Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]

Should the US adopt a foreign policy which advocates pre-emptive action?

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

The US cannot stand idly by and allow its implacable enemies to build up the strength they need to a...

The US cannot stand idly by and allow its implacable enemies to build up the strength they need to attack it. The anti-Americanism and bellicose intentions of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, North Korea’ Kim Jong-Il and others are matters of historical record. Given the evidence, the US would be imprudent not to strike whilst the threat was small and manageable.

No because...

The US should not act as though it was in a vacuum – its own policies and actions influence those of its friends and enemies. It can use its enormous economic might to engage ‘rogue regimes’ (which are generally very poor states) and bring them into the international community. When this is unrealistic, the US can similarly use its enormous power to pursue successful policies of deterrence and containment. Sanctions against Iraq neutralised the threat of Saddam Hussein years ago. The traditional tools of engagement, containment and deterrence are undiminished in their potential usefulness.

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

Deterrence and diplomacy must be backed by the credible use of force. Without this threat of militar...

Deterrence and diplomacy must be backed by the credible use of force. Without this threat of military action, dictators can ignore the diplomacy of containment and continue to pursue their nefarious aims. The diplomatic opening of Libya and its WMD programme after the 2003 invasion of Iraq is clear evidence that dictators can be compelled to cooperate by the threat of pre-emptive action.

No because...

Deterrence and diplomacy are backed by the credible force of massive US power even without pre-emptive action. They also work on a different time-scale. It can take a long time to negotiate settlements between states. It is inaccurate to ascribe success in Libya to fears of the pre-emptive action in Iraq; the break-through in Libya was due to many years of patient diplomacy and the impact of economic sanctions. Moreover, in the period necessary to negotiate or break the resolve of rogue regimes, the US possesses more than sufficient military and economic power to make any action against it an act of suicide on the part of any rogue leader.

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the American people would not forgive an administratio...

In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, the American people would not forgive an administration that failed to act against a foreseeable threat which later caused serious harm to the United States. The US government has a duty to the American people; it must neutralise all future threats before they are ready to strike. The US possesses the power to take this pre-emptive action, especially the necessary military power. It should use its vast competitive advantage in this sphere before other powers catch up.

No because...

The events of 11 September 2001 certainly had a profound effect upon Americans. The increased sensitivity to threats against America is plain to see. However, this presents an opportunity to resolve several important international problems – weapons of mass destruction (WMD), rogue states and international terrorism – by facilitating US cooperation with other states. The correct response to international problems is seek broad-based multi-lateral solutions; the policy of pre-emption pursues precisely the opposite track because it is divisive and alienates both traditional allies (e.g. France and Germany) and potential strategic partners (e.g. China, Russia). It squanders a great opportunity to harness US power to a genuinely cooperative international effort against these problems.

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

Deterrence and the diplomacy of containment leave dictators in place. They are free to oppress and b...

Deterrence and the diplomacy of containment leave dictators in place. They are free to oppress and brutalise their subjects, denying them freedom and basic human integrity. Pre-emptive action against these regimes will have the beneficial side-effect of liberating the oppressed of the world. This is both a useful side-benefit and a prudent long-term strategy: in the long-term the USA will be seen as a liberator and the friend of the oppressed all over the world.

No because...

The example of Iraq belies the myth that the US will be seen as a virtuous liberator. Rather, pre-emptive action is seen for what it really is – the cynical abuse of dominant US power in the pursuit of its own selfish national interests. Whilst dictators might be toppled, the death and destruction caused in so doing, and the chaos of the vacuum left by regime-change are sufficiently serious to counter-balance any good that might have been brought.

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

The Cold War doctrine of deterrence may have worked against a monolithic super-power such as the Sov...

The Cold War doctrine of deterrence may have worked against a monolithic super-power such as the Soviet Union, but the new security environment of rogue states and weapons of mass destruction forces the US to change its approach. These regimes are more unstable and have less control over their WMD programmes. We must invade these countries before they either use their WMD or sell them to terrorist organisations.

No because...

There are no relevant differences between the Cold War and the new security environment when considering the relative merits of pre-emption and deterrence. The dictators are just as deterrable as the Soviet Union. The overwhelming ability of the US to punish its enemies will deter other states from attacking it and from aiding non-state actors that wish to attack it. Furthermore, in the gap between regime-change and the re-establishment of control under new authorities, the WMD facilities in rogue states are left perilously vulnerable to thefts.

Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]
Yes because...

The new threat of global extremist terrorism, epitomised by al-Qaeda, compels the US to take pre-emp...

The new threat of global extremist terrorism, epitomised by al-Qaeda, compels the US to take pre-emptive action. We know that there are many terrorist networks and training camps plotting against the US; we must discover and destroy these networks before they are able to perpetrate more atrocities.

No because...

The US should certainly take action against terrorism. But pre-emption is perceived by many around the world as an act of naked aggression, especially as faulty intelligence often leads to civilian deaths in so-called 'surgical strikes'. For example, it is widely thought that the war in Iraq has radicalised thousands, if not millions, of people who have been disgusted at the images coming out of Iraq. It is plausibly argued that the doctrine of pre-emption is practically counter-productive: pre-emptive wars act as recruitment advertisements for anti-American terrorists.



Pre-emptive Action, Doctrine of [US]

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