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Self-defence, Defence and Pre-emption



Military supporters and critics often find each others’ positions on war preposterous. The divergent attitudes of these two groups may derive from their view about the analogy, or lack thereof, between war and self-defence, an issue recently highlighted by the controversial question of ‘pre-emption’. In general, bombing campaigns conducted abroad are better understood as pre-emptive acts of war than as literal acts of ‘self-defence’. The support by governments of the weapons export trade is also difficult to reconcile with the ‘self-defence’ interpretation of war. Accordingly, those who reject ‘pre-emptive defence’ on the grounds that it exceeds the parameters of ‘self-defence’ should, in consistency, oppose bombing campaigns and the exportation of weapons as well.