McCain Refuses To Reject Bush Doctrine Of Preventive War: I Can’t Make A ‘Blanket Statement’

Yesterday in a town-hall style meeting, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) left the door open to launching preventive wars against other countries, similar to the U.S. invasion of Iraq:

Q: My question is, if you are elected president, will you reject the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war?

McCAIN: I don’t think you could make a blanket statement about pre-emptive war, because obviously, it depends on the threat that the United States of America faces.

If someone is about to launch a weapon that would devastate America, or have the capability to do so, obviously, you would have to act immediately in defense of this nation’s national security interests.

Listen here:


The Bush administration and its conservative allies have often used the terms “pre-emptive” and “preventive” war interchangeably, confusing the American public. But as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) noted on the Senate floor in 2002, the Bush doctrine of preventive war has dangerous consequences for U.S. security:

Traditionally, “pre-emptive” action refers to times when states react to an imminent threat of attack. For example, when Egyptian and Syrian forces mobilized on Israel’s borders in 1967, the threat was obvious and immediate, and Israel felt justified in pre-emptively attacking those forces. The global community is generally tolerant of such actions, since no nation should have to suffer a certain first strike before it has the legitimacy to respond.

By contrast, “preventive” military action refers to strikes that target a country before it has developed a capability that could someday become threatening. Preventive attacks have generally been condemned. For example, the 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor was regarded as a preventive strike by Japan, because the Japanese were seeking to block a planned military buildup by the United States in the Pacific.

The war in Iraq was a preventive war. There was no imminent danger. In his response yesterday, McCain responds to a question about “pre-emptive” war, but clearly leaves the door open to the Bush doctrine of “preventive” war. He stated that he would consider attacking countries who even have the “capability” to launch a dangerous weapon — whether or not there is an imminent threat.


In January, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “There’s going to be other wars.” After yesterday’s comments, it looks those wars may be preventive wars — like Iraq.

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