Strategy indirectly admits to the necessity of the Just War ethic. The reason for the document relies on the special case of preemption based on “imminent threat,” recognizing that Just War tradition makes room for impressive or resistance to the theory of “imminent threat” as an extension of the right for self-defense. However, the National Security Strategy goes on to declare, “We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries.” How to change an impression like “imminent or impending threat” or the moral reasoning associated with the Just War ethic is not clearly spelled out.
The National Security Strategy judges that the United States in particular and European countries in general faces genuine threats from the union of rogue states failed states and terrorists in commission with possible right to use weapons of mass destruction. This amalgamation makes measuring the imminent nature of threats so difficult that both preemptive war and preventive war are justified. In addition, the National Security Strategy concludes that, against opponents with such weapons, deterrence must take the shape of a preemptive war. With these preliminary aspects of the moral issues as background, we now must take into consideration some practical problems in the case of Iraq.
The first relates to the paucity of time in moving toward and implementing the current military policy, Rapid Decisive Operations. Military actions unite broad principles and ideas, and military decision-making connects ethical decision-making and consequences. The next practical problem is the possibility of a wrong or unpopular decision. Given the perspective terrorization mentioned in the 2002 National Security Strategy and elsewhere, the stakes for either action or inaction are very high. Destruction kept the world in an insecure balance; a doctrine of preemption raises the risks of premature action or ineffective in action and increases the possibility of mistakes. A country preempting another nation or group may win a battle against a specific threat, but lose the war of acting rightly.
Right actions include obtaining victory while keeping view the moral duty to prevent destruction of vital resources (e.g., oil) universal human values, immutable rights, as well as preventing unnecessary casualties among the civilian population Limiting factors for “Preemptive strikes and preemptive war have a recognized historic and narrowly defined place in the Just War tradition. Noting these practical problems, we return to some of the ethical issues. With preemption included in the National Security Strategy, the feedback of ethicists and scholars in social science, law, religion, and philosophy was immediate, if not accepted.