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PreemptionMilitary Action and Moral Justification$
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Henry Shue and David Rodin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199233137

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199233137.001.0001

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Preemption and Prevention in Historical Perspective

Preemption and Prevention in Historical Perspective

(p.23) 1 Preemption and Prevention in Historical Perspective

Hew Strachan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a historical perspective of pre-emption and prevention. Topics discussed include the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Prussia's initiation of the Seven Years War in 1756, and the Cold War. The United States had used preventive war regularly since 1945 to forestall revolutionary change. However, this existing predisposition in favour of preventive war was obscured until the 1990s by the wider context of the Cold War, by America's endorsement of international law and multilateral institutions, themselves designed to curb preventive war, and by the use of special forces and covert operations which ensured that the United States' actions were largely overlooked. But by 2001, the United States had embraced a declaratory policy of using preventive war. It is argued that the vocabulary of pre-emption when applied to preventive war created misplaced expectations.

Keywords:   preventive war, United States, defence policy, pre-emption, Cold War

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