Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



The 2002 National Security Strategy for the United States focused American strategic policy around the use, or potential use, of preemptive/preventive strikes, particularly as a counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism tool. While preemption and prevention are not new strategies, they have never been highlighted to such a degree as is currently the case. These activities have been studied in the context of international security, using elements such as spiral models and offense-defense theory. This study seeks to examine if other elements, specifically international law and normative issues, such as just war tradition, contribute to our understanding of the use, or non-use, of preventive or preemptive actions by states. Using both logistic regression and comparative case studies, numerous hypotheses were tested to determine if the legal and normative elements influenced or constrained states vis-à-vis the use of anticipatory military activities within the context of international crises. The statistical results indicate that the limitations on the use of anticipatory military activities found in international law and the just war tradition do not have a significant impact on the likelihood that these actions will be used by states. The case studies, however, seem to indicate that the legal and normative elements do have some influence on leaders with respect to the use of anticipatory military activities.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Eugene R. Wittkopf