention
    (pp. 14-39)

    The idea that members of the international community, collectively or individually, could resort to force and violate the borders of another state in the face of a challenge to human life did not originate as a response to terrorists or proliferators after September 2001. Rather, the foundations for the new age of preventive violence can be found in the failures of the international system when faced with the humanitarian disasters of the 1990s.

    In international life, just as in the lives of individual human beings, it sometimes takes a horrible shock, a “moment of clarity,” to change entrenched beliefs and...

  6. Chapter 3 The End of Deterrence?
    (pp. 40-66)

    On Christmas Day 1991, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev handed the keys of the Kremlin, along with the codes to the massive Soviet nuclear arsenal, over to pro-Western Russian president Boris Yeltsin. In his Christmas address to the American people, U.S. president George H. W. Bush spoke of “the struggle against communism and the threat it posed to our most precious values,” a struggle that “forced all nations to live under the specter of nuclear destruction.” Declaring the confrontation now over, Bush spoke of the future with hope: “For our children, we must offer them the guarantee of a peaceful and...

  7. Chapter 4 International Perspectives on Preemption and Prevention
    (pp. 67-98)

    On Christmas Eve 2006, Ethiopia launched a series of strikes against neighboring Somalia, with whom it had fought at least two wars over the past years, primarily over territory. This time, however, borders were not the issue. The capital, Mogadishu, and much of Somalia had fallen under the control of the Union of Islamic Courts, a paramilitary organization which claimed to want to bring Islamic law to the disorder in the country, but which its opponents, including the United States, believed had larger goals beyond the immediate chaos in Somalia, including possible links to al-Qaeda. Both Ethiopia and the official...

  8. Chapter 5 After Iraq
    (pp. 99-115)

    There is a certain irony in discussing the influence of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the 2003 invasion of Iraq, on norms and perceptions regarding preventive war. Philippe Errera captured the sentiments of many observers of the war and its aftermath in 2006 when he noted that one of the “profound effects” of the war was that it had “given prevention a bad name.”¹ It is hard to imagine that prevention could have a worse name than it already had over the past three centuries, but OIF is something of a special case. Other than the actual execution of military operations...

  9. Chapter 6 Governing the New Age of Prevention
    (pp. 116-144)

    The anxieties of the early twenty-first century are evident. The French president threatens nuclear retaliation against state sponsors of terror. His Russian counterpart makes thunderous vows to strike first at any threats to Russia anywhere on the planet. The Ethiopians, with Western assent, invade a neighbor and quash a possible enemy regime. The Japanese debate whether to eradicate North Korea’s growing nuclear threat by force. The Australians call for amending the United Nations charter to allow strikes on terrorists. The British prime minister chides those who wish “to err on the side of caution” and “weigh the risks to an...

  10. Afterword: Now What?
    (pp. 145-148)

    There is, I realize, a sort of grimness to this book, with its long march through twenty years of civil war, genocide, and terrorism, all under the shadow of the growing certainty that at some point a terrifying chemical, biological, or nuclear attack will eventually take place in a major Western city. And there does seem to be a depressing inevitability to it: the worst threats to international security are no longer exotic technologies in the hands of nation-states. They are the ordinary conveniences that surround our lives, perverted from their useful ends into instruments of mass murder. They are...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 149-168)
  12. Index
    (pp. 169-171)