Friday night topic: preemption theory

— 5:22 PM on April 9, 2004

Time for our weekly off-topic discussion once again. This week, we'll wade into matters current with a bit of a theoretical bent. "Bush sucks" posts will be deleted.

There has been much talk about preemptive military action in the past couple of years, and there seems to be a growing strain of thought that advocates strongly against pre-emption. It is good for democracies to have inherent reservations about the use of force, but is it realistic to swear off preemption, as a matter of principle, in an era when a small group of committed people could quite conceivably detonate a nuclear device in a major urban population center?

If not, what criteria should we use as a test for "just preemption"? Could traditional Just War theories do this work, or do they need to be amended? What about other Cold War-era schools of thought, like realism? Can we formulate an adequate framework for making such decisions in the face of asymmetric threats, nuclear consequences, and incomplete intelligence?


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