Two Views of Preemptive War

My Opinio Juris colleague Julian Ku noted there a few days ago that Bloomberg had reported that the Obama administration is considering plans to modify or end the Bush doctrine on preemptive use of military force:

The Pentagon is reviewing the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive military strikes with an eye to modifying or possibly ending it.

The international environment is “more complex” than when President George W. Bush announced the policy in 2002, Kathleen Hicks, the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for strategy, said in an interview. “We’d really like to update our use-of-force doctrine to start to take account for that.”

Meanwhile, in Moscow, while Secretary of State Clinton was getting a rather brusque treatment, reports appeared that Russia was endorsing not just preemptive use of military force – but even preemptive use of nuclear weapons, and that even in local or regional wars.  As a Washington Times column summed up the reports:

The Russians succeeded in putting Mr. Obama and the Americans in their place. Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of the Presidential Security Council, manufactured an occasion while Mrs. Clinton was in Moscow to warn that Moscow reserves the right to make “a pre-emptive nuclear strike” against both small and large enemies.

In an interview with Izvestia, the important Moscow daily, he said Russian officials are examining “a variety of possibilities for using nuclear force, depending on the situation and the intentions of the possible opponent.” In situations critical to national security, he said, “options including a preventative nuclear strike on the aggressor are not excluded.” Even regional or “local” wars will be included in the new strategy, expected to be official policy in December.