Preemption, Deterrence, and Self-Defence: A Legal and Historical Assessment

Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 119-135, April 2005

17 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2011 Last revised: 18 Jun 2014

Bart M.J. Szewczyk

Columbia Law School

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

The claim to use force to prevent a rogue state’s development of weapons of mass destruction, asserted in the 2002 US National Security Strategy, is unnecessary and therefore unlawful under customary international law. This conclusion is based on an assessment of the normative reactions of effective actors, primarily the US and the Soviet Union, to China’s development of nuclear weapons during a two-year period between the Cuban Missile Crisis and China’s first test in October 1964. Since a policy of pre-emptive use of force was unnecessary for either state’s self-defence, it would have been unlawful under customary international law. Given that the current strategic scenario of states vis-à-vis rogue states is the same under most circumstances, the proposed claim is also, prima facie, unnecessary to self-defence and unlawful.

Suggested Citation

Szewczyk, Bart M.J., Preemption, Deterrence, and Self-Defence: A Legal and Historical Assessment (2005). Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 119-135, April 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1881721

Bart M.J. Szewczyk (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th St
New York, NY 10025
United States

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