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Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict

Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict
    Book Description:

    Does the United States have the right to defend itself by striking first, or must it wait until an attack is in progress? Is the Bush Doctrine of aggressive preventive action a justified and legal recourse against threats posed by terrorists and rogue states? Tackling one of the most controversial policy issues of the post-September 11 world, Michael Doyle argues that neither the Bush Doctrine nor customary international law is capable of adequately responding to the pressing security threats of our times.

    InStriking First, Doyle shows how the Bush Doctrine has consistently disregarded a vital distinction in international law between acts of preemption in the face of imminent threats and those of prevention in the face of the growing offensive capability of an enemy. Taking a close look at the Iraq war, the 1998 attack against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, among other conflicts, he contends that international law must rely more completely on United Nations Charter procedures and develop clearer standards for dealing with lethal but not immediate threats.

    After explaining how the UN can again play an important role in enforcing international law and strengthening international guidelines for responding to threats, he describes the rare circumstances when unilateral action is indeed necessary. Based on the 2006 Tanner Lectures at Princeton University,Striking Firstincludes responses by distinguished political theorists Richard Tuck and Jeffrey McMahan and international law scholar Harold Koh, yielding a lively debate that will redefine how--and for what reasons--tomorrow's wars are fought.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2963-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Michael W. Doyle
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Stephen Macedo

    These are among the questions raised by Michael W. Doyle’s timely and important essays, originally presented as Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at Princeton University in November 2006. Doyle addresses not only the underlying moral question of the conditions under which preventive war is justified, but also the complex practical question of how, if at all, international law should be refashioned in the current era of terrorist networks and heightened insecurity to accommodate resorts to preventive war—or anticipatory self-defense.

    At stake are some of the greatest foreign and defense policy controversies of our time. The United Nations has...

  5. Striking First

      (pp. 7-42)

      The problems with existing international law and standards are fourfold: first, the substantive rules are inadequate; second, the Bush Doctrine is subjective and dangerous; third, United Nations procedural rules do not adequately fill the subsequent gap; and fourth, unlike the case of domestic emergencies, breaking the law in the international context—and relying on excuse and mitigation as a framework for order—does not serve well. I will spend most of this essay on the first point.

      Substantive rules for both self-defense and preemptive self-defense exist, but neither set is adequate. Conventionally, states must wait for an “armed attack” to...

      (pp. 43-96)

      I suggested in my first essay that traditional preemption is too strict and the Bush administration’s expansive prevention is too loose. In what follows, I propose to recommend four standards for anticipatory self-defense that will address the problems of underinclusiveness and overinclusiveness that I have identified.

      It makes sense to limit legal prevention procedurally to actions authorized by the Security Council and legal preemption to actions substantively in accord with theCarolinedoctrine. But we need to go beyond both. We need substantive preventive standards in order to inform Security Council debates. We also need both substantive and procedural standards...

      (pp. 99-118)
      Harold Hongju Koh

      In earlier, now-classic scholarly work, Michael Doyle taught us that liberal democracies do not fight with one another.¹ In the same spirit, I am tempted to say that liberal internationalists should not fight with each other. In this comment, I hope to add some lawyerly texture to what I find, overall, is an admirable effort by Doyle to give welcome rigor to a problem that many, most notably the administration of President George W. Bush, have treated with stunning oversimplification.

      In his essays in this volume, Michael Doyle claims that if better standards for anticipatory war and warlike measures were...

      (pp. 119-128)
      Richard Tuck

      For a line of political philosophers running from antiquity down to the eighteenth century, the question with which Michael Doyle has been dealing in these two brilliant essays was not merely an issue in the relationship between states: it was the only question thereisin political theory itself. This conviction was particularly marked among sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers, who had witnessed the incessant and unscrupulous wars of their age, from the vicious little campaigns of the Italian city-states through to the all-out conflict and devastation of the Thirty Years War, and who derived from this experience a keen sense...

      (pp. 129-148)
      Jeff McMahan

      I find myself in the awkward position—awkward, that is, for a commentator—of agreeing with virtually all aspects of Michael Doyle’s powerful critique of what international law and current U.S. doctrine imply about preventive war, and with most of his constructive suggestions for a new set of laws, institutions, and policies for addressing threats to national and international security that seem both real and serious but are not imminent. Yet, although what he says is largely right, there is more to be said. There is an important moral constraint on preventive war that he largely overlooks (though it is...

    • Response to Commentators
      (pp. 149-160)

      Having drawn on Professor Tuck’s, Professor McMahan’s, and Dean Koh’s comments to improve the written version, I do not need to make extensive final comments except to identify what I see as the differences that remain. I see them as small, but one or two may be significant. I see three key differences.

      The first difference, in today’s world of nation-states, is that the anarchic condition of world politics cannot be corrected by world government. And, short of world government, given the lack of genuine global community, the best we can do is to establish norms that mitigate anarchy. This...

    (pp. 161-164)
  7. INDEX
    (pp. 165-175)