Last updated on: 12/8/2009 12:38:00 PM PST
What constituted preemptive military action according to the Bush Doctrine?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Sep. 2002 US National Security Strategy, also known as the "Bush Doctrine," in section five titled "Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction," included the following:

"For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat- most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction- weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning...

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will:
  • build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge;

  • coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and

  • continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.
The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just."

Sep. 2002 - National Security Strategy 2002 (359 KB)  

Ivo H. Daalder, PhD, US Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), wrote in a Nov. 16, 2002 article titled "Policy Implications of the Bush Doctrine on Preemption" on www.cfr.org:

"The legal justification for this doctrine resides in the concept of anticipatory self-defense- that is, the notion, long recognized in international law, that states can take defensive action even before an attack has occurred if the threat is truly imminent (traditionally when an opposing force mobilizes in anticipation of an attack). The classic example is Israel’s preemptive attack that started the 1967 war, which came in response to the imminent threat of invasion by its Arab neighbors. What makes the current situation different from previous instances is the need, as the Bush administration sees it, to 'adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries'- i.e., terrorists and tyrants armed with mass destruction weapons. Since it cannot be known when a state or terrorist organization that possesses weapons of mass destruction will use them and since weapons like these can be delivered without much if any warning, the administration argues that rogue states pose an 'imminent threat' when they seek to acquire technologies necessary to build these weapons, and especially nuclear weapons. Accordingly, preemption is justified not just to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction but also their acquisition."

Nov. 16, 2002 - Ivo H. Daalder, PhD 

George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd US President, stated in a June 1, 2002 speech to the US Military Academy at West Point:

"Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.

Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."


June 1, 2002 - George W. Bush, MBA