2002 November 12 Tuesday
Condoleezza Rice On Preemption Or Anticipatory Defense

This is from an interview that Condoleezza Rice gave to New Perspective Quarterly editor Nathan Gardels on September 5, 2002:

CONDOLEEZZA RICE | The concept of not waiting to be attacked goes back a long way in history. It isn't new in that sense. But it is also the case that preemption or "anticipatory defense" ought to be used sparingly. It isn't a blanket policy.

There are certain kinds of regimes that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, we must consider a danger because we know their history. The history here is extremely important. Anticipatory defense should not be used as a cover for aggression. It really should be a rare occurrence.

There are threats amenable to being dealt with in other ways, whether through diplomacy, or even coercive diplomacy, or, in the case of India and Pakistan, the involvement of the United States and Great Britain in helping to resolve the conflict.

But there are a few cases that may get beyond other means. Then, you have to reserve the right to use force.

Finally, there is a difference between preemption of capabilities and regime change. They are not the same. You may more often, as the United States has done in the past, preempt capability. But preempting for regime change ought to be a very rare occurrence.

NPQ | Then is it up to any given power to decide on its own when preemptive action is justifiable? Ought the United Nations be involved?

RICE | The US is going to maintain a right to self-defense. But let me be clear: We are not going to militarily preempt every time we see a threat. There are other options. But when it gets to the place where a lot has been tried, and it looks dangerous, then you have to act.

The problem with her phrasing here is that general technological advances are going to make it increasingly easy to develop weapons of mass destruction. If the US waits to try many alternatives and lets a lot of time go by before preempting then it will fail to preempt in time. Also, as a wide assortment of technologies advance and become more widely available the ability to even detect WMD development programs will decline because it will become impossible use purchases of special use equipment as a sign that WMD development is being done by a regime. There will be less of a need to buy special purpose equipment as equipment with many civilian uses becomes capable of also making parts needed for WMD. Ultimately, in order to make the preemption strategy work in the medium run it may become necessary to overthrow (either by invasion or covert ops) any hostile regime about which it can reasonably be said that it has a strong motive to develop WMD. In the long run preemption as a strategy may fail entirely when it becomes possible for groups of private individuals to develop WMD.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 12 09:57 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment


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