The authors are grateful to J. L. Holzgrefe for stimulating conversations that helped to generate this paper. We have benefited from comments on presentations of this paper from participants at colloquia held at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, February 19, 2003; the Faculty Colloquium, Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University, February 24, 2003; Duke Law School, March 19, 2003; the University of Sydney Law School, August 22, 2003; Columbia University Law School, October 28, 2003; and the University of Southern California Law School, November 17, 2003. We thank Michael Byers, Neta Crawford, Ruth Grant, Henry R. Nau, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., and two anonymous reviewers for valuable written comments on an earlier draft. We are particularly grateful to the editors, Christian Barry and Joel Rosenthal, for their extensive and perceptive suggestions. We are grateful for research support from the Triangle Institute for International Security-Duke University project “Wielding American Power,” funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and its International Peace and Security Program.
The Preventive Use of Force: A Cosmopolitan Institutional Proposal
Version of Record online: 30 AUG 2006
Ethics & International Affairs
Volume 18, Issue 1, pages 1–22, March 2004
How to Cite
Buchanan, A. and Keohane, R. O. (2004), The Preventive Use of Force: A Cosmopolitan Institutional Proposal. Ethics & International Affairs, 18: 1–22. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7093.2004.tb00447.x
- Issue online: 30 AUG 2006
- Version of Record online: 30 AUG 2006
Preventive use of force may be defined as the initiation of military action in anticipation of harmful actions that are neither presently occurring nor imminent. This essay explores the permissibility of preventive war from a cosmopolitan normative perspective, one that recognizes the basic human rights of all persons, not just citizens of a particular country or countries. It argues that preventive war can only be justified if it is undertaken within an appropriate rule-governed, institutional framework that is designed to help protect vulnerable countries against unjustified interventions while also avoiding unacceptable risks of the costs of inaction. The key to ensuring the fairness of rules governing the preventive use of force is accountability.
This essay proposes a scheme that would make those promoting and those rejecting the preventive use of force more accountable. The proposal contains the following crucial features:
States proposing preventive war are required to enter into a contract with a diverse body of states as a condition for authorization of their actions;
Prior to taking preventive action, states must make an evidence-based case to the UN Security Council, and agree in advance to submit themselves to an evaluation by an impartial body after the preventive action occurred;
Both proponents of action and those opposing it will be held accountable ex post for the accuracy of their prior statements and the proportionality of their actions;
Sanctions will be imposed against intervening states or states that opposed preventive action, respectively, depending on the findings of the ex post evaluation.
If preventive action were blocked in the Security Council, states seeking to engage in preventive action could then present their case in a different body-a coalition of democratic states-with its own ex post and ex ante accountability procedures.