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Why Preemptive Counterproliferation Attack Works: Investigating Third Party Outcomes
Unformatted Document Text:  1 WHY PREEMPTIVE COUNTERPROLIFERATION ATTACK WORKS: INVESTIGATING THIRD PARTY OUTCOMES 1 William G. Eldridge School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies 13 Mar 2004 Introduction On 11 February 2004 during an address to the National Defense University, President George W. Bush stated that one of the greatest threats facing humanity is the possibility of a sudden attack with nuclear weapons by terrorists or dangerous regimes. 2 To combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the United States has adopted a wide range of counterproliferation measures and strategies including the preemptive use of military force. 3 How effective are preemptive counterproliferation attacks as a means to prevent nuclear proliferation? Will these types of attacks compel states to give up their nuclear weapons programs? This paper argues that preemptive counterproliferation attacks have their greatest coercive effect not on the target state, but on third party states. The particular type of preemptive attack this paper is concerned with involve military actions taken against nuclear weapons production facilities with the purpose of compelling states to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. 4 Such attacks are preemptive because they are conducted for defensive purposes and prior to the target nation acquiring or building an operational nuclear weapon. 5 Critics of 1 Prepared for presentation at the International Studies Association (ISA) Convention 2004 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The author is a student at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS) at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. The views expressed here are his own, and do not represent the opinions of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government. 2 President George W. Bush, “Remarks by the President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation,” address to the National Defense University, Washington D.C., 11 February 2004. 3 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 2002, 3. 4 Counterproliferation includes measures ranging from economic embargoes to military actions “designed to inhibit, restrain, or destroy the nuclear development programs of a potential proliferant.” Frank G. Goldman, The International Legal Ramifications of United States Counterproliferation Strategy: Problems and Prospects,Newport Paper Number 11 (Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College, April 1997), 2. 5 Scholars and researchers debate the proper use of ‘preemptive’ or ‘preventive’ to describe an attack, strike, or raid outside the context of a declared war. The Department of Defense (DoD) Dictionary of Military Terms defines preemptive attack as “an attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent.” It defines ‘preventive war’ as “a war initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve greater risk.” The definitions differ in intent (defensive or offensive) and threat level (imminent or inevitable). Although both definitions may apply to counterproliferation attack, this paper describes these attacks as preemptive because of their defensive nature as explained by The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (September 2002). It states, “The greater the threat, the greater the risk of

Authors: Eldridge, William.
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1
WHY PREEMPTIVE COUNTERPROLIFERATION ATTACK WORKS: INVESTIGATING
THIRD PARTY OUTCOMES
1
William G. Eldridge
School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies
13 Mar 2004
Introduction
On 11 February 2004 during an address to the National Defense University, President
George W. Bush stated that one of the greatest threats facing humanity is the possibility of a
sudden attack with nuclear weapons by terrorists or dangerous regimes.
2
To combat the
proliferation of nuclear weapons, the United States has adopted a wide range of
counterproliferation measures and strategies including the preemptive use of military force.
3
How effective are preemptive counterproliferation attacks as a means to prevent nuclear
proliferation? Will these types of attacks compel states to give up their nuclear weapons
programs?
This paper argues that preemptive counterproliferation attacks have their greatest
coercive effect not on the target state, but on third party states. The particular type of preemptive
attack this paper is concerned with involve military actions taken against nuclear weapons
production facilities with the purpose of compelling states to abandon their nuclear weapons
programs.
4
Such attacks are preemptive because they are conducted for defensive purposes and
prior to the target nation acquiring or building an operational nuclear weapon.
5
Critics of
1
Prepared for presentation at the International Studies Association (ISA) Convention 2004 in Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. The author is a student at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS) at Maxwell AFB,
Alabama. The views expressed here are his own, and do not represent the opinions of the United States Air Force,
the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.
2
President George W. Bush, “Remarks by the President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation,” address to
the National Defense University, Washington D.C., 11 February 2004.
3
National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 2002, 3.
4
Counterproliferation includes measures ranging from economic embargoes to military actions “designed to inhibit,
restrain, or destroy the nuclear development programs of a potential proliferant.” Frank G. Goldman, The
International Legal Ramifications of United States Counterproliferation Strategy: Problems and Prospects
,
Newport Paper Number 11 (Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College, April 1997), 2.
5
Scholars and researchers debate the proper use of ‘preemptive’ or ‘preventive’ to describe an attack, strike, or raid
outside the context of a declared war. The Department of Defense (DoD) Dictionary of Military Terms defines
preemptive attack as “an attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent.”
It defines ‘preventive war’ as “a war initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable,
and that to delay would involve greater risk.” The definitions differ in intent (defensive or offensive) and threat
level (imminent or inevitable). Although both definitions may apply to counterproliferation attack, this paper
describes these attacks as preemptive because of their defensive nature as explained by The National Security
Strategy of the United States of America
(September 2002). It states, “The greater the threat, the greater the risk of


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