Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Myth of Preemption: More Than a War Against Iraq

The Myth of Preemption: More Than a War Against Iraq

The Bush administration fumbled in making its case for war against Iraq. Unable to convince most of the world that the war was necessary, it even mischaracterized its policy, calling it ‘‘preemption’’ when it should have been called ‘‘prevention.’’ In promoting this new policy of preemption, the administration declared that the old policy of containment was no longer adequate to meet the security challenges of the twenty-first century. Focusing on President Bush’s June 2002 speech at West Point and the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, academics have asserted that this policy represents a radical break from the past. John Lewis Gaddis has called it a new grand strategy, and others have said that in forsaking containment and multilateralism, U.S. foreign policy has mistakenly abandoned its realist and liberal pillars. Unconvinced by the administration’s logic, many ‘‘radical’’ critics of U.S. foreign policy proclaimed that U.S. motives in Iraq were in fact based on oil, imperial ambition, and/or protecting Israel.

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