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Can Democracies Initiate Preventive War? America's Confrontation with the Soviet Union and Iraq

February 27, 2003

During his commencement address to West Point graduates in June 2002, President Bush set in motion an extraordinary national and international debate over waging war with Iraq. What makes this debate particularly important in terms of both American foreign policy and international relations theory is that it represents the first time the United States, or any democracy, has so openly debated and approved of fighting a preventive war. Moreover, this case would represent the first time a democracy has actually fought a preventive war.

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