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Preemptive War

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Preemptive war is a type of anticipatory first strike. It is often confused with preventive war – sometimes intentionally so – but there is a sharp difference between the two, at least officially. The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (2009) defines preventive war as a war that is initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve greater risk. Whereas a preemptive attack is defined as an attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent. According to the Department of Defense, then, the difference between preemption and prevention turns on imminence; for preemption, an enemy attack is imminent; for prevention an enemy attack is not imminent (The difference between “war” and “attack” is irrelevant; otherwise a preemptive war would be conceptually impossible).

First strike in the face of an imminent threat as the defining feature of preemption was...

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9160-5_361
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References

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© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Kaufman, F. (2011). Preemptive War. In: Chatterjee, D.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9160-5_361

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