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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Internationally Sanctioned Preventive War?

Did Russia embrace the Bush Doctrine last week? Judith Ingram of the Associated Press filed an interesting story on December 4, 2004. This version is from the Chicago Tribune:
MOSCOW -- Russia might use cruise missiles and strategic bombers in preventive strikes against terrorists outside its borders, the commander of Russia's air force said Friday.

Russian leaders have claimed a right to pre-emptive strikes before, for example threatening neighboring Georgia that it would pursue Chechen rebels allegedly fleeing to its territory.

But Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov's comments to the ITAR-Tass news agency aired Friday were the most direct yet in Russia's increasing rhetoric on attacking terrorists abroad. Mikhailov did not specify what targets the air force could potentially go after....

"If ordered, our missile-carrier aircraft will attack the terrorists with long-range, highly precise cruise missiles and aerial bombs. We will make use of everything we have," Mikhailov said.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and other top officials have said that preventive strikes against terrorists could involve all means except nuclear arms but they did not specify the use of strategic bombers.

ITAR-Tass commented that Russia had initiated discussion of preventive strikes over a year ago "due to Washington's regular employment of this method in international affairs."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has previously issued his own Bush Doctrine:
"If I believed that there were going to be an attack, a terrorist attack on Australia and there was no alternative but action being taken by Australia I would unhesitatingly take it to prevent that attack occurring."
Are big powers lining up to embrace preventive war? I previously blogged about a report that even France may be turning to the strategy.

Obviously, this may be a critical juncture in world politics. States have long rejected preventive war...since, well, it has traditionally been viewed as a pretty bad idea, promoting war when it might well be avoidable.

In the pages of Foreign Affairs, Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter recently argued for an international "duty to prevent" certain kinds of threats to international security. Specifically, they discuss threats from WMD and terrorists, though they appropriate some of the logic of the "responsibility to protect." While preventive use of force should be a last resort, Feinstein and Slaughter argue that the international community now has to consider it given the realities of surprise attacks with devastating implications.

Feinstein and Slaughter do not toss aside the just war principles, nor do they abandon many newer ideas about the use of force. For example, they would want the Security Council to make the call on the use of force.

In the last two weeks, the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change released a report that makes essentially this same case for using force: WMD threats may justify prevention, but the world needs to agree about when to use that force. The Security Council is the appropriate decision-maker.

Last year, the EU issued a statement about this problem that was somewhat similar as well.

OK, since I'm compiling sources (in preparation for a paper, actually), it is probably worth thinking about how the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative fits into all this. I blogged about that previously as well.

The key questions: is a new normative understanding in the works? If so, what are its parameters?

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