Self-Defense and the Limits of WMD Intelligence

FUTURE CHALLENGES IN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LAW, Peter Berkowitz, ed., Hoover Institution Press, 2010

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 10-241

25 Pages Posted: 27 May 2010  

Matthew C. Waxman

Columbia Law School

Date Written: May 26, 2010

Abstract

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama stated: “Sometimes, the preventive use of force may be necessary, but rarely. The experience of Iraq underscores that often, perceived threats are not as real [as] they may seem, and our intelligence may be imperfect. But, when our intelligence is good and defensible we should not rule out the use of force.” This chapter examines ways of assessing legally whether that intelligence is sufficiently good and defensible. It argues that an objective reasonable necessity approach to WMD capability assessments can serve long-term peace and security objectives and, more specifically, how the law governing use of force might evolve to guide capability assessments. A reasonable necessity approach, combined with an objective standard of assessing WMD capability and operating as a narrow legal alternative to formal U.N. Security Council authorization, can best balance and allocate competing risks in an environment of significant capability uncertainty. Moreover, the substantive evidentiary issues forced to the surface through objective reasonableness analysis are critical to managing some of the dangers of operating outside explicit U.N. Security Council authority, and are critical to the effective operation of the legal processes that the strict UN Charter constructionists advocate.

Suggested Citation

Waxman, Matthew C., Self-Defense and the Limits of WMD Intelligence (May 26, 2010). FUTURE CHALLENGES IN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LAW, Peter Berkowitz, ed., Hoover Institution Press, 2010; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 10-241. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1616237

Matthew C. Waxman (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Matthew_Waxman

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