Preemptive Warfare Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1475 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Preemptive Warfare

The concept of preemptive warfare and the explication of its goals are clearly outlined in a September 2002 White House publication entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." This seminal neoconservative essay outlines the role of the United States in an age of global terrorism. Trans-national terror networks have replaced the nation-states of the past as America's greatest enemies. The essence of the modern preemptive warfare doctrine is expressed on page 12: "While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm." Referred to as the Bush doctrine to clarify its distinction from previous definitions of preemptive warfare, the post-September 11 concept hinges on the nature of terrorist networks and how they operate.

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At its most basic, preemptive warfare simply refers to "the ability to strike first before your enemy strikes at you," (Kacerauskis, p. 82). Preemptive warfare is a standard military tactic and usually implies that a war between parties was immanent. One party elects to attack ahead of time hoping for a strategic advantage. Preemptive warfare is legal, justified under certain conditions in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations ("Ideas to Go"). However, the nature of terrorism and the role of rogue states in perpetrating terrorism significantly alter the conditions under which preemptive warfare is justified.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Preemptive Warfare Assignment

Preemptive warfare is not only justified in an age of globalized terrorism; it is necessary. The United States does exhaust all non-combat options before electing to preemptively strike a terrorist target or a nation believed to harbor terrorist networks. For example, the United States government actively freezes assets belonging to suspected terrorist groups and blocks their access to international financial institutions. The United States also aggressively pursues antiproliferation as a means to squelch the market for nuclear and biological weapons. Improved intelligence operations are also part of a preemptive warfare strategy.

However, the United States cannot rely solely on peaceful means of resolving the terrorist threat for several reasons. Unlike immanent threats from recognized nation-states, terrorist threats are vague and less predictable. In a traditional warfare arena, the enemy party mobilizes troops and in many cases indicates the intent to attack. Terrorists don't mobilize armies or declare war through official channels. They also do not follow the rules of war outlined by international organizations like the United Nations. Terrorists also target civilians and not the military: a significant difference between global terror networks and legitimate armies of nation-states. Therefore, the Defense Department also cannot possibly monitor terrorist networks with the same effectiveness as it would monitor the military strategies of a nation.

Terrorist networks work trans-nationally and so typical military strategies do not apply. Scattered around the globe, terrorist networks are not limited to political-geographic boundaries. Their tactics and their weapons are too unconventional to rely on the old rules of war. Preemptive strikes on one known terrorist cell can avert potential disaster, destroying access to the financial resources necessary for the network to arrange an attack.

The White House can more easily negotiate peaceful resolutions to conflicts with state leaders. On the other hand, our nation's leaders cannot and will not negotiate with terrorists or treat terrorist leaders with the same respect due to the leader of a nation. Furthermore, terrorist networks and their leaders are nebulous. Their leaders are elusive and not willing to discover peaceful solutions to conflict.

One of the most important reasons to use preemptive warfare to combat terrorism is that members of terrorist groups are not risk-averse and do not respond to the kinds of deterrents that would plague reasonable political or military leaders. Martyrdom is embedded in most terrorist ideologies and terrorists are inherently uninterested in any other option but to carry out their attacks. Preemptive warfare is often the only way to snuff out terrorist cells, temporarily or perhaps permanently disabling them. When terrorist networks are actively seeking WMDs and remain poised to use them at any time, preemptive attacks are the only foreseeable means to ensure national security. Terrorism is probably the best justification for preemptive warfare because the threat of attack is persistent and perpetual: the threat will not dissipate or subside with time.

A terrorist organization exists only to inflict suffering on others and unlike a nation-state, a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Preemptive Warfare" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Preemptive Warfare.  (2007, April 22).  Retrieved October 24, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Preemptive Warfare."  22 April 2007.  Web.  24 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Preemptive Warfare."  April 22, 2007.  Accessed October 24, 2021.