Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict

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Overview

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.

In Striking 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 First includes 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Perspectives on Politics
Striking First, which reflects both the knowledge of a distinguished scholar and the experience and judgment of a practitioner (Doyle was UN assistant secretary-general under Kofi Annan), is an indispensable book for those interested in the question of the justifiability of preventive action against future threats. Given the omnipresence of those threats, that should include all of us. Doyle's careful reasoning and balanced judgments also make this enormously thought-provoking book perfect for the classroom.
— Jack S. Levy
International Journal on World Peace
Doyle's book is relatively short but it contains substantial power and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It leads the reader into his/her own debate on the merits of the Bush Doctrine and how the world may be fundamentally altered by it, for better or for worse.
— Steve Dobransky
American Prospect
[Doyle] points out...the Bush doctrine is not only dangerously 'subjective' and 'open-ended' but also an 'invitation to chaos' because other states may claim the right to invoke it for their own purposes...Instead of embracing the Bush administration's radical alternative, however, Doyle calls for updating the doctrine of preemption without collapsing it into prevention.
— William A. Galston
Foreign Affairs
The arguments presented are lucid, earnest, and thoughtful. Accepting that preemption might be necessary, Doyle builds on the traditional criteria to stress the importance of the lethality and likelihood of the threat and the legitimacy and legality of the response.
— Lawrence D. Freedman
American Journal of International Law
Striking First highlights the dilemma that the United States confronts. Doyle has contributed a thoughtful and significant work to the jus ad bellum conundrum that will surely fuel further useful debate.
— Davis R. Robinson
American Journal of International Law
Striking First highlights the dilemma that the United States confronts. Doyle has contributed a thoughtful and significant work to the jus ad bellum conundrum that will surely fuel further useful debate.
— Davis R. Robinson
Foreign Affairs

The arguments presented are lucid, earnest, and thoughtful. Accepting that preemption might be necessary, Doyle builds on the traditional criteria to stress the importance of the lethality and likelihood of the threat and the legitimacy and legality of the response.
— Lawrence D. Freedman
American Prospect

[Doyle] points out...the Bush doctrine is not only dangerously 'subjective' and 'open-ended' but also an 'invitation to chaos' because other states may claim the right to invoke it for their own purposes...Instead of embracing the Bush administration's radical alternative, however, Doyle calls for updating the doctrine of preemption without collapsing it into prevention.
— William A. Galston
International Journal on World Peace

Doyle's book is relatively short but it contains substantial power and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It leads the reader into his/her own debate on the merits of the Bush Doctrine and how the world may be fundamentally altered by it, for better or for worse.
— Steve Dobransky
Perspectives on Politics

Striking First, which reflects both the knowledge of a distinguished scholar and the experience and judgment of a practitioner (Doyle was UN assistant secretary-general under Kofi Annan), is an indispensable book for those interested in the question of the justifiability of preventive action against future threats. Given the omnipresence of those threats, that should include all of us. Doyle's careful reasoning and balanced judgments also make this enormously thought-provoking book perfect for the classroom.
— Jack S. Levy
American Journal of International Law

Striking First highlights the dilemma that the United States confronts. Doyle has contributed a thoughtful and significant work to the jus ad bellum conundrum that will surely fuel further useful debate.
— Davis R. Robinson
Foreign Affairs - Lawrence D. Freedman
The arguments presented are lucid, earnest, and thoughtful. Accepting that preemption might be necessary, Doyle builds on the traditional criteria to stress the importance of the lethality and likelihood of the threat and the legitimacy and legality of the response.
American Prospect - William A. Galston
[Doyle] points out...the Bush doctrine is not only dangerously 'subjective' and 'open-ended' but also an 'invitation to chaos' because other states may claim the right to invoke it for their own purposes...Instead of embracing the Bush administration's radical alternative, however, Doyle calls for updating the doctrine of preemption without collapsing it into prevention.
Perspectives on Politics - Jack S. Levy
Striking First, which reflects both the knowledge of a distinguished scholar and the experience and judgment of a practitioner (Doyle was UN assistant secretary-general under Kofi Annan), is an indispensable book for those interested in the question of the justifiability of preventive action against future threats. Given the omnipresence of those threats, that should include all of us. Doyle's careful reasoning and balanced judgments also make this enormously thought-provoking book perfect for the classroom.
American Journal of International Law - Davis R. Robinson
Striking First highlights the dilemma that the United States confronts. Doyle has contributed a thoughtful and significant work to the jus ad bellum conundrum that will surely fuel further useful debate.
International Journal on World Peace - Steve Dobransky
Doyle's book is relatively short but it contains substantial power and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It leads the reader into his/her own debate on the merits of the Bush Doctrine and how the world may be fundamentally altered by it, for better or for worse.
From the Publisher
"The arguments presented are lucid, earnest, and thoughtful. Accepting that preemption might be necessary, Doyle builds on the traditional criteria to stress the importance of the lethality and likelihood of the threat and the legitimacy and legality of the response."—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"[Doyle] points out...the Bush doctrine is not only dangerously 'subjective' and 'open-ended' but also an 'invitation to chaos' because other states may claim the right to invoke it for their own purposes...Instead of embracing the Bush administration's radical alternative, however, Doyle calls for updating the doctrine of preemption without collapsing it into prevention."—William A. Galston, American Prospect

"Striking First, which reflects both the knowledge of a distinguished scholar and the experience and judgment of a practitioner (Doyle was UN assistant secretary-general under Kofi Annan), is an indispensable book for those interested in the question of the justifiability of preventive action against future threats. Given the omnipresence of those threats, that should include all of us. Doyle's careful reasoning and balanced judgments also make this enormously thought-provoking book perfect for the classroom."—Jack S. Levy, Perspectives on Politics

"Striking First highlights the dilemma that the United States confronts. Doyle has contributed a thoughtful and significant work to the jus ad bellum conundrum that will surely fuel further useful debate."—Davis R. Robinson, American Journal of International Law

"Doyle's book is relatively short but it contains substantial power and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It leads the reader into his/her own debate on the merits of the Bush Doctrine and how the world may be fundamentally altered by it, for better or for worse."—Steve Dobransky, International Journal on World Peace

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Michael W. Doyle is the Harold Brown Professor of International Affairs, Law, and Political Science at Columbia University. He served as assistant secretary-general and special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and is currently the chair of the U.N. Democracy Fund. His books include "Making War and Building Peace" (Princeton) and "Ways of War and Peace".

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Read an Excerpt

Striking First Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict
By Michael W. Doyle Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2008
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13658-5


Chapter One STRIKING FIRST

MICHAEL W. DOYLE

When should states go to war in order to protect themselves? When, that is, are they justified in employing either armed force or other warlike coercive measures, such as blockade and sanctions, for anticipatory self-defense? Must they wait, as international law currently holds, for an "armed attack" to have already taken place or to be so imminent that it is, as customary international law holds, "overwhelming" in its necessity and so "imminent" as to leave "no choice of means" and "no moment for deliberation"?

The traditional conception of self-defense allowing only for imminent preemptive anticipation of planned attacks is clearly rejected in current U.S. strategic doctrine. Despite attempts to adopt preemptive terminology, President Bush reiterated his and the U.S. government's commitment to a much more preventive anticipation of threats posed by those who share a "murderous ideology." He declared, on June 28, 2005, at Fort Bragg:

After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.

President Bush is now (winter 2006) focusing on the threat he perceives from Iran. In a recent speech in Salt Lake City to the American Legion convention, he declared: "The world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. We know the depth of the suffering that Iran's sponsorship of terrorists has brought. And we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons." After blaming Iran for supporting Hezbollah violence, supplying the insurgents in Iraq with weapons, and denying basic human rights to its own population, President Bush concluded: "There must be consequences for Iran's defiance [of the UN Security Council resolution mandating a halt to nuclear fuel reprocessing] and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon." A few days later, Israeli minister Jacob Edri said that a military strike against Iran, limited to its nuclear facilities, is inevitable before President Bush completes his second term.

In these essays, I will examine the distinction-which the president elides-between acts of preemption in the face of an imminent threat of armed attack and acts of prevention undertaken in order to forestall, for instance, the acquisition of threatening capabilities. This distinction is a question of substantive norms or rules. I will also explore the significance of multilateral authorization by the UN Security Council, which is a question of procedure for authorizing the use of force. Thus these essays will explore the ethics, politics, and law of anticipatory self-defense. I will focus both on what the law is and what states should do.

In my first essay, I address what I see to be the main problem: both international law, as it is currently formulated, and the Bush Doctrine of prevention are inadequate for today's global security environment. My true aim, however-given those first judgments-is to propose in my second essay better preventive standards for war and warlike measures short of war that would produce more security for the United States and most other states interested in a law-abiding world

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Striking First by Michael W. Doyle
Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments by Michael W. Doyle vii

Introduction by Stephen Macedo xi

Striking First

Michael W. Doyle

International Law and Current Standards 7

Standards 43

Comment by Harold Hongju Koh 99

Comment by Richard Tuck 119

Comment byJeff McMahan 129

Response to Commentators by Michael W. Doyle 149

Contributors 161

Index 165

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