Magisterarbeit: The Strategy of Preemption in U.S. Foreign Policy

The Strategy of Preemption in U.S. Foreign Policy

When and why the U.S. Military Targets a Nation‘s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program

Regensburger Studien zur Internationalen Politik, Band 1

Hamburg , 174 Seiten

ISBN 978-3-8300-2559-7 (Print)
ISBN 978-3-339-02559-3 (eBook)

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The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), international terrorism, and their nexus are widely regarded as the gravest threats to peace and stability in the 21st century. To counter these threats, the Bush Administration formulated the National Security Strategy 2002, announcing that the U.S. „will, if necessary, act preemptively? to forestall the proliferation of WMD and their acquisition by terrorists. Its declaration and, subsequent, application against Iraq in 2003, caused much criticism and debate, which has raised a lot of questions regarding America`s policy of military preemption.

Contrary to charges of being a radically new concept formulated by a trigger-happy, neoconservative administration, the author shows that the use of military force to prevent WMD-proliferation is not new to U.S. counterproliferation policy. What is new, however, is that NSS 2002 equates preemption with prevention.

Indeed, since the Cold War ended, America acted militarily in a preventive way several times to counter the proliferation of WMD: Operations Desert Storm (1991), Desert Fox (1998) and Iraqi Freedom (2003) were, amongst other things, designed to reduce Iraq`s WMD capabilities. In 1994, the Clinton Administration seriously considered military strikes against North Korea`s nuclear program but in the end, dismissed the plans. At the same time, Washington did not prevent Pakistan and India from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Likewise, Libya was persuaded to give up its nuclear program not by bombs, but by diplomacy.

Why were Saddam`s nukes bombed and the Kims` not – when all sought WMDs and sponsored terrorism? By comparing several cases, the book answers the following questions: Under what circumstances will the U.S. military target a nation`s WMD program? What factors condition the application of preventive military force to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? Will Iran be the next target?

Johannes Ziegler shows that only states which represent a threat to Washington and its allies and endanger vital American interests run a high risk of launching preventive U.S. military action. Moreover, preventive strikes are only feasible under very favorable conditions. Factors such as the prospects for casualties and the necessity of excellent tactical intelligence limit their applicability. Military force to counter the proliferation of WMD, therefore, can only serve as a compliment to other elements in America`s arsenal against WMD proliferation. Yet, though force should always be a means of last resort, preventive strikes are most likely to succeed when applied against weapons programs in their earliest stages. In situations where traditional deterrence would likely be ineffectual, preventive strikes must also be regarded as a „means of first resort.?

With WMD-proliferation becoming more pressing in the future and the Iranian nuclear crisis reaching a climax, it is critical to understand the strategy of preemption and to clear it from the fog of war that still surrounds it.

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