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Preventive and Preemptive War

  1. Steven P. Lee

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee508

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Lee, S. P. 2013. Preventive and Preemptive War. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

Abstract

Preventive wars and preemptive wars are wars fought for an ostensibly defensive purpose but which involve a first use of force (see War). These wars are like wars of aggression in that they involve a first use of force, but, unlike paradigm forms of aggression, they have an ostensible defensive justification. Preventive and preemptive wars are fought by a state against an opponent in an attempt to prevent an expected future aggression by the opponent. Preventive war is an anticipatory response to aggression expected at some indefinite time in the future, while preemptive war is an anticipatory response to aggression expected to begin in the immediate future. The question is whether one or both sorts of war may be morally justified.

Keywords:

  • ethics;
  • national defense;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • terrorism;
  • war and conflict