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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Legitimacy of Preventive War?

On April 8 at 3:30 pm Pacific Time, I'll be speaking against preventive war at the Lewis and Clark College's 47th Annual International Affairs Symposium. This year's theme is "A World of Warfare: Dynamics of Conflict in the 21st Century," Other speakers include General Anthony Zinni, Col. Gian Gentile, PhD, Washington Post journalist Thomas Ricks, and Army War College Research Professor Steven Metz.

Many other speakers during the seminar look first-rate too, but those links above direct you to instances where I've previously mentioned the named individuals on this blog.

Each of the sessions is organized as a pro and con debate. I'll be speaking on the same platform as Whitley Kaufman of University of Massachusetts at Lowell. This is the abstract from one of his pieces on preventive war:
The question of the legitimacy of preventive war has been at the center of the debate about the proper response to terrorism and the legitimacy of the Iraq War. One side has argued that preventive war is a legitimate and necessary tool for nations to use in defense against terrorists; the other side has claimed that war is permissible only in self-defense, and that therefore the preventive use of military force is unjustified both legally and morally. In this essay I attempt to clarify the terms of this debate by demonstrating that neither side is precisely correct. Both under Just War Doctrine and common sense morality, preventive war is indeed justifiable, so long as it satisfies the basic requirements for going to war such as necessity and proportionality. However, under the current international law regime governed by the United Nations Charter, the use of preventive international force is restricted to the Security Council alone. Individual nation states are permitted to use international force only in self-defense. The rise of international terrorism does not by itself change this situation; preventive force against terrorist organization is permissible and appropriate, but it must be authorized by the Security Council in order to be legitimate. Only if the Council proved wholly ineffective in exercising its authority would the right to preventive war revert to individual nations. For all the shortcomings of the United Nations, however, I argue we have not reached a state of total breakdown of international authority sufficient to justify a return to the legitimacy of unilateral preventive war.
Though I'll be speaking against the legitimacy of preventive war, I've argued that it can be legitimately prosecuted by the international community if authorized by the UN Security Council.

Kaufman seems to oppose preventive war in many circumstances, so we'll have to figure out the points of disagreement in our positions.

Note to local in-laws and others potentially interested: the sessions are free and open to the public.

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